Controversy loses importance as embattled constable rushes to ensure safety at courthouse
The weather doesn’t easily scare me, but Wednesday night’s storm changed that in a nanosecond.
After growing up in the flat lands of North Texas near the Red River where tornadoes are as common as tumbleweeds I’ve become accustomed to the threat of high winds, baseball-size hail and flying whatever. I enjoy watching the occasional lightning show through the picture window of my den, and I usually sleep undisturbed through thunderstorms.
But when the storm hit on Wednesday night, May 2, I wasn’t in my home. I was sitting in the office of embattled gay Constable Mike Dupree with him and his lawyer. We continued talking through the thunder and lightning as the lights began to flicker on and off. Then we heard the warning sirens. Finally, the lights went out completely, and the constable got up to investigate.
I wasn’t concerned, except that it occurred to me I had a brand new car sitting, unprotected, in the parking lot if hail started to fall. Just my luck, I thought.
As the lawyer, John Weddle, and I continued to sit in the pitch-dark office and talk, we suddenly heard a crash that it made it sound like a tornado had hit the courthouse. I think I felt fear of the weather for the first time that I can remember since I don’t know when.
Dupree yelled for us to come with him and take shelter in the stairwell where there were no windows. I gladly did as he directed, given that I thought a tornado was on my tail. Then I thought just my luck, I may die working.
On the way to the stairwell I saw Dupree trying to calm down a cleaning woman who spoke no English and was nearly hysterical. He was going about his duty as a law enforcement officer to protect and serve.
It turned out the wind had caused the upstairs windows in the courthouse to break, and the glass panes had crashed to the first floor through the stairway. Wind was rushing in the offices, causing papers to fly in several directions. It looked much worse than it was.
The point is that I got to see Dupree in action. When he was needed, he rose to the task, ignoring the reason we were in his office after hours giving him an opportunity to present his side of the controversy that has bedeviled him for months.
His behavior seemed to confirm what his lawyer had just told me that Dupree has a reputation for doing his job and taking the responsibilities of his office seriously.
When the wind died down, we moved to the foyer outside of his office so we had enough light to see each other and continue the interview. The result of that interview is on page one of this issue.
It’s not my job to make a decision about Dupree’s guilt or innocence. My job is to keep an open mind and present the information from both sides so our readers can make up their own minds and make carefully-considered and well-informed decisions.
That can be a hard job when I am receiving phone calls from Dupree’s enemies, who whisper unproven allegations of his misdeeds on the one hand, and on the other hand, I saw and heard hard evidence during the interview with Dupree and his lawyer. That seems to indicate that the allegations against Dupree and the motives of the people who made them must be examined carefully.
People often tend to think that conspiracy theories are far-fetched, but that doesn’t mean conspiracies never happen. Having observed Dupree and most of his accusers interacting together in various situations over the past six years during my work as a reporter, I find it somewhat puzzling that these are the same people who felt they were being subjected to a hostile work environment.
And is there anyone in our LGBT community who doesn’t think there are a lot of local conservative officials who would like to remove anyone from office who happens to be gay or lesbian? Again, I’m not saying that is what’s happening, but it’s possible.
I don’t want to paint Dupree as some sort of angel or saint. As he said himself in the interview, he is human and has made errors in judgment.
But to sum it up, I’m glad Dupree finally decided to present his side of the story in the media because it now makes me realize that the outcome of all of this may be far different than what everyone thought it would be before he decided to talk.
We’ll see what happens.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 4, 2007