SUMMARY OF CASES PRESENTED AT THE HEARING
Killed January 22, 2019
Jimmy Atchison was visiting his child’s mother at her apartment complex in Atlanta, Georgia. While he was there, the Fugitive Task Force was commissioned to arrest him for an alleged armed robbery that never occurred. When the task force arrived, Mr. Atchison jumped out of the third story window, ran around the back of the apartment, and went into an adjoining apartment and hid in a closet. Officers found Mr. Atchison in the closet, unarmed. Mr. Atchison was given conflicting orders from officers; one told him to get out of the closet, and the other told him to stay still. Confused, Mr. Atchison remained on his knees, with his hands up. Officer Kim then shot Atchison under his eye, killing him, and leaving his two young children fatherless.
So far, no investigation or charges have been brought against Kim, or anyone else involved. Fulton County’s new district attorney, Paul Howard, said his office were prepared to present the case to a grand jury for indictment, but that has been delayed due to the pandemic. Mr. Atchison’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the City of Atlanta and five officers, including Kim.
Killed January 16, 2014
Jordan Baker, the father of a young son, was riding his bike several blocks from his home in Houston, Texas. He was unarmed and dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, pajama pants, and flip flops. After he entered the parking lot of the local strip mall, his path was blocked as a private car operated by an officer lurched toward him, and Officer Juventino Castro stepped out of the car and initiated contact. Castro was working for a private security company through an extra employment program of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and was wearing his department-issued uniform and HPD badge or insignia. He was also armed with his service weapon, and acting in full capacity as an HPD officer. There was no basis to stop Baker. After a verbal exchange during which Mr. Baker backed away from Castro, the officer drew his weapon. Mr. Baker then fled around the back of the strip mall. Castro gave chase and shot Mr. Baker in the chest from a distance of 10 feet. Castro then handcuffed and hogtied Mr. Baker. While Castro called the paramedics, he made no attempt to administer medical attention and Mr. Baker, who had been shot through his lungs, succumbed to his injuries.
After the shooting, Castro identified Mr. Baker’s race and the fact that he was wearing a hoodie as the reason for his “suspicion” justifying the initial stop, alleging that robberies had been committed by other young men wearing hoodies. Castro also told authorities and investigators that he shot Mr. Baker because he thought the shirtless and unarmed Mr. Baker “put his hands close to his waist,” and charged at him. The forensic evidence was inconsistent with Castro’s account. Further, Mr. Baker’s attorneys presented evidence that the “waistband” theory of perceived threat was used in 50 instances of 227 killings of civilians by the police over a three-year period, but such justification was used only against Black and Hispanic civilians, never against whites. When this justification was used, the civilian was unarmed 71% of the time. Moreover, Mr. Baker’s attorneys presented statistical evidence showing that more than half of all persons killed by the HPD in a three-year period were Black, and thus were killed at a disproportionate rate, as compared with the percentage of the population of Houston that is Black.
Castro faced no discipline for killing Mr. Baker. He was placed on a short administrative leave and then returned to extra employment and regular duty. No criminal charges were brought against him. In the civil suit filed by the family, the equal protection claim, based on Baker’s race, was dismissed but the excessive force claim survived summary judgment, at which point the HPD settled the case.
Mr. Baker’s mother, Janet Baker, said of her son, “Jordan, obviously was running for his life. And to chase him into a trash strewn alleyway, and then you murder him. And you lay him down in trash and proceed to hog tie him and watch him bleed out. I’m so sorry. So it’s seven years, but it feels like it feels like seven minutes ago I just got the information. Constantly reliving. And just wanting to understand, how could this have happened? That’s the most, that’s the biggest question that I have. Trying to explain to his son and trying to make the right decision and trying to be a voice for Jordan. Again, my biggest thing is to make — not allow them to dehumanize him even further. He was chased down like prey. And then the spin happens. I was in fear for my life, reaching for a waistband[ ….] ‘I was in fear for my life’ was enough for him to get away with murder.”
Killed November 26, 2006
New York, New York
Sean Bell died the day before his wedding as a result of a police encounter outside a nightclub where he had been celebrating his bachelor party with his friends, Joe Guzman and Trent Benefield. As the three Black men were approaching their vehicle, officers began firing. Based on witness accounts, the undercover detectives did not identify themselves to Mr. Bell as they approached the car with their weapons drawn, nor did they warn him before opening fire. Five detectives (Gescard Isnora, Michael Oliver, Marc Cooper, Michael Carey, and Paul Headley) fired at least a combined 50 shots toward Mr. Bell’s vehicle. One bullet claimed the life of Mr. Bell. He was transported to the hospital, where he laid in handcuffs. His friends survived but suffered fatal injuries; Joe Guzman was shot 17 times, while Trent Benefield was shot three times. The rest of the bullets damaged nearby cars and buildings and put other innocent citizens in danger. One of the police’s stray bullets shattered a window at a train station in the neighborhood, injuring two police officers. Commissioner Mireille Fanon-Mendes France and attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, agreed that the killing of Mr. Bell should be scrutinized as a form of “modern day lynching.”
Mr. Rubenstein and Nicole Paultre Bell, Mr. Bell’s widow, attribute such reckless and deadly force to lack of accountability, transparency, and justice. They urge that police be held criminally liable for killing Black men, noting that monetary compensation in police-involved shootings does not bring justice to the families, who are paid to compensate for the lack of criminal accountability. The detectives did not face federal criminal charges. Three of the five detectives involved in the shooting went to trial in New York’s state Supreme Court on charges filed by a Queens grand jury: first and second-degree manslaughter, first and second-degree assault, and second-degree reckless endangerment. A judge sitting without a jury acquitted the officers of all charges. Six years after the shooting, four detectives were expelled from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as a result. The City settled the case for $7.15 million. The street where Mr. Bell was victimized was named Sean Bell Way. Mr. Bell’s family has not received a private or public apology for the public execution of their loved one by the NYPD. Such misapplication of justice sets precedents for other officers to commit heinous crimes against people of color. As Ms. Bell said, the only form of justice that can aid in the healing process is to indict and imprison the officers who murdered her husband.
Commissioner Mireille Fanon-Mendes France stressed that remedies given to the family should be presented in the form of reparative justice. Cases involving police brutality clearly demonstrate that such killings are motivated by racial profiling, obstruction of justice, and the U.S.’s racist history. Such violence is part of a system that diminishes the value of Black people in the U.S., reducing them to statistics. Until the origins of racism are confronted in the U.S., Black people will continue to die at the hands of police officers. The fight for justice in the U.S. should focus on eliminating factors enabling structural racism while working to hold officers accountable. As Commissioner Fanon-Mendes France emphasized, “We have to do both. Not one and one, but both linked.”
Killed January 18, 2013
DeKalb County, Georgia
Jayvis Benjamin was shot by Sergeant Lynn Thomas of the Georgia Avondale Estates Police Department, who claimed that Mr. Benjamin was driving above the speed limit. Thomas attempted to pursue the car but lost sight of it. As he traveled throughout the city, Thomas approached Mr. Benjamin’s vehicle that had crashed into a nearby telephone pole. As Mr. Benjamin attempted to exit the vehicle through the driver’s window, Thomas gave him inconsistent instructions. Upon his arrival at the scene, Thomas commanded that Mr. Benjamin remain in the car. However, as he approached Mr. Benjamin’s vehicle, Thomas drew his firearm, feeling comfortable enough to aggressively command Mr. Benjamin, who was unarmed, to get out of the vehicle. When Mr. Benjamin got out of the vehicle, Thomas shot and killed him. Thomas was not criminally charged for the unlawful killing of Jayvis Benjamin. The judge dismissed the civil lawsuit against the city, indicating that Thomas acted in self-defense. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the case.
Mr. Benjamin’s mother, Montye Benjamin, did not accept the dismissal of her son’s case. She, along with her son, was criminalized by the police department. As Ms. Benjamin testified, she was labeled an “angry Black woman” because she refused to accept that her son was a criminal who deserved to be shot right after being involved in a car accident. The purpose of the “angry Black woman” narrative, as Commissioner Rashida Manjoo noted, was designed to insult and discourage Mr. Benjamin’s mother from confronting the U.S.’s racist system. Her son was portrayed as a thief driving a stolen car, although the car belonged to his grandfather. The district attorney’s office attempted to manipulate the video recording of Mr. Benjamin’s murder to support Thomas’s narrative because the unaltered video supported the fact that Thomas shot an unarmed, defenseless Black man. Such tactics were meant to criminalize the victim, Mr. Benjamin, while victimizing the criminal, Officer Thomas.
