Longview police remained mum Thursday about the fatal Wednesday shooting of a teen by an officer, declining to clear up rampant rumors surrounding the death of DeTravian Allison.
The family, led by Allison’s mother, also was not commenting Thursday, and a community leader said they have hired an attorney.
“I started getting calls around 7:30 this morning,” Longview NAACP President Winsell Coleman said. “But, you know what? They were all coming from different people with different stories with different points of view. ... They need to know; you can’t just jump on hearsay.”
Coleman said he had spoken with Allison’s mother and that she has retained legal counsel. He was not certain who that lawyer is.
“First of all, some people are saying the victim never had a gun, and there are some saying the victim never pointed the gun at the police,” Coleman said. “It just seemed like the shooting was unnecessary.”
Funeral services for Allison remained pending Thursday. A Gofundme fundraiser was posted online, to defray funeral costs and attorney bills for “our loved one,” the description on the page says, noting his mother is a single parent with a full-time job.
The fundraiser page also uses the name, DeTravian Kennedy, though Justice of the Peace B.H. Jameson said his last name is Allison on his inquest forms.
Coleman said he had not heard the ethnicity of the officers who shot the 18-year-old black man. Police did not respond to an email seeking that and additional information.
The only information released by Longview police said officers were called at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday to a West Loop 281 business where an employee said a man had made threats before leaving in a car the employee described along with a license plate number.
That vehicle, which had been reported as stolen, was spotted within minutes at the Longview Square Apartments, 1600 Pine Tree Road. Two men were inside, and police said one of them pointed a pistol at officers, who fired on the man, striking him.
Allison was pronounced dead at 11:57 a.m. Wednesday by a doctor at Longview Regional Medical Center, Jameson said. The judge performed an inquest at 12:20 p.m.
Jameson did not have the preliminary autopsy report back as of Thursday afternoon, but he said it appeared Allison received several gunshot wounds.
“But which one was fatal and so forth, I can’t tell you,” the judge said.
The statement from police said the officers involved will be placed on paid administrative leave while the matter is investigated by the Texas Rangers, a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Gregg County Crime Stoppers at (903) 236-7867.
Coleman said he was hopeful for a thorough investigation, though he said the Rangers rarely find wrongdoing in officer-involved shootings.
“That’s telling you something, isn’t it?” he said. “Sounds like home cooking, doesn’t it?”
He also said no complaint had been filed with the NAACP, and so the chapter had no opinion on the shooting.
“We want to be part of the problem solving,” Coleman said. “But we do want to address times when we find out it’s wrong. If the police make mistakes, it will be proven true and addressed accordingly.”
The 84-year-old, six-story Heritage Tower at 208 N. Green St. in Longview is undergoing a major conversion from being used for commerce to housing renters ages 55 and older.
Demolition work on former offices on the fourth to sixth floors started about two weeks ago, said Terry Fontenot, superintendent of Hamilton Builders LLC, based in Springfield, Missouri.
Work started on the sixth floor for practical reasons, Fontenot said during a tour Thursday morning.
By starting at the top, demolition workers avoid disturbing work that would take place below afterward, he said. An 18-man demolition crew from ARC Abatement in Houston loads debris from the demolition down a chute that takes it to a dumpster outside.
The demolition work and removing asbestos are the first steps for renovating the building, according to Fontenot. Renovations for old buildings typically require removing asbestos, which was formerly used for insulation and as a fire retardant but has been linked to several cancers and diseases.
Fontenot said he expects the renovation to be completed in September or October 2020.
Heritage Tower Joint Venture applied to the Longview Development Services Department a month ago for a commercial renovation permit for the building with a construction value of nearly $5.5 million.
The third to sixth floors will each have seven apartment units, Fontenot said. The second floor will have six units, and the first floor will have two handicap-accessible units, along with an exercise room, library and retail space.
He took an elevator to start the tour on the sixth floor, which is completely gutted.
It is “just a concrete floor,” Fontenot said. “It is a lot of work.”
He said work is nearing completion on the fifth floor and said both the fourth and fifth floors have the original marble wainscoting that will be preserved on the corridor walls.
The Longview Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously in June to designate the building as a local historical landmark.
On the third floor, tape closed off an area that is deemed dangerous to enter. The closed area contains duct work removed from the ceiling, metal door frames and other debris from tearing down walls.
Demo work will come afterward on the second floor, according to Fontenot. He said the floor lacks historical value because it no longer retains any of its original fixtures or finishes.
Fontenot said the next step will be laying out new plumbing.
“We will have to build new walls,” he said. Electrical work will follow that, he said.
Fontenot said the final work will involve installing the floors on the second, third and sixth floors, while the other floors still boast their original terrazzo flooring.
He said the building will retain a mail chute that runs up to the sixth floor and has a slot on each floor, allowing mail to be deposited and drop down into a metal collection box on the first floor.
Mosquito season 2019 has been relatively quiet compared with past years, but local health authorities expect more bites as the August sun beams hotter.
“With this heat wave that started (Wednesday), we could see an increase in mosquito activity,” Gregg County Health Department Administrative Assistant A.J. Harris said.
