The community came out in droves to honor the memory of a longtime Fort Worth ISD cafeteria worker last week.
The family, friends, students, and colleagues of Yolanda Gibbs, 56, stood outside a church near David K. Sellars Elementary School last Thursday night to share stories about her and partake in a balloon release. She had worked there for three decades, where she had built a reputation for being cheerful and friendly.
“When I first got here, I asked, ‘Well, what is your name?’ and she said, ‘Just call me lovely.’ I said okay, I’ll call you ‘lovely,’” recalled teacher Mary Clay, according to Fox 4 KDFW.
Gibbs had been shot dead in the back parking lot of Sellars Elementary shortly before the school day began on October 11. The investigation launched by the Forest Hill Police Department led to a man she had dated for two years named Anthony Harris.
Harris, a parolee with multiple convictions for violent offenses including aggravated assault, was discovered dead on October 13.
As Forest Hill Police Chief Eddie Burns explained to WFAA, Harris was identified as the perpetrator through fingerprints, ballistics, surveillance footage, and a silver Chevrolet Impala the shooter used to flee the scene. However, the investigation into the shooting and Harris’ subsequent death remains open, although police suspect the latter was a suicide.
There have been several fatal incidents involving parolees in the metroplex, such as last year’s hospital shooting that left two healthcare workers at Dallas Methodist Hospital dead, as previously reported in The Dallas Express. The alleged murderer was on parole and had disconnected his ankle monitor before the deadly event.
As covered in The Dallas Express, this and other incidents have spurred some Texas lawmakers to support a bill to elevate the removal or tampering of an ankle monitor from a technical violation of parole to a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years of incarceration. It would also require that offenders serve the rest of their original sentence. Yet HB 3549 was left pending in committee.
For those mourning Gibbs last week, her vibrant and unique personality will be missed by all, including the students.
“Many times we forget that first person that sees our kids, if it’s handing them the milk or handing them the juice or whatever, how much that impacts their life,” said Wallace Bridges, a trustee at Fort Worth ISD, according to Fox 4.
“If you met [Yolanda], you didn’t meet nobody else like her,” recalled Keisha Braziel, PTA president.
Upon the balloon release — pink and blue since they were Gibbs’ favorite colors — many found comfort in seeing them float off into the sky.
“When I saw the balloons go up, I just thought about the Lord,” explained Karen Buckley, Gibbs’ longtime friend, according to WFAA. “It just let me know that she was safe in his arms.”
Violent crime across Dallas-Fort Worth has been an ongoing issue, especially in Dallas, where an officer deficit has seen local police struggling to respond to criminality.
As of October 23, there had been 208 murders and non-negligent homicides committed within Dallas this year, according to data from the City’s crime analytics dashboard. This represents a 13% rise year over year.
The Dallas Police Department is operating with staffing levels well under the 4,000 officers recommended by a City analysis, with fewer than 3,200 officers sworn in at present.
In a recent comparison between Downtown Dallas and the downtown area of Fort Worth, significantly higher rates of theft and assault occur in the former compared to the latter, which is reportedly patrolled by a special neighborhood police unit and private security guard.