The U.S. criminal legal system failed the Benjamin family. As Attorney Patrick Megaro explained, such failure came as a result of qualified immunity, which protects officers from civil lawsuits for actions committed on the job and in good faith. However, such protection is primarily invoked when police officers are victimizing Black people. Qualified immunity denies the victim and the victim’s family the ability to live a dignified life. It has become a tool of covert racism in U.S. used by police officers to justify their inhumane treatment of individuals who do not look like them. Instead of being criminally indicted for the wrongful death of an innocent Black man, Thomas received a promotion and became chief of his department. The killing of Black men has become a way for law enforcement officers to advance their political careers. As Mr. Megaro noted, there has not been any profound effort to advocate against qualified immunity. The public and politicians have been silent on that issue, refusing to abolish a judge-made law that protects criminals in police uniforms. Mr. Megaro noted, “Qualified immunity is no different from any of these other legal principles that always start out with the best intentions, but unfortunately, get molded, reshaped, abused, until they no longer have any meaning.”
Mr. Benjamin’s mother is currently working with Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson on a bill to end
the militarization of police institutions.
Paralyzed, August 23, 2020
Jacob Blake was in the car with his children on the date of his son’s eighth birthday party, when he was stopped by officers from the Kenosha Police Department. The mother of his children, Laquisha Booker, had called 911 to report a non-violent domestic dispute. Mr. Blake was not armed with a gun of any type and had a small, two-inch knife.
After pulling over Mr. Blake, the officers aggressively approached him. When Mr. Blake opened the car door and exited the car, the officers tasered him. At no time did the officers give him verbal commands. As Mr. Blake was walking around the car, Officer Rusten Sheskey grabbed him by his t-shirt and shot him seven times in the chest at point blank range. The shooting of Mr. Blake was captured on cell phone video, in broad daylight, with onlookers all around.
Mr. Blake sustained injuries to his arm, kidney, liver, and spinal cord, and had nearly his entire colon and small intestines removed. He is paralyzed from the waist down. Not only was Mr. Blake traumatized, his children were also traumatized by witnessing the police shoot their father while they were sitting in the back of the vehicle, and by being in the midst of a shooting themselves.
After the shooting of Mr. Blake, protests erupted in Kenosha and around the country. During the “Kenosha Unrest” protests, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager, opened fire on the protesters, killing two of them and wounding another. He then walked down the street holding his semi-automatic rifle as officers looked on, apparently not feeling threatened by him.
On January 5, 2021, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that Sheskey would not be criminally charged. The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating, and is being assisted by the Wisconsin State Patrol and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office. The U.S. Department of Justice is also conducting an investigation.
Regarding his fear for his children, Mr. Blake stated in an interview with Good Morning America that his attorneys provided to the Commissioners, “I didn’t want him to shoot me in my face or in my head and he just kept shooting. What’s going through your mind? My babies are right here. My babies. So after he stopped shooting me, I said, ‘Daddy loves you no matter what.’ I thought it was gonna be the last, I thought it was gonna be the last thing I say to them. Thank God it wasn’t.”
Killed May 14, 2017
Las Vegas, Nevada
Tashii Farmer entered a Las Vegas casino. Two officers in battle dress uniforms were drinking iced coffee; it was such a hot day that the female officer was sweating. The officers encountered the unarmed Mr. Farmer near the food court and talked for about 45 seconds. There was no reasonable basis to detain Mr. Farmer or probable cause to arrest him as he had done nothing wrong and did not appear suspicious. The female officer did not think there was anything unusual about the way Mr. Farmer was talking; he did not appear to be paranoid, mentally ill, having a mental health crisis, or a danger to himself or others.
Mr. Farmer told the officers he felt he was being followed. The male officer, who said he became suspicious because Mr. Farmer was sweating, began chasing him down a hallway and he fell in some water. The officer reached out to grab Mr. Farmer, who stepped back and jogged away from him. The officer chased Mr. Farmer, caught up to him, and without warning, tasered him seven times. The officer screamed confusing commands and conflicting instructions at Mr. Farmer, such as “Don’t move; get on your stomach.” The detectives who later investigated the case said it was impossible for Mr. Farmer to follow the officer’s commands.
As a result of the tasering, Mr. Farmer went into neuromuscular incapacitation multiple times. The officer punched him in the head 10 to 12 times while screaming at Mr. Farmer, who was face down on the ground. Then the officer put Mr. Farmer in an unauthorized martial arts style chokehold, which blocks the blood flow from the carotid artery to the brain. The officer claimed he used an authorized lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR), which can be deadly if continued after the subject becomes unconscious. After four to seven seconds, Mr. Farmer became unconscious but the officer continued the chokehold for another one minute and 10 to 12 seconds. The officer choked Mr. Farmer to death in the presence of three other officers who failed to physically intervene to stop it. The county coroner listed the cause of death as homicide by asphyxiation.
The officer later said he believed Mr. Farmer was trying to carjack a nearby truck but neither the driver nor other officers who viewed the video thought Mr. Farmer was trying to open the tailgate. The police department fired the officer and recommended he be charged with a crime. The District Attorney (DA) charged the officer with involuntary manslaughter but dismissed the charge after a grand jury refused to indict him. Inexperienced DA experts told the grand jury that they couldn’t determine the cause of death since Mr. Farmer had an enlarged heart and some methamphetamine in his system. None of the three non-intervening officers was charged with a crime.
Mr. Farmer’s children and his estate filed a civil lawsuit, which settled for $2.2 million. Mr. Farmer’s mother filed a separate civil suit, but the non-intervening officers were granted qualified immunity. The case against the police department is continuing.
Killed August 9, 2014
Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, Jr., was crossing the street with a Black friend. As Mr. Brown and his friend reached the center of the street, Ferguson Police Department Officer Darren Wilson approached them in a marked patrol vehicle and ordered them “to get the F off the street.” It was broad daylight and Mr. Brown was merely walking down the street. Wilson had no lawful basis to stop Mr. Brown. Nonetheless, Wilson opened the car door, striking Mr. Brown, reached through the car window, grabbed Mr. Brown, drew his weapon, and fired two shots that struck Mr. Brown in the right hand. With a gunshot wound to his right hand, Mr. Brown turned and fled down the street. Hearing additional shots fired as he was fleeing, Mr. Brown turned around, put his hands up and stated, “Don’t shoot. I don’t have a gun, I’m unarmed.”
Wilson then gunned down Mr. Brown while his hands were up, shooting him in the head and chest. In total, 12 gunshots were fired. Mr. Brown’s body was left on the ground for four hours before assembled onlookers. The incident was captured on cellphone recordings showing that Mr. Brown posed no threat whatsoever. Nonetheless, Wilson later stated that Mr. Brown reached for his waistband, and that Wilson believed that he had just stolen cigarillos from a store. These defenses were not raised when Wilson met with his supervisor immediately after the incident. In statements regarding the killing, Wilson betrayed his racial motivation, referring to Mr. Brown in subhuman terms as a “demon” and admitting that he and members of the Kenosha Police Department used the n-word to refer to Black people.
After the killing, Wilson destroyed evidence, washing blood off of his hands and bagging the gun he used to kill Mr. Brown. He did this in the presence of his former supervising and training officer, who was also his fiancé. In addition to the destruction of evidence, in violation of applicable law, Officer Wilson was permitted to present an alibi before the grand jury. The grand jury declined to indict Wilson.
This killing of a young, unarmed Black man with his hands up galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for reform, yet this case exemplifies the impunity of police officers who kill unarmed Black people. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) decided that Wilson would not face federal charges. In 2020, the St. Louis County prosecutor announced that his office had conducted a five-month re-investigation into the shooting and decided not to charge Wilson with manslaughter or murder.
Nonetheless, the DOJ’s investigation found that the city of Ferguson had a pattern and practice of violating Black citizens’ constitutional rights by conducting unreasonable stops and detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thereafter, the city of Ferguson entered a consent decree with the federal government to reform its unconstitutional policing patterns. Since Mr. Brown’s death, in 2015 and 2016, 34 states and the District of Columbia adopted 79 police reforms laws ranging from measures to address racial profiling and the use of force to de-escalation training and implementation of body cameras. Nonetheless, since 2017, police in the U.S. have shot and killed at least 893 Black people with at least 226 of those shootings occurring in 2020.
