California mayor resigns after writing ‘no good person of colour’ has ever been killed by police

Andrew Naughtie
The City Hall of Temecula, CA: Davishan99/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

With the US still reeling from the killing of George Floyd, the mayor of a city in southern California has resigned after he said no "good person of colour" had ever been killed by police – despite the fact a black man was fatally shot by police in his home in the city in 2016.

James Stewart, mayor of Temecula, Riverside County, immediately landed in trouble when he sent the offending email, which he said was sent in reply to “a person concerned about our police officers and their sensitivity training”.

In the email, a screenshot of which Mr Stewart himself later shared on Facebook as reports of its contents spread, the mayor responds to concerns from a constituent asking what he and his team are doing “to end police violence in our community and the systemic racism in policing that is killing black people.”

Replying, Mr Stewart points out that the City of Temecula does not have its own police department, instead “contracting with Riverside County’s Sheriff’s Department,” and says “I don’t believe there’s ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer. So I’m kind of confuse (sic) what you’re looking for.”

He also writes that racism is “not excepted (sic) or tolerated” in the city, and that “I have several good friends who are African-Americans, and they love living here because of how safe it is for them and their families”.

In a contrite message announcing his resignation over the message, Mr Stewart explained that because he has severe dyslexia, he routinely uses speech-to-text dictation to write, and that in this case, he did not proof-read the resulting email before sending it – resulting in the use of the word “good” where he did not in fact say it.

“I owe everyone an apology including our citizens of all backgrounds and ethnicities, City staff, and my respected colleagues on the City Council. You have every right to be hurt and offended.

“My typos and off-the-cuff response to an email on a serious topic added pain at a time where our community, and our country, is suffering. I may not be the best writer and I sometimes misspeak, but I am not racist. I deeply regret this mistake and I own it, entirely. I am truly sorry.”

In 2016, Temecula witnessed the case of 18-year-old Matthew Tucker, who was shot dead in his home by police after dialling 911. His family argued that the attending officers were inadequately trained in crisis intervention and were wrong to use lethal force, but a federal jury cleared the officers of excessive force claims.

The US has witnessed mass demonstrations in several states protesting against the killing of George Floyd and police brutality against black citizens. The 46-year-old died after officers knelt on his neck and back for nine minutes, despite him repeatedly pleading "I can't breathe."

All four officers involved in his death have now been charged.