LaGrange police chief apologizes for lack of police protection for 1940 murder victim

LAGRANGE, Ga. — A west Georgia police chief plans to apologize for the lynching of a black man more than 75 years ago.

Multiple reports say in September 1940, an armed group of white men snatched 18-year-old Austin Callaway from the city jail in LaGrange, drove out to a country road and killed him with gunshots to the head, arms and hands.

However, there was never any police report on his murder, no investigation, or even any records of Callaway having been in the jail. His killers were never conclusively identified.

Now the city’s police chief is ready to offer a public apology for his agency’s role in the 1940 lynching.

LaGrange Police Chief Louis Dekmar says he learned of the incident a little more than a year ago. He says he thinks an apology is needed to help people understand how the past influences the present.

“For the police, anytime you take someone into custody, you are responsible for their care, and well-being … and that didn’t happen here (with the Callaway incident). That’s where the police department failed,” Dekmar says. “The acknowledgement is not to place blame, it’s to say, ‘We (LPD) did something wrong and we want to reassure the community that it won’t happen again…”

The chief ‘s remarks will take place at an open, public ceremony at the Warren Temple United Methodist Church at 6 p.m. Thursday evening.

Friends and family of Austin Callaway and community leaders are expected to attend.

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