Mr. Brown’s mother, Ms. Lezley McSpadden, testified: “I’m also here to stand in the gap for mothers who have gone through the unimaginable pain of burying a child. Dr. King’s great march on Washington was August 28 1963, to advocate for civil and economic rights of African-Americans. Fifty-eight years later, we are still fighting as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, and terrible racial unrest in America. My message today echoes Miss Fannie Lou Hamer. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. We must stop talking about police brutality and systemic injustice and move swiftly with a new purpose and a real solid plan of action. We must change the laws. We need the Mike Brown law, a universal federal law that includes everything from body cameras to reform to sensitivity training and community engagement. Because there’s no more time to waste and this must come from the top.”
Killed January 29, 2010
Aaron Campbell was very close to his younger brother, who was ill. After his brother died, Mr. Campbell’s girlfriend told his aunt that Mr. Campbell was suicidal and had attempted suicide with a gun. The aunt called 911 to request a welfare check (mental health call) for her niece. Portland police officers responded to conduct a welfare check of the niece and Mr. Campbell. Officers knew that Mr. Campbell was suicidal and might be armed with a gun.
Outside the apartment, Officer Lewton overheard Mr. Campbell’s girlfriend tell other officers that Mr. Campbell had calmed down and was inside the apartment, that if police entered it would aggravate the situation, that Mr. Campbell had a gun, and that her three small children were in the apartment. Officer Frashour learned that Mr. Campbell sent his girlfriend a text saying something along the lines of, “Don’t make me get my gun, I ain’t playing.” Other officers were communicating with Mr. Campbell. The children left the apartment. The sergeant radioed that the officers were getting positive feedback from Mr. Campbell.
Mr. Campbell walked out of the apartment with both hands on the back of head; he was being compliant. He followed Lewton’s orders to stop and walk backwards slowly and stop, which he did. Lewton told Mr. Campbell to do exactly what he said or he would be shot. Mr. Campbell turned with his hands still on the back of his head and said something like, “Go ahead and shoot me.” Lewton told him to put his hands straight up in the air but Mr. Campbell didn’t move. He stood there with his back to the officers who were 10 to 15 feet away. Lewton shot Mr. Campbell with a less than lethal beanbag shotgun and hit him in the buttocks, which caused him to stumble and run. Lewton shot Mr. Campbell four or five more times as the latter ran for safety. Before Mr. Campbell reached a parked car, Frashour shot him in his lower back with a lethal AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. Neither officer saw a gun or weapon on Mr. Campbell and he was unarmed.
Police waited 30 minutes before allowing Mr. Campbell to receive medical attention. By then he was dead.
After talking to his union representative and attorney, Frashour changed his story and claimed he saw Mr. Campbell’s hand go into his pants below his waistband. The police internal investigations bureau found that Lewton and Frashour violated policies and training. Lewton was suspended without pay for 480 hours. Frashour was fired. An arbitrator upheld Lewton’s suspension but reversed Frashour’s firing and ordered him reinstated with backpay and retroactive benefits.
Marva Davis, Mr. Campbell’s mother, said, “My grandchildren are growing up without a father and we miss Aaron very much. Every time someone is killed by the police, it takes us back to that date when Aaron was shot in the back. Many Black families do not even trust the police department. I have talked to Black leaders, community leaders. And their message to the Black community is, ‘Do not call the police.’” She filed a civil suit against the City of Portland, which settled for $1.2 million.
Killed August 25, 2020
San Antonio, Texas
A few days before August 25, 2020, Damian Daniels, a 30-year-old former U.S. military sergeant, was in his home when he began to experience a mental health crisis. Fearful, paranoid, and seeing things, he reached out to his mother, Annette Daniels, and his brother, Brendan Daniels. He was not threatening or suicidal. When his family contacted the VA hospital and the American Red Cross, the latter dispatched the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department to Mr. Daniels’ home. When the police arrived, Mr. Daniels was not home. The police department informed the family that they could not take Mr. Daniels against his will but they would involve a probate court to procure a court order to do so. Brendan Daniels informed the police department that the family was not seeking to forcefully remove his brother from his home, “because we don’t want no altercation between him and the [police].” The next day, Mr. Daniels called the police requesting help as he was seeing apparitions. He refused medical assistance and the officer departed. The following day, Mr. Daniels again requested help and his family called the police using the same reference number they had used previously. Brendan Daniels told the officer that his brother was suffering from paranoia and that he may or may not be armed, hoping that this would prepare them to approach the situation with an eye to de-escalation. On August 25th, during this third police visit, Officer Jonathan Rodriguez was sent to Mr. Daniels’s home. Mr. Daniels did not come to the door and his family members informed him that the police were coming to assist him. After the police spoke with Mr. Daniels for 30 minutes, the officers decided to take Mr. Daniels in. During this process, Rodriguez killed Mr. Daniels. As Brendan Daniels stated, “They were not sent there to detain him. My brother was not under arrest. He had not committed a crime. He simply needed mental health. He needed mental health.”
Rodriguez had a previous domestic dispute, and in 2013, he was criminally charged by his department. In 2010, he shot another unarmed civilian who was suffering a mental health crisis. Despite those two prior incidents, Rodriguez remained on the force and was dispatched to this specific mental health call.
In large part, Mr. Daniels’s death illustrates the perverse incentives whereby the more police departments respond to emergency calls, the more funding they receive, causing them to seek to respond to mental health calls in place of more qualified and more suitable agencies such as the American Red Cross. Indeed, across the country, there is no universal protocol for dealing with mental health calls. Lee Merritt, attorney for the Daniels’s family, pointed out that a non-police response to mental health crisis calls should be universally available as an accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Immediately after the killing, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales met with the Daniels family and referred to this incident as a police murder. Although Rodriguez was placed on temporary administrative leave, no disciplinary action was taken against him. The family will face an uphill battling in overcoming qualified immunity in bringing a civil suit as they continue to search for justice and accountability.
Killed March 15, 2000
New York, New York
Patrick Dorismond was a law-abiding, 29-year-old man at the time he was killed by New York Police Department (NYPD) officers after he refused the demands of two undercover officers who assumed he was a drug dealer and harassed him to sell them drugs because of his race.
Mr. Dorismond was working as a security guard when his shift ended at approximately 11 o’clock. After going to a lounge with some work friends, he was waiting to catch a cab home when he and a friend, Kevin Kaiser, were approached by a man who asked to buy crack. Mr. Dorismond rebuffed the man saying, “Get the fuck away from me.” The man, Anderson Moran, unbeknownst to Mr. Dorismond, was an undercover officer. Officer Moran continued to hound Mr. Dorismond. Moran later admitted in litigation that he targeted Mr. Dorismond and Mr. Kaiser because they appeared to be African-Americans. When Mr. Dorismond again rebuffed Moran, saying he would “whoop his ass,” another undercover officer, Officer Julio Cruz approached and engaged Mr. Dorismond and his friend. The four men squared off.
At that point, Moran—who still had not identified himself as a police officer—gave the code signal for making an arrest and a third undercover officer, Officer Vasquez, approached. Vasquez had a history of misuse of his service weapon, having shot a neighbor’s dog and fired it at the ceiling during a bar fight in Pennsylvania.
As recounted by Derek Sellers, attorney for the Dorismond family, “Immediately upon arriving at the scene, Officer Vasquez shot Patrick Dorismond in the chest, even as Dorismond was only squared off but had not physically engaged the officers. As he was laying on the ground, gasping for air by this point, the supervisor of the arrest team had arrived at the scene and told the police the other arriving police to cuff that dead motherfucker. They handcuffed Patrick Dorismond and they didn’t give him any first aid.”
After the killing, the NYPD, engaged in a smear campaign against Mr. Dorismond. New York’s then mayor, Rudolph Giuliani unlawfully released Patrick’s juvenile records and falsely stated that Mr. Dorismond had been arrested for crimes of violence and he had been convicted. Giuliani further stated that Mr. Dorismond was no altar boy. In fact, Mr. Dorismond was very religious and had indeed been an altar boy in his youth.
