Protests in Hugo continue amid shooting investigation

Published: Apr. 29, 2019 at 11:22 PM CDT
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It was about 50 people Monday night, of all ages and backgrounds, that marched to Hugo City Hall from the Booker T. Washington Community Center.

Their battle cry: "No justice, no peace!"

Protesters say it means they cannot have peace in their town without knowing how four innocent children were stuck in a shootout.

"We're not saying anything about police brutality. We're not saying that all police are the same. We're just saying that 26 shots is too much," said Rodney Cox, the protest organizer.

Hugo police will only tell News 12 that they were trying to arrest William Devaughn Smith Jr. Friday for the robbery of the pizza hut two weeks ago.

They won't say why but do say that it ended with two officers firing shots at the truck he was driving.

Four children were inside with him.

"You place this badge over your heart, I said. But don't let it go to your head," said Roylia Akins.

He served as the Hugo police chief as part of his 27-year career in law enforcement.

Now he's a reverend at Hugo Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.

He says Friday's events have shaken the community to its core.

"The policemen that acted in this situation, I don't know how much training they've had. But it appears to me that they need some more," said Akins.

Cox addressed the crowd Monday night before the march, while standing next to the injured children's father Quindric Jacobs.

"I cried last night when I saw the baby girl get out of the car and see how she was frightened, for even me to approach the car. Daddy, who is this man? What is he doing? Is he going to hurt us? Anytime as a father you have to answer those questions, that's not okay," said Cox.

Akins hopes when police see the turnout and the community response they will be moved to share more information.

"I'm just praying that we can get through this and our children won't be hurt too much," said Akins.

Cox says he met with Hugo Mayor Richard Higginbotham, who gave him a written statement denying that officers had any knowledge there were children in the car at the time of the shooting and that those officers will be interviewed by OSBI in the coming days.

"We love that they're reacting and they're trying to give us some answers but these are not the answers that we want," said Cox.

Cox says a town hall meeting is scheduled for Saturday at six in Hugo at the district building.

He says he has invited all city, county and state leaders to attend and speak, including current Hugo Police Chief John Paul Bozeman.

He says the goal is to work toward community-wide trust.

No cameras will be allowed inside the hearing.