Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn spent twelve seasons playing with the Buccaneers and Falcons, the latter of which he now has minority ownership stake in. Though his name is tied to Florida (he also played college ball at FSU) and Georgia, he was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
With all the violence that has gone down in Dunn’s native Baton Rouge over the past few weeks — first the Alton Sterling killing, then followed by the murder of three police officers over the weekend — it’d be enough to leave anyone shaken. But considering Dunn lost his own mother, a Baton Rouge police officer, after she was killed during a violent attack in 1993, these latest incidents hit very close to home.
Dunn’s mother, Betty Smothers, was killed off-duty as she escorted a local business woman to a bank and was ambushed by armed robbers. Following the death of his mom, an 18-year-old Dunn was left as head of the family and tasked with raising his five younger siblings.
Now 41, Dunn is left coping with the latest acts of violence in his hometown. Over the weekend, he released an emotional statement denouncing acts of violence on law enforcement.
“My heart breaks for the families and law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge who have lost loved ones. I have been in similar shoes – it will change their lives and leave them reeling with questions for years to come. It is a shame – so many officers who are out there on the front lines have tremendous heart for what they do. These acts of violence don’t solve anything and if my voice can add to the movement to stop it – then I’d consider that a good thing. I struggle emotionally to understand why and how police officers are being targeted in the way they are.
“The reality of our world is that there is a lot of unrest in our communities, particularly where police shootings are happening. It takes me back, of course, to when my black mother was ambushed and killed – by a black man. And all of this comes at a terribly personal time for me. Next week, I will attend trial for a re-sentencing hearing for my mother’s murder which happened 23 years ago. I hate to even think of what this entire ordeal will cost our community, but I know – it is too much. And even though my Mother lost her life all those years ago, the men who were tried by a jury of their peers have been kept alive by a prison system that has seen to their every need. Something that was denied to my Mother.
Dunn also called for change from the people, and possibly stricter gun laws to limit violence.
“We can’t just sit around and talk about how horrible all this is – we have to do something. And that means it ALWAYS starts with the individual.
“Another thing we can all do is stress to our elected leaders that we have to look at the issue of guns in our country with serious eyes and intent instead of (through) the prism of a political stand-off. And then we have to give justice a chance to work. When people are intentional about their use of guns against others – we have to make sure the message that crime doesn’t pay – means something. Today, I wonder about that because from my view with my Mother’s trial, justice has failed our family, but I believe we can and must do better.
As he closed out the statement (which you can read in full here), he did his best to remain positive, but urged people to “stop the violence” and unite to create a better world.
“I feel close to this subject – it has touched me very personally. I speak for no one other than myself and I support law enforcement. I also support the community of Baton Rouge because they were there for me and my family. If I could have any effect, I’d ask the community to stop the violence, to cool down and to come together to figure this out. There is nothing we can’t do, but we have to work together to make something positive come from yet another tragedy in my home town.”