When the Manhattan District Attorney’s (DA) Office investigated the killing, there was no body camera or bystander mobile phone video to contradict the official police version of the event. Officer Anthony Vasquez falsely claimed that Mr. Dorismond had grabbed at his gun and the gun discharged and Mr. Dorismond was accidentally shot in the chest. While a gunpowder residue test was administered on Mr. Dorismond’s hands, and would have shown whether or not his hands were near the gun when it was fired, the police lost the test results and the test was not performed again. Thus, evidence crucial to a case against Vasquez was not available. The Manhattan DA’s office concluded that there was insufficient evidence to go forward with a criminal prosecution against any of the officers, including Vasquez.
Killed March 3, 2020
Manuel Ellis was walking home from a corner store with doughnuts in hand when officers in a car approached him for no apparent reason. Still, he complied when they called him over. After a brief conversation, one officer slammed the car door against Mr. Ellis’s body, throwing him to the ground. They hit, punched, choked, and tasered him. His hands were up in the air but he was beaten repeatedly and hogtied as he was saying, “I can’t breathe, sir.” One officer’s response was, “Shut the fuck up.” After they put a spit mask over his head, the officers watched Mr. Ellis breathe his last breath.
The officers claimed that Mr. Ellis was banging on people’s car windows. They claimed he suffered from “excited delirium” and that he had attacked their car. But independent videos and witnesses located by social justice activists contradicted the officers’ claims and demonstrated that the officers had engaged in a cover-up for several months.
No officer has been held accountable for killing Mr. Ellis. No charges have been filed against them. A semi-independent investigation was conducted. The officers were put on administrative leave with pay and have taken vacations. Mr. Ellis’s family intends to file a civil lawsuit.
“Our officials are corrupt. Our police system is completely jacked up and corrupt. And they literally tried to cover up my brother’s murder,” Mr. Ellis’s sister said. “This is a straight up cover-up like my brother’s human rights were violated.”
“We’re broken, generations of us are emotionally tired. Our bodies are weathered, and they and it causes us physical illness. It causes us lifelong ailments and diseases. It causes us generational trauma that we are passing on,” according to a friend of the Ellis family, Ms. Jamika Scott. “We are traumatized. We live in a constant state of PTSD, we are hyper vigilant, we are fearful, we are anxious, we are depressed.” She added, “It tears holes in families and communities. And it’s not just one family, it’s what happens to one family in this community, it happens to all of us. And it happens, it has lasting echoes throughout generations.”
Ms. Scott, the Ellis family friend explained how police justify killing Black people: “There’s this sense that because we’re Black, because we’re poor, because we’re othered, because we’re dark skinned, because we’re big, because we’re loud, whatever they think that whatever, you know, because we’re not educated enough, because we’re— we like rap music, because we our pants are sagging, because our butts are big, whatever, whatever they think of when they think of their stereotypical Black people.”
Killed March 1, 2000
New York City, NY
Malcolm Ferguson, a 23-year-old Black man, was hanging out with some friends in a building. Mr. Ferguson was unarmed and was not engaged in any criminal activity. Officer Rivera, who patrolled that segment of the Bronx, came into the building wearing regular clothes, not a uniform. Seth Harris, the attorney for the Ferguson family, told the Commission that “there was . . . a neighborhood program back at that time in the Bronx, where officers would just generally patrol what they called high crime areas. But really, that was just more of an excuse for them to stop young men of color, frankly.”
For reasons unknown, but likely because he wanted to avoid police harassment, Mr. Ferguson ran towards the back staircase. Rivera, suspecting without evidence that Mr. Ferguson had drugs, chased him and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, Rivera shot and killed Mr. Ferguson. Rivera claims the gun discharged accidentally, but the medical examiner explained that the barrel of the gun was touching Mr. Ferguson’s temple when it went off. After the murder, protests erupted in New York City.
At the time, officers were allowed 48 hours after a wrongful death incident to speak with other officers and get their stories straight. Rivera was never indicted for killing Mr. Ferguson and retained his job. Mr. Ferguson’s family prevailed in the civil trial in 2007. The jury found Rivera 100% responsible for Mr. Ferguson’s death and awarded his family $10.5 million. The Corporation Counsel’s Office for the City of New York appealed the civil suit, claiming that the jury awarded too much money to Mr. Ferguson’s family and that the City should not have to pay the punitive damages against Rivera directly. The City did not prevail on either argument.
Police continued to threaten and abuse Juanita Young, Ferguson’s mother. In 2009, more than a dozen officers raided Ms. Young’s home, beat up and pepper sprayed her other son, James Ferguson, and sexually assaulted her daughter, Saran Young, while she held a child in her arms. After the killing, Ms. Young became an activist against police brutality.
Killed May 25 2020
On May 25, 2020, an unarmed George Floyd was stopped and accused by officers from the Minneapolis Police Department of using a counterfeit $20 bill or committing an act of fraud, a non-violent offense. In broad daylight, Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck for a total of nine minutes and 29 seconds, killing him. While he was face down on the ground and in the prone position and his arms handcuffed behind his back, two other officers, Lane and Kueng, kneeled on his back and legs at the same time. A fourth officer, Thao, did not intervene to stop the unlawful and excessive force, and instead stood guard to stop citizens from intervening to save Mr. Floyd’s life, threatening them with mace. Much of the incident was caught on tape, as bystanders gathered and repeatedly pleaded with the police to release Mr. Floyd, who was clearly in agony and had been restrained after posing no threat whatsoever to the police. In fact, bystanders asked on 16 occasions for the police to check Mr. Floyd’s pulse, fearing that he was being killed. As he was being choked, Mr. Floyd repeatedly cried out and begged the officers to release him. He stated, “They’re going to kill me,” and called out for his mother to save him, yelling, “Mama, Mama.” He said, “Tell my kids I love them. I’m dead.”
Mr. Floyd’s last words were “I can’t breathe, please.” Blood began to drip out of his nose and witnesses told the officers his nose was bleeding. He lost consciousness. While restrained, Mr. Floyd said, “I can’t breathe” 28 times.
While the Hennepin County Medical Examiner made no physical findings consistent with strangulation, an independent medical examiner concluded that Mr. Floyd was killed by mechanical asphyxia due to neck and back pressure, that pressure interfered with the blood flow to his brain, that Mr. Floyd died at the scene, and that there was no other cause of death, including pre-existing health conditions or intoxication.
The video of Mr. Floyd’s killing was a flashpoint for the Black Lives Matter movement and ignited months of national and international protest against racist police brutality. The City of Minneapolis settled the family’s wrongful death lawsuit for $27 million.
Nonetheless, as Benjamin Crump, attorney for the Floyd family, noted, “While the killing was captured on tape by a bystander, the first police report that came out on George Floyd was that he died of natural causes, while he was assaulting police, and resisting arrest.”
Chauvin was arrested and charged with third degree murder. As the protests escalated, attorneys for the family filed an urgent appeal before the United Nations. The charges against Chauvin were increased to second degree murder and second degree manslaughter. The other three officers were charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder. Chauvin’s criminal trial began on March 8, 2021.
Chauvin had 18 complaints on his official record, two of which ended in discipline. He had official letters of reprimand and had been involved in three other police shootings, one of which was fatal. According to the former owner of a nightclub where Chauvin also worked, he used overly aggressive tactics when dealing with Black clientele. The attorneys for the Floyd family however, explained that the problem was not limited to Officer Chauvin.
As explained by Jasmine Rand, attorney for the Floyd family, “The Minneapolis Police Department officers engage in what’s called Killology training. A review into Minneapolis Police Department, rev[eal] that its officers aim to kill, many of the officers had taken Killology training offered by the police union, a training in which officers are trained to approach situations with an aim to kill, not an aim to de-escalate and not an aim to engage in lawful and constitutional policing.” Ms. Rand noted, “The Killology approach was also connected to the police shooting and killing of Philando Castile in Minnesota in 2016, who was fatally shot seven times at a traffic stop. The Minnesota, Minneapolis Police Department union president refused to stop Killology training, even after he was directed to do so by the city. And while speaking at a President Trump rally, he said that he believed that President Trump’s policies supported Killology training within our police force, clear evidence of structural racism and clear evidence that the United States engages in systemic excessive force and extrajudicial killings.” Ms. Rand added, “During the five year period from 2015 to 2020, the Minneapolis Police Department reported that its officers use violence against Black people at seven times the rate that they used violence against white people.”
