LaGrange Police Chief Louis M. Dekmar, right, and Troup County NAACP president Ernest Ward shake hands as they meet on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, at the police department in LaGrange. The LaGrange police chief on Thursday will publicly apologize and acknowledge his agency’s role in the 1940 lynching of a black man taken from the local jail. CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

In a first, Georgia police chief to apologize for 1940 lynching

The lynching of Austin Callaway occurred after a white posse removed him from the LaGrange city jail, took him to a rural road and shot him multiple times in the head, arms and hands. The incident had been scrubbed from the city record, but it was remembered by members of the African American community and it contributed to their mistrust of the police department.

When LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar first heard of the incident a couple years ago and as he learned about his agency’s failure to protect Callaway and its failure to investigate the lynching, he believed strongly an acknowledgement and public apology was needed.

He said it’s challenging for his agency to build trust in the black community without acknowledging this past wrong.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” Dekmar said. “We accept responsibility for it and we apologize for it. We want to assure the African American community specifically and the city of LaGrange citizens generally that this climate of injustice would not occur again.”

Dekmar will make his apology to decedents of Callaway who still live in the community and the public at a ceremony of remembrance today at 6 pm at Warren Temple United Methodist Church in LaGrange. A local biracial group, Troup Together, has researched the lynching and members of the group will be at the ceremony that will be broadcast live on Facebook today.