One week after two people were shot and killed in an area night spot, a spirited, but peaceful crowd gathered in front of the Hunt County Sheriff’s Department, calling for justice and for the individual charged in connection with the deaths to be free.
The “Brandon Gonzales Is Innocent” protest drew a few dozen people who supported Gonzales and who claimed law enforcement caught the wrong man.
Gonzales, 23, of Greenville remained in custody Monday afternoon in the Hunt County Detention Center, being held in lieu of $1 million bond on a charge of capital murder of multiple persons involving the shooting deaths of Kevin Berry, 23, of Dallas and Byron Cravens Jr., 23, of Arlington early morning on Oct. 20 at The Party Venue, just west of the Greenville city limits.
Saturday’s demonstration was conducted in the presence of armed officers from several area departments, who surrounded the parking lot and watched from the rooftop of the facility.
“I think we have taken all the precautions possible to make sure the public is safe.” said Sgt. Jeff Haines with the sheriff’s department.
The event was part protest and part church service, as the speakers urged the sign-carrying audience to chant “No justice, no peace” and “Free Brandon.”
“I think you will see anger and rage, but prayerfully you will not see any violence,” said the Rev. Jeff Hood, who helped organize the event, adding it was designed also as a protest against the sheriff’s office itself. “I think this is an environment where people are frustrated.”
Phillip Williams encouraged those in attendance to “keep praying and keep pushing” and noted the effort was not just about freeing Gonzales.
“We want justice for you family members,” Williams said in reference to the family of the victims. “We won’t rest until you find the real killer and let Brandon go.”
Gonzales’ mother Pam addressed the crowd, reminding them her son was not as he portrayed himself on Facebook, but was a loving son and father to his three children,
“Thank you for all of your support,” she said. “I know in my heart that justice will prevail.”
The protest included a march from the sheriff’s office to steps of the Hunt County Courthouse and back to the sheriff’s office, where Williams said the battle was far from over.
“We need all of you,” he said. “Show up in the courts, that is where your voice is heard louder.”
The protesters were also urged to take a stand against racial profiling and to become active at the polls.
“If we don’t stand up now, it is too late,” Williams said.
The demonstration ended with a collection toward Gonzales’ legal expenses.
“It is all about justice,” Williams said. “A good lawyer costs good money.”
Gonzales has hired an attorney, Andrew Wilkerson of Dallas. As of press time Monday, Wilkerson had not filed any motions in the case, which has not yet been presented to a grand jury.
The next meeting of the Hunt County grand jury is scheduled on Nov. 15.