Indeed, the attorneys for the Floyd family stated that the killing of Mr. Floyd was an act of intimidation. Ms. Rand stated, “Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck in broad daylight on a street filled with spectators and seemed to take pleasure in killing him all while knowing he was being filmed sending a message to Black people in Minnesota and those who watched it throughout America that this could be you next. You could be the next Michael Brown. You could be the next Tamir Rice. You could be the next Jacob Blake, Philando Castile, that there are two different justice systems in America, one for Black injustice and one for white justice.”
In discussing his brother’s death, Philonise Floyd said, “Not only did they kill my brother, but having to watch the videos of my brother begging for his life, crying for mom has taken a part of me. I’m here today because I have to be the big brother now. I have to look out for not only his children, but America’s children. His youngest daughter spoke about how she used to be on her father’s shoulders. And I’m asking you to let his legacy continue to build a brighter future from structural racism and police brutality to do, not rule the day. I’m asking and seeking justice for all Black and brown men, women and children who have needlessly been killed by racism and police violence. I am asking to hold the United States accountable to their human rights obligations, so we can reach our full potential as a nation who values, loves and protects all of its people.”
Killed March 15, 2012
New York, New York
Twenty-nine year-old Shereese Francis was suffocated and murdered by New York Police Department (NYPD) officers. Ms. Francis was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 20. For a month leading up to the murder, Ms. Francis had stopped taking her medication because of its side effects. However, this was not the first occasion on which she had refused to take her prescription. In most cases, Ms. Francis’ mother had called an ambulance, which transported her to a nearby hospital for treatment. However, on March 15, 2012, Ms. Francis experienced a mental health episode, causing her to become uncooperative with her family. Her sister called 311, requesting an ambulance to bring Ms. Francis to the hospital. Citizens use such contact numbers to request non-emergency, City services and information about City government programs. However, the 311 response team connected Ms. Francis’s sister to a 911 operator. Within half an hour of the arrival of four police officers at the Francis residence, Ms. Francis was dead from asphyxia.
In an attempt to handcuff Ms. Francis, the four officers held her face down into a mattress while kneeling on her back, causing her to stop breathing. The four officers were not disciplined nor criminally charged for her death. The case was resolved for a settlement. There are procedures and protocols officers are supposed to follow when responding to a call about a person in emotional distress. The NYPD has a guide to “policing the emotionally disturbed.” The six-page document was prepared by mental health professionals in an attempt to provide training on how to approach and understand the issues presented by mental illness and the manner in which such cases should be handled. The document reinforces the fact that “mental health is not a major driver of violent crime.” It provides background information in an attempt to relieve the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Nonetheless, Ms. Francis was treated as a violent individual, evidenced by police officers beating and chasing her in her own home. To justify her killing, officers alleged that Ms. Francis was exhibiting erratic and violent behavior that threatened the security of the officers. In a report issued by the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB), an officer stated that Ms. Francis was like a football player, claiming that an officer at the scene who was six feet five inches tall and weighed 260 pounds could not restrain her. Ms. Francis, however, did not have a history of violence and she helped her mother operate a preschool early childhood program.
Attorney, Steve Vaccaro, raised concerns with investigations conducted by the IAB into police-involved shootings. Although such an institution is supposed to conduct independent investigations, the outcomes of such investigations serve the interests of police officers and police unions. The IAB is a biased system. The IAB report on Ms. Francis’ death portrayed the victim as an aggressive individual whose behavior prevented four officers from using de-escalation techniques to safely take her to a hospital. The report stated that Ms. Francis did not display signs of trauma, although evidence indicated that she appeared to be in a delusional state while being beaten and suffocated into submission. The report was leaked to The Wall Street Journal by “anonymous police sources” before it was made available to the Francis family. Mr. Vaccaro was required to file a lawsuit against the NYPD under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the report.
Mr. Vaccaro testified that Ms. Francis’s death was caused not only by the stigma attached to mental health issues, but also by the lack of police training. The NYPD neglected the procedures outlined in the six-page document titled, “Police Students’ Guide: Policing the Emotionally Disturbed.” Officers who attended the training did not value its teaching. They often arrived late and fell asleep during the training. The guide prohibits the use of force unless there is imminent danger. Nonetheless, Ms. Francis was beaten, with bruises left on her upper body. The NYPD sergeant and the Emergency Service Unit (a specialized unit of NYPD operated by highly trained officers with equipment for restraining people in a safe manner), which are required to respond to an “emotionally disturbed person” call, were not available. The Basic Life Support response team was asked to remain outside while the officers terrorized Ms. Francis.
When officers are faced with a nonviolent situation, they often create violence in order to use their training. As the attorney revealed, handcuffing individuals in a facedown position is extremely dangerous as it can cause compression asphyxia. However, officers are taught that such a method is the only effective way to subdue individuals under arrest. Police training has failed to address the deadly consequences of such procedures, especially on people who are overweight, as well as individuals experiencing a mental crisis. Police unions have opposed legislation to abolish such techniques. Mr. Vaccaro noted, “The political leaders of New York City are more willing to pay out large sums to fix the problems and the deaths and the destruction that the police force of New York City leaves behind them, than they are willing to muster the political will necessary to reform the police department.”
He recommended that the police be defunded: “Allocate funds to institutions made up of mental health professionals and community health workers who have the knowledge and skills to respond and refer individuals in crisis to the appropriate resources.”
Killed July 17, 2017
Antonio Garcia was not home when an officer responded to a call at the Garcia household, knocked on the door, and spoke with Mr. Garcia’s stepson. Officer Matthew Harrington radioed to police dispatch that this was not a criminal matter. Mr. Garcia pulled into his driveway; his car door and windows were closed.
As he approached Mr. Garcia’s car, Harrington put his right hand on his gun. Harrington tried to open the car door but, likely fearing for his life as he had seen the officer put his hand on his gun, Mr. Garcia shut his car door. Mr. Garcia, who didn’t have a weapon in his hand, never threatened or verbally interacted with Harrington, who never warned Mr. Garcia that he intended to use his gun. The officer walked away and began firing at Mr. Garcia.
As Mr. Garcia was bleeding out in his front seat, Harrington did little to assist him. Harrington prevented Mr. Garcia’s wife, Heather Garcia, who was a registered nurse, from providing medical assistance to her husband.
Mr. Garcia’s family filed a civil lawsuit that was settled. The family’s lawyer was permitted access to the video of the incident but was forbidden from disseminating it. Harrington was charged with involuntary manslaughter and is still awaiting trial. The judge ruled that t Harrington’s use of force did not constitute self-defense under the Kansas statute.
But Jasmine Roberson, Mr. Garcia’s daughter, did not think involuntary manslaughter was a sufficiently serious charge against Harrington. “Involuntary manslaughter means it was an accident,” she said. It means that he “accidentally” did all of the following: “went to my father’s car and pulled the door open . . . fired multiple shots at my father . . . shot my father in the head and chest . . . refused to allow his wife to render medical assistance . . . told people to leave the scene.” She added, “So it would be his word against a dead Black man’s. Nothing about his behavior was accidental. He intended to kill my father, and he was motivated to shoot based on my father’s race.”
Ms. Garcia said she witnessed the killing, “as well as four of my children and my grandchildren that saw their grandfather and their father murdered and they’re now going through their own mental, mental health issues with that with post traumatic syndrome and other things.”
Killed July 17, 2014
New York, New York
Eric Garner was killed after New York City Police Department (NYPD) Officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a prohibited chokehold while arresting him. Video footage of the incident generated widespread national attention. NYPD officers approached Mr. Garner on suspicion of selling single cigarettes. On cell phone footage of the encounter, Mr. Garner states, “Get away [garbled] for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone.” When Pantaleo approached Mr. Garner from behind and attempted to handcuff him, Mr. Garner pulled his arms away, saying, “Don’t touch me, please.” Pantaleo then placed his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck and wrestled him to the ground.
