Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious, Mayor Sylvester Turner at the community chat at the home of Sheridan and John Eddie Williams.
Sheridan Williams, Rania Mankarious, John Eddie Williams, Amy Leibman at the Crime Stoppers community chat at the Williams home.
Crime Stoppers Director of Victim Services Andy Kahan at the community chat.
Crime Stoppers champion Dave Ward, Rachelle Rowe at a previous event (Photo by CatchlightGroup.com)
On the surface, it appeared to be a typical River Oaks gathering of the city’s elite meeting on behalf of a notable cause. Valet parkers lined the drive. Name tags and masks were handed out to arrivals. Servers from La Griglia passed wine and hors d’oeuvres. But this gathering dealt, not with education or health care or the like, but rather with murder.
To be exact: Houston murders committed by individuals who were on the streets after bailing out out on felony bonds following arrest.
Hosts Sheridan and John Eddie Williams had both separately been the victims of violent crime in the early 1990s when Houston’s violent crime rate soared, just as it has similarly in recent years. The philanthropic couple had volunteered to host this community chat evening spearheaded by Crime Stoppers and by a fledgling group dubbed Citizens United Against Crime.
“The purpose of the meeting is not to address politics, not address Democrats versus Republican, but address how we create a safe haven for everyone living together in this city,” Sheridan Williams says. “The goal is to find a path that we all come together on so that dangerous criminals can be detained rather than being released back on the street to resume this same behavior.”
The turnout of 140 concerned citizens was impressive — Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, former Secretary of State James A. Baker and Susan Baker, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, Astros team physician Dr. Jim Muntz and Anne Muntz, Uptown Houston president John Breeding, former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Gwen Emmett, and Crime Stoppers champion Dave Ward and Laura Ward. Both Democrats and Republicans were united on the issue.
Ironically, less than 24 hours after the start of the meeting, Anthony Jenkins and Frederick Jackson, both out on felony bond release, were arrested and charged with the murder of New Orleans police detective Everett Briscoe, The Grotto restaurant murder. Likewise, the same day there was an arrest in the murder of Kevin Kirk, the father of two shot on Westheimer on August 13 after picking up dinner for his family. The individual arrested was also out on a felony bond.
All three violent criminals’ bonded-out status would come as no surprise to those who attended the gathering as the release of felons, many repeat and many on mere PR bonds, was the primary topic of discussion led by Crime Stoppers’ CEO Rania Mankarious, Crime Stoppers’ director of victim services and victim advocacy Andy Kahan, and Houston Police Officer’s Union executive director Ray Hunt.
Also joining the program was Amy Leibman, co-founder of Citizens United Against Crime.
Leibman and her husband, Neil Leibman, part-owner and COO of the Texas Rangers, are co-chairing the annual Crime Stoppers Gala on October 26 at the Hilton Americas-Houston, along with Sheridan and John Eddie Williams and Genny and John McIntyre. The evening will honor Houston media icon Dave Ward.
The takeaway: The need for felony bond reform that will keep violent/repeat offenders in jail. The recognition that it is elected judges and appointed magistrates who have the responsibility of setting bonds, not the district attorney and not the mayor.
So encouraged was she with the program and the turnout that Sheridan Williams says that she is already planning another community meeting to expand awareness of the need for felony bond reform.
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