Dallas Police Chief David Brown stood before the television cameras Friday morning, hours after a gunman fatally shot five officers, and made one thing clear: His department was hurting.
“We don’t feel much support on most days,” Brown said. “Let’s not make today most days.”
He had spent a long night consoling the victims’ families, who were struggling just to understand why.
A three-decade veteran of the Dallas Police Department who grew up in the city and became chief in 2010, Brown, 55, is well-acquainted with tragedy. His former police partner was shot and killed in 1988. His brother was killed three years later.
In 2010, Brown’s own son, his namesake, shot and killed a police officer and another man while high on PCP before being shot at least nine times, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The police chief is reportedly a tough and introspective boss. In recent months, he has faced criticism and calls for his ouster, including from his own officers, amid rising violent crime rates, according to the Morning News. He also has been questioned about controversial terminations and demotions of some officers.
Brown was only a few weeks into his new job as chief in June 2010 when, on Father’s Day, his 27-year-old son, David Brown Jr., shot a police officer in the neighboring city of Lancaster.
The younger Brown, wearing only boxer shorts and behaving strangely, fatally shot a man named Jeremy McMillian who was driving his girlfriend and two small children through Lancaster. Brown’s girlfriend told police he was suffering from a “psychotic breakdown,” according to the Morning News.
A few days after the killings, Brown reached out to the Lancaster Police Department, asking to meet with the families of Shaw and McMillian, former Lancaster Police Chief Keith Humphrey told the Los Angeles Times. He even quietly attended Shaw’s funeral, which was right after his son’s services, Humphrey said.
“He was hurt. He was devastated. But he never wavered from thinking of the families of the officers involved,” said Humphrey, who is now the chief of police in Norman, Okla.
Humphrey, who has known Brown for more than a decade, called Brown a resilient, “by the book” chief and a “good guy.” He said Brown is a private man who is both analytical and intelligent.
“He is very quiet,” Humphrey said. “He’s an introvert. But it’s amazing — he’s an introvert by nature, but when things of this nature occur, he’s able to stand up and do what’s necessary to reassure everyone that things will be OK.”
In 1988, Brown, working in the department’s physical evidence section, responded to an officer-involved shooting and saw a familiar pair of eyeglasses on the ground, according to the Morning News. They belonged to his former police partner, Walter L. Williams, a father of three who died hours later.
Three years later, Brown’s younger brother, Kelvin Brown, was killed near Phoenix by drug dealers, the Morning News reported.
“I can’t deny that’s a part of who I am,” Brown told the Morning News in 2010. “The families of victims, I know what they go through. My family had to go through that.”
In June 2015, Brown spoke again to news cameras, saying his officers had narrowly escaped death when a gunman apparently angry after losing his child in a custody dispute pulled up to police headquarters and began firing into the lobby. James Boulware was shot dead by a police sniper after a standoff in an armored van carrying explosives.
“It raises the hair on the back of your neck pretty quickly just thinking of what could have happened,” Brown said. “We literally dodged bullets.”