When Pantaleo approached Mr. Garner, there was no justification for stopping or searching or trying to arrest him, because there was no credible report that he engaged in a felony law, common law, a penal law, or misdemeanor, as defined by the laws of the state of New York. As noted by Jonathan Moore, the attorney for Mr. Garner’s estate, the stop of Mr. Garner was consistent with the illegal stop-and-frisk pattern and practice of the NYPD which disproportionately stops and frisks people of color. From about 2008 to 2012, there were four million documented stops and frisks on the streets of New York, 90% of which were directed at people of color, and 90% of which led to no further investigative activity. Yet, even though Black people were stopped at a higher rate than whites, the incidence of contraband found on whites was a higher percentage than that found on Black people. Since New York entered a consent decree in the stop-and-frisk case, the number of stops has decreased, but the percentage of people being stopped remains the same in terms of the racial breakdown, which indicates that officers are still making decisions based on race more than any other factor.
With multiple officers pinning him down, Mr. Garner repeated the words, “I can’t breathe” 11 times while lying face down on the sidewalk, handcuffed. After Mr. Garner lost consciousness, he remained lying on the sidewalk for seven minutes while the officers waited for an ambulance to arrive. When the EMTs arrived, they did not place Mr. Garner on oxygen, administer any emergency medical aid, or promptly place him on a stretcher. Mr. Garner was pronounced dead at an area hospital approximately one hour later. The medical examiner ruled Mr. Garner’s death a homicide. An autopsy indicated that Mr. Garner’s death resulted from “[compression] of neck, compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police”.
On July 20, 2014, Pantaleo was assigned to desk duty and stripped of his service handgun and badge. On December 4, 2014, a Richmond County grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo. This decision stirred public protests and rallies, and by December 28, 2014, at least 50 demonstrations had been held nationwide in response to the Garner case. On July 13, 2015, an out-of-court settlement was reached, under which the City of New York would pay the Garner family $5.9 million. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to bring criminal charges against Pantaleo under federal civil rights laws. An NYPD disciplinary hearing regarding Pantaleo’s treatment of Mr. Garner was held in the summer of 2019. Pantaleo was fired on August 19, 2019, more than five years after Mr. Garner’s death and after an administrative judge found that Pantaleo’s “’use of a chokehold fell so far short of objective reasonableness that this tribunal found it to be reckless — a gross deviation from the standard of conduct established for a New York City police officer.” At the time of Pantaleo’s termination, he had a long disciplinary record, with seven disciplinary complaints and 14 individual allegations lodged against him. Four of those allegations were substantiated by an independent review board. While Pantaleo was disciplined, none of the other five officers involved in restraining Mr. Garner was disciplined.
As a result of Mr. Garner ‘s death, Police Commissioner William Bratton ordered an extensive review of the NYPD’s training procedures, specifically focusing on the appropriate amount of force that can be used while detaining a suspect. An unnamed NYPD official quoted in the New York Post said that the $35 million spent on retraining efforts were ineffective and a “waste of time.” On June 8, 2020, both houses of the New York state assembly passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which stipulates that any police officer in the state of New York who injures or kills somebody through the use of “a chokehold or similar restraint” can be charged with a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Despite these reforms, Gwen Carr, Mr. Garner’s mother, continues to battle impunity, including the failure to discipline any of the other five officers involved in her son’s death. Ms. Carr testified, “You all heard the story of Eric Garner. He said, ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times he said, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.’ But did this concern police officers? They decided to take his life. But you know, I say it is too late for my son. They killed him. It is no justice for him. But we must still stand for justice. We must get justice for those who come behind him. And then the future when they hear the name Eric Garner, I want them to say, because of his death, that the ones who came behind him got justice.”
Killed March 8, 2020
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Barry Gedeus was riding his bicycle to or from Walmart when an officer confronted him. The officer was responding to a report of a sexual assault by a man matching Mr. Gedeus’s description. Mr. Gedeus had had some sort of consensual encounter with the woman who reported the alleged assault before the officer saw him. The woman who alleged the sexual assault said she had a knife and used it on the person who committed the assault. There were no defensive knife wounds on Mr. Gedeus’s body.
After sighting Mr. Gedeus, the officer made a U-turn and aggressively pulled his car near Mr. Gedeus, who was slowing down on his bicycle. The officer struck Mr. Gedeus’s bicycle so hard it cracked the windshield of the police car. Mr. Gedeus was unarmed and there is no allegation that he had a weapon. A struggle ensued and the officer fired eight shots at close range. All three shots that resulted in Mr. Gedeus’s death hit the rear of his body and there is no evidence of front entrance wounds. The police assert this was a justifiable shooting because Mr. Gedeus was a fleeing felon.
The officer who killed Mr. Gedeus had 84 separate use of force complaints filed against him since his career began in 2006. Those complaints are unusual for the officer’s explicit violence used in arresting, apprehending, and interviewing suspects.
A grand jury has not yet been impaneled in this case and the officer has not been indicted. He is back on duty. A civil rights lawsuit will be filed.
Killed September 2, 2005
New Orleans, LA
In 2005, several days after Hurricane Katrina, Henry Glover, a Black, 31-year-old father of five, and his cousins, arrived in the back loading area of a strip mall. The men intended to look for food and supplies, particularly baby clothes for Mr. Glover’s infant child. The City of New Orleans had been underwater for days and many residents lacked access to basic necessities.
Officer Warren, a white officer, was guarding a police substation in the mall and testified that he believed that Mr. Glover had a gun and was attempting to enter the strip mall through the gate. Without warning, Warren then shot Mr. Glover from a second-floor balcony, striking him in the back. Mr. Glover’s cousins flagged down a car and took Mr. Glover, who was still breathing, to an elementary school being used as a staging area for police officers and first responders. Upon arriving at the school, the police declined to help Mr. Glover and instead treated everyone in the car with suspicion and started beating Mr. Glover’s cousins. Once the beating was over, the officers informed Mr. Glover’s cousins that the car in which they arrived was in police custody. Officer Gregory McRae then drove the car and Mr. Glover’s body to a levee and set it on fire.
After inspecting a full-body X-ray of Mr. Glover’s remains, Dr. Kevin Whaley, a forensic pathologist, determined the case should have been treated as a possible homicide. However, the former Orleans Parish coroner, Frank Minyard, disagreed and originally classified the cause of death as an accident, then as undetermined, and ultimately declined to declare the killing a homicide. The next coroner, Jeffrey Rouse, finally declared Mr. Glover’s death a homicide.
In 2010, a federal jury convicted Warren, McRae, and a third officer, McCabe, on charges connected to the killing and the cover-up. Specifically, McCabe was charged with filing a false and misleading police report with the intent to impede and obstruct the investigation of Mr. Glover’s death. However, McCabe’s conviction was later overturned by a U.S. District Judge based on newly revealed evidence. McRae was sentenced to 12 years in prison on a federal civil rights violation for committing manslaughter with a firearm.
When convicting Warren, U.S. District Judge Africk told him, “Henry Glover was not at the strip mall to commit suicide. He was there to retrieve some baby clothing. You killed a man. Despite your tendentious arguments to the contrary, it was no mistake.” However, Warren’s verdict was vacated by an appeals court for misjoinder. In 2013, Warren was tried alone and acquitted.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Cannizzaro declined to bring murder charges against Warren, even though Warren testified to shooting Mr. Glover. In 2016, Mr. Glover’s family received a financial settlement as part of a lawsuit against the city, but the family has yet to see criminal charges filed against Warren in state court.
Killed December 4, 2020
Franklin County, Ohio
Deputy Sheriff Jason Meade murdered Casey Goodson, ending the life of a 23-year-old Black man. On the day Mr. Goodson was murdered, the U.S. Marshal Fugitive Task Force, joined by Meade, was enforcing a drug trafficking arrest warrant near Mr. Goodson’s home. However, the task force left the suspect’s home frustrated because they could not find the man they were looking for (the suspect later turned himself in police custody voluntarily). On his way back from the dentist, Mr. Goodson was shot in the back with three assault rifle bullets that had gone through a glass door that led into his home. He was carrying takeout food from Subway for his family at the time he was shot. Once his grandmother heard the gunshots, she rushed into the kitchen, where her grandson lay dead.
Mr. Goodson’s five-year-old brother witnessed the execution of his older brother. He called his mom to inform her of Casey’s death. Meade claims that Mr. Goodson’s death was an act of self-defense, although Mr. Goodson was shot in the back multiple times. After the fact, the police claimed that Mr. Goodson was murdered because he was in possession of a concealed firearm, which the officer predicted he would use to kill him. Not only was Mr. Goodson unaware that Meade was following him, Mr. Goodson regularly carried his firearm as he had completed his concealed carry class, earning his license to carry a concealed weapon. These facts contradict Meade’s plea of self-defense. The criminal investigation is ongoing under the direction of the FBI because the Columbus Division of Police Critical Incident Review Team cannot be trusted to conduct a thorough investigation as they are known for tampering with evidence. Meade has yet to be charged with murder or dismissed from the Fugitive Task Force.
Meade did not have a distinguished record as a police officer. In 2010, his supervisor noted that Meade was content with doing the “bare minimum” to get by at his job. Nonetheless, he was assigned to investigate civilian complaints against police officers before being assigned to work with the U.S. Marshals on the Fugitive Task Force. In 2018, he and his fellow officers shot two people in Pike County, Ohio. He was not disciplined because he claimed the shooting was legitimate. In 2019, Meade used a Taser without notifying his supervisors, which violates departmental policy. Based on an internal investigation, Meade, a correctional officer, was prohibited from having any contact with inmates, although that is the primary role of a correctional officer who is supposed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the inmates he is charged with supervising. When asked to describe his job, Meade stated, “I hunt people, it’s a great job,” while glorifying the use of deadly force on innocent civilians with his Christian beliefs. In a church-delivered speech, while talking about Jesus and David, Meade stated that such men give clear examples of how he is justified in “throwing the first punch” in line of duty to set an example for other officers to follow. He described Jesus as the “malest man in the history of mankind.” In his speech, Meade described police use of deadly force as a form of “righteous release.”
Meade was never reprimanded for the use of deadly force against civilians or for the hateful rhetoric he used in his church. Meade’s conduct prior to Mr. Goodson’s death did not prompt the police department to release him from his duty as a police officer although he was dangerous and unfit to protect the citizens of Columbus, Ohio.
Attorney Sarah Gelsomino attributes police violence to a lack of training and accountability. Meade’s prior records did not affect his admissibility into the U.S. Marshal Task Force. Ms. Gelsomino testified that the federal agency task force does not conduct its own private investigation when recruiting officers. In many cases, the U.S. Marshal relies on the word of the local law enforcement agency and takes on whomever the agency recommends, whether or not the individual has undergone proper training or schooling. Moreover, when officers are recruited by the U.S. Marshals to enforce local arrest warrants on these joint task forces, it becomes unclear for whom they are working. The federal agency can deny accountability by saying that the officer was acting under the supervision of the local law enforcement agency. The local police agencies in turn also dismiss responsibility by stating that the officer acted as a federal agent. Such a blame game allows individuals who kill Black people to continue working as officers of the law because the agency that employed them refuses to take responsibility for their disciplinary actions. As the attorney points out, this is how officers like Meade get lost in the system.
As Ms. Gelsomino stated, there is a culture of impunity throughout policing in the U.S. that is insidious and dangerous if left unchecked. Officers enjoy a great deal of protection that allows them to kill without repercussions. Police unions are at the center of such impunity. These unions set procedural protections for officers involved in police shootings. This includes a 72-hour cooling-off period that allows officers to meet with their union representatives and legal team before submitting an official statement. Meade’s statement was collected two weeks after Mr. Goodson’s death, after Meade had consulted his lawyers and members of the police union. At the root, qualified immunity maintains such a system of police violence because it disqualifies officers from being held civilly liable for violating the U.S. Constitution that, in theory, guarantees the right to life of all citizens of the United States.
Killed February 2, 2012
Bronx, New York
Eighteen-year-old Ramarley Graham was killed in his family home in the Bronx in front of his grandmother and six-year-old brother by New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Richard Haste, who had entered his home without legal justification. At the time of the killing, Mr. Graham had returned home after visiting the homes of various friends. Unbeknownst to Mr. Graham, the police were surveying some other activity and were following him. They approached the house and tried to knock down the door without success. They tried every means necessary to get inside the house. Eventually, they were able to get into the side entrance of the house, but failed to follow the protocol of calling emergency service units.
Upon entering the home, they found Mr. Graham, and pointed their guns at him as he stood with his grandmother and little brother by his side. As Mr. Graham moved slightly to the left, he was shot dead. Despite the police’s false narrative that Mr. Graham was seen with a gun, no gun or contraband was found on Mr. Graham.
After the killing, the NYPD released a false narrative to the press that Mr. Graham was under surveillance for selling drugs. They stated that he was running from them, which caused them to pursue him. In service of this false narrative, they released a video of some other individual in all white and running as if he has done something wrong. Mr. Graham had worn all black and walked—not ran—through the front door of his home.
Haste, who killed Mr. Graham, had an extensive disciplinary record: six prior CCRB complaints against him, and 10 allegations, one of them made just 15 months prior to killing Mr. Graham. After a campaign by the family, Haste was charged with manslaughter 1 and manslaughter 2, but the case was dismissed. Thereafter, the family mobilized to get a NYPD Department trial, where Haste was charged with reckless endangerment and other charges. The administrative law judge recommended his firing but Haste resigned before he could be fired. This process of attempting to hold Haste accountable for the killing of her son took Constance Malcolm, Mr. Graham’s mother, more than five years.
Since her son’s killing by the NYPD, Ms. Malcolm has been deeply involved in and successful in her efforts to change the laws in New York. As she testified, the harm to her family cannot be undone: “Ramarley was 18. I would never know what my son would have became. Could they rob me of that? They took that away from me. My son, Chinnor Campbell, he was six years old, when he watched his brother murdered in front of him. He watched a police officer cursing his grandmother and telling they’re gonna shoot her if she won’t shut up when she started questioning what happened to her grandson? My son, I say he’s damaged because I don’t know. He’s 15. Now Chinnor is 15 now, I don’t know what will happen if an officer tries to stop him, what the outcome going to be. My scare is, I might have to go bury another young Black man, because of what he saw happened to his brother. And he doesn’t know how to articulate, articulate, or how to respond to officers, that we teach our kids you’re supposed to respect and follow rules, you know, whenever they tell you to do something. But we know oftentimes, they do follow these rules, and they end up dead. Ramarley was in his home. Where it’s supposed to be a safe, it’s a sacred place, and he was supposed to be safe. But that never happened. His life was snuffed right in front of his, his sibling’s face, his grandmother. And this officer was allowed to resign without any consequence.”
Killed April 19, 2015 after an injury sustained on April 12, 2015
On the morning of April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray and some friends were walking in a low-income Black neighborhood in Baltimore, heading home after having breakfast. This neighborhood was heavily patrolled by police officers and Black community members were routinely stopped and frisked, and harassed, without just cause. Accordingly, community members were fearful of the police and often sought to avoid encounters with them. As Mr. Gray and his friends were chatting on their walk home, two Baltimore City policemen on bikes rode quickly toward them, intending to stop the young men without probable cause. Fearing unlawful harassment, Mr. Gray and his friends ran from the officers.
When the police caught Mr. Gray a few blocks away, he laid on the ground in surrender. They searched him, found a small knife that was not illegal to carry, then proceeded to hog tie and arrest him with no legal justification. As the attorney for the Gray family, William Murphy, testified, “A citizen videotaped the police hog-tying him, Mr. Gray screaming in agony until the police transport arrived, the police releasing his shackled feet from the handcuffs behind his back, attempting to stand him up and then dragging him by both arms with limp legs to the back of the van, sitting him down on a van bench and being driven away.”
After 45 minutes, during which time the driver made additional stops, Mr. Gray was delivered to the precinct unconscious. In the intervening time, Mr. Gray had been subjected to a practice known within the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) as a “rough ride,” in which prisoners are shackled and placed in the back of a police van without being seat-belted, before the driver proceeds to swerve and drive wildly in order to brutalize the prisoner, battering him against the interior of the van. By the time Mr. Gray arrived at the precinct, his spine was 85% severed. Despite his life-threatening injury, the police again waited before sending him in an ambulance to the Shock Trauma Unit at the University of Maryland Hospital. He died two weeks later.
When the video of Mr. Gray’s shackling was released, followed by news of his serious injuries,
on April 21, 2015, people from around the country and the world came to Baltimore to participate in mass protests. The family of Mr. Gray retained Attorney William Murphy, who reached out to community leaders and civil rights organizations to request that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the case and the Baltimore City Police Department’s “rough ride” practice and other practices of racially disparate treatment. Mr. Murphy presented evidence to the Commissioners of numerous victims of the “rough ride” practice by the BPD spanning more than a decade, In 1997, Jeffrey Alston was paralyzed; in 2005, Dondi Johnson was killed; and in 2012, Christine Abbott was severely injured by this pattern and practice.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, head of Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, came to Baltimore and authorized an immediate investigation, which culminated in a report issued on August 10, 2016. It found, “BPD engages in a pattern or practice of: (1) making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; (2) using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African-Americans; (3) using excessive force; and (4) retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.”
As a result of this damning report, Baltimore agreed to be bound by a court-approved consent decree and to be subject to monitoring and supervision to curb these unlawful practices.
After Mr. Gray’s tragic death, six Baltimore City police officers were criminally charged for their involvement. After waiving their rights to trials by jury, the officers were acquitted by a judge sitting without a jury.
Killed November 8, 2016
Henderson County, North Carolina
Ritchie Lee Harbison, a 62-year-old Black man, was killed by police after an encounter with law enforcement. Henderson County is a small county with a population of nearly 107,000—only 3.4 percent of which is comprised of people of African descent. Between 2013 and 2021, there were four police killings in the county. Two of the victims were Black.
Mr. Harbison was involved in a motor vehicle accident. He appeared emotionally disturbed, disrobed, and appeared to be in severe mental distress. When four police officers arrived, they claimed he was irrational and “noncompliant to any of [the officers’] commands.” Maj. Frank Stout from the sheriff’s office told The Asheville Citizen Times that Mr. Harbison was naked and clearly unarmed. The police allege that he charged them, and they tasered him. Mr. Harbison died shortly thereafter. As attorney J. Denton Daniels testified, the police “knew a Taser can be deadly and instead of the state or the county, providing some clear mechanism to respond to a mental health crisis. They had officers who, as the Commissioners heard, are in many ways militarized and trained to respond to crimes, [instead of responding] to what is really a mental health issue.”
Indeed. police did not respond with de-escalation techniques, which are applicable protocols when facing a mentally disturbed person. Expert witness attorney Michael Avery explained, “The statements coming out of the sheriff’s office do not indicate any effort whatsoever to comply with what the training is in this area. And instead, it looks like all the officers may have been shouting and screaming at this individual ordering him about and making no effort to understand what his predicament was.”
In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that use of a Taser can be considered excessive force, even when some force is warranted. Specifically, the court held that officers are prohibited from employing the devices to subdue resisting suspects unless they believe there is a “risk of immediate danger” to themselves or others. Mr. Harbison was unarmed, had no criminal history, and was not under the influence of intoxicating substances. The death certificate lists his cause of death as undetermined. It is clear from the record and reports that Mr. Harbison suffered a cardiac arrest, although it is unclear whether that was due to the use of a Taser, which can cause cardiac arrest, or due to positional asphyxiation.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation into the death of Mr. Harbison, but ultimately no one was charged. The estate file for Mr. Harbison indicates a pending wrongful death action, but a review of the records of all courts that would have jurisdiction indicates no publicly available records. Efforts to make public information requests on the case have not been responded to in earnest, and the family, their attorney and the Sheriff’s Office have declined to comment.
Killed June 14, 2014
Shirley Marshall Harrison called 911 for a crisis intervention team as she had many times before for her 38-year old son, Jason Harrison, who suffered from mental illness. Ms. Harrison informed the 911 operator, “My son needs to be taken to Parkland [Hospital].” She informed the operator that her son had a bipolar schizophrenic diagnosis, that he was off his medication, and he was “incoherent.” She confirmed with the operator that the first responders sent would be persons trained in handling mental health crises. She also confirmed that there were no weapons and no one was injured in the house. The police had been to the Harrison home more than 100 times before without incident. It was well-known to the authorities that Mr. Harrison was nonviolent.
When the officers arrived, Ms. Harrison walked out with her purse and Mr. Harrison came to the door. When the police noticed a screwdriver in Mr. Harrison’s hands, the officers began yelling orders to drop the screwdriver, though Mr. Harrison was not wielding it as a weapon. Mr. Harrison made no verbal threats or violent gestures. As Mr. Harrison turned in the direction of a walkway along the garage, as though he was going to walk past Officer Rogers, the officers continued to shout orders and shot Mr. Harrison, killing him. Within 10 seconds of the front door being opened, Mr. Harrison lay dying in his own driveway shot at least five times, twice in the back, by Officers Rogers and Andrew Hutchins. The latter officer was wearing a body camera. Both officers would later argue that Mr. Harrison raised the screwdriver and lunged at them but that narrative is not supported by the body camera footage.
After the incident, there was no criminal prosecution. On November 10, 2014, the family filed a Fourth Amendment excessive force case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas—Dallas Division. On March 14, 2016, Judge David Godbey granted summary judgment to defendants finding that the two officers had reason to believe there was a threat of imminent bodily harm. This decision demonstrates the problems of the excessive force case law, which allows police officers to apply deadly force with impunity as long as they state they felt fearful. Geoff Henley, attorney for Ms. Harrison, presented body camera footage that shows Mr. Harrison never lunged at either of the officers with the point of the screwdriver; while part of the conflict was out of the video frame, the video showed only the bottom of Mr. Harrison’s arm slightly raised, and showed a posture inconsistent with lungeing.
The Dallas Police Department has an explicit policy requiring the use of less lethal force than deadly force if the opportunity provides. Nonetheless, as Mr. Henley, told the Commissioners, “In this encounter the cops are the architects of the situations, they are typically the ones who control the time, the space, the area of the engagement. In this particular case, of course, we knew the police knocked on the door, they’re there, they’re the ones who were setting the spacing from the beginning. And then of course, when, when Jason appeared in the doorway holding the screwdriver, the dynamic changed. But what was important to notice, neither one of those officers backed up, gave him some space, tried to talk him off the ledge instead of, you know, raising the tempo of the engagement.” Mr. Henley explained that courts evaluate imminent threat without regard to prior acts of police escalation or failure to de-escalate. Mr. Henley concluded, “The thin ray of good news from this case is that the Dallas Police Department has supposedly set up new protocols for addressing mental health crises, though… much still needs to be done.”
Killed September 6, 2018
Botham Jean, a promising 26-year-old accountant at Pricewaterhouse Cooper, was killed in his own apartment by Officer Amber Guyger. Mr. Jean, who was unarmed, was sitting on his living room couch eating ice cream. Guyger claimed that she had mistakenly entered the apartment of Mr. Jean, thinking that it was her own apartment. After two hours of investigation, Texas Ranger David Armstrong told the Botham family that his death resulted from a “web of mistakes.” Following a thorough investigation by an independent body, Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Alllison Jean, Mr. Jean’s mother, detailed the collective trauma being experienced by her family, stating, “Botham’s death has had an impact on every family member.”
Conversations exchanged via text between Guyger and her co-workers revealed her racist attitude toward Black people. During the January 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, a co-worker asked Guyger, “When does this end lol” to which Guyger replied, “When MLK is dead…oh wait…” On September 4, 2018, a person named Ethridge appeared to playfully offer to give Guyger a German shepherd. “Although she may be racist,” Ethridge wrote. She responded by saying, “It’s okay, I’m the same.”
Daryl Washington, attorney for the Jean family, testified, “All of the police shootings that we have been seeing and witnessing throughout the United States. And we know that there’s been quite a few. Only 110 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter. And of all the shootings that that we have seen, now, just five of those 110 officers have been convicted of murder, while 37 have been found guilty of lesser crimes. Out of the 42 victims 25 were Black.”
Killed February 29, 2014
San Antonio, Texas
Marquise Jones was killed by Robert Encina, a San Antonio police officer. Mr. Jones was a passenger in a car that was involved in a fender bender at a local restaurant’s drive-through. Encina, who was working undercover at the restaurant as a security guard, was called to the scene of the accident. Mr. Jones, who was on probation, decided that an encounter with a police officer would jeopardize his probation order. While Encina was speaking to the driver of the car, Mr. Jones exited the vehicle to walk home in order to avoid any interaction with the officer. Deborah Jones-Bush, Mr. Jones’ aunt, testified, ”But Marquise was very nