From the Darkroom: Protests follow 1971 killing of Black man by Springfield police officer


On June 9, 1971, a killing took place in Springfield that threw the city into turmoil for weeks to come.

Michael Garrett Dunlap, a 21-year-old Black man, was shot four times by police officer John Dick Barnes in City Hall Drug Store. According to witnesses, Dunlap tried to take possession of Barnes’ gun, which resulted in a scuffle. When Barnes regained control of the weapon, Dunlap tried to run away. Barnes fired the fatal shot into Dunlap’s back as he was fleeing.

Following the coroner’s inquest, nightly riots took place in the Springfield public square for a week. Protestors used Molotov cocktails to damage the drug store and several other local businesses. One night, a News-Leader reporter was taken captive by the crowd. Concurrently, Calvin Allen, David Shipps, and Jim Graves, pictured here, formed a committee to seek legal repercussions against Barnes.

Despite their efforts and the actions of the protestors, Officer Barnes was never charged for the killing. In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to shoot a fleeing suspect who is not an imminent threat. However, similar incidents to these have continued to take place in modern times. Recent cases of Black men being shot in the back by a police officer include Casey Goodson Jr., Walter Scott, and Jacob Blake. Looking back on the death of Michael Dunlap provides an opportunity for reflection and hope moving forward.

This image is part of a much larger collection of historically rich photographs from the News-Leader’s photo archive. Each week, the Springfield-Greene County Library will tap into this vast collection and present an interesting image “from the darkroom” and share its history. This image is presented in partnership between the Springfield-Greene County Library District and the Springfield News-Leader. For more historical images of the Ozarks, visit: thelibrary.org/fromthedarkroom.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: From the Darkroom: Protests follow 1971 killing of Black man by police



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