County and city of Longview officials are reminding residents about the four D’s — Deet, drain, dusk and dawn — as in using lots of mosquito repellent with the ingredient Deet, drain all standing water and avoid going outside during dusk and dawn hours of the day.
City Environmental Health Manager Leisha Kidd-Brooks also is stressing the importance of larvicide, which is an insecticide that specifically targets insects in their larval life stage.
Kidd-Brooks credits the city’s recent larvicide efforts for fewer mosquito infestations noted in Longview and Gregg County so far this year, and she encouraged residents without larvicide to use baby oil or vegetable oil to smother mosquito larvae in water.
“It’s been very quiet,” Kidd-Brooks said. “Even our city-sourced complaints (about mosquitoes) have been minimal. I think I’ve seen on average of two (complaints) a month, and that’s clearly because of the education and the larviciding.”
She said she has typically gotten four to five complaints a month in previous summers.
Weather changes in 2019 also have played a factor in mosquito populations, Harris said.
Winter and spring brought at least two days of record rainfall, with flooding in April and May.
Total rainfall for the year is one-half inch below normal but nearly 4 inches above the precipitation recorded by this time last year, according to the National Weather Service.
“We had that early period when it rained, rained, rained, rained (and) rained,” Harris said. “Mosquitoes need the humidity and the moisture. They thrive on that, but they need standing water. Mosquitoes won’t lay their eggs in water that is running.”
Meanwhile, diseases most linked with mosquito bites — West Nile virus, encephalitis and the Zika virus — have been seemingly less active than past years, too, Harris said.
“I haven’t heard anything new about it,” he said. Scientists are “currently working on a vaccine for Zika (but) it hasn’t been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. I haven’t heard of any local cases” of the diseases.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service have forecast sunny and hot temperatures for at least the next week, with temperatures ranging from 79 at nights to near 101 some days. Heat indices are expected to reach well into the 100s when mixed with the humidity and south winds.
If that weather patterns continues, beware of mosquito bites, Harris said.
“We could see an uprising in mosquitoes,” Harris said. “They hunt by body heat and people giving off carbon dioxide, so they use that to find their targets.”
And because people exhale or give off varied levels of carbon dioxide or other chemicals tracked my mosquitoes, “They do favor one (person) over another,” he said.
“Keep yourself protected. Keep the Deet handy. Wear long-sleeved clothes. Remember that mosquitoes bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid those times of the day,” Harris said.
Longview City Council members defended budget decisions and a proposal to raise pay for municipal employees during their regular meeting Thursday at City Hall.
Using a question-and-answer-like format, council members publicly answered questions they say they’ve heard from residents ever since City Manager Keith Bonds unveiled a 2019-20 budget plan he said would elevate city employees to market-level wages, incur a General Fund deficit for several one-time expenses and would raise taxes just as voters understood when they approved a bond election last November.
“In my 4 1/2 years here so far, this is the first time that we can do things as a city that we should be doing as a city,” Mayor Andy Mack said.
The conversation arose during discussions about the budget and fee proposals Bonds first unveiled July 26.
Bonds has asked the council to implement market rate adjustments to the city’s 499 general employees, who haven’t seen a raise in six years, he said.
District 1 Councilman Ed Moore asked the most questions of Bonds, including whether the city should consider a property tax rate 1 cent less than what has been proposed. Bonds answered that global economic uncertainty, coming changes in state law and recent flux in sales tax revenue suggest that the city should move forward with a tax rate of 55.89 cents per $100 valuation.
“That question had been posed to me — lowering the tax rate a penny — and that’s the answer that I’m giving to them,” Moore said, adding, “This is the first budget in five years that we’ve had the chance to catch up to the things that the mayor has talked about.”
In a resolution approved Thursday, the city proposed the property tax rate of 55.89 cents per $100 of valuation. The rate exceeds last year’s ad valorem rate by 4.9 cents, but Bonds said the 9.6% increase is entirely the result of a voter-approved bond election in November in which residents were promised that the rate would increase no more than a nickel.
The city also scheduled two public hearings about the tax rate, which exceeds Longview’s rollback and effective ad valorem rates. State law requires local governments to hold public hearings whenever they consider a property tax rate that is higher than either the rollback rate or the effective rate.
Public hearings will be held Aug. 22 and Aug. 29. Both meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m. inside City Hall, 300 W. Cotton St.
Property taxes are a significant source of revenue in the $157 million budget that Bonds has proposed for the 2019-20 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Council members will consider adopting the budget and ratifying the property tax increase during the Aug. 29 meeting.
A vote to adopt the tax rate is scheduled Sept. 12.
“The citizens of Longview should question every move that we make,” Mack said. “The more that people ask questions, the more we can justify what we’re doing up here. … You look at this budget, (and) you’ll have trouble finding things that are faulty.”
In other consent agenda items, the council accepted two grants — $1,584 grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and $15,840 from the Federal Communications Commission — to upgrade the Longview Public Library’s broadband network and improve connectivity speeds.
The grants, which require no matching local funds, will allow the library to make free upgrades to its network and equipment. Library Manager Jennifer Eldridge credited the city’s Information Technology department for “extraordinary efforts” in making the library eligible for the upgrades at no cost to municipal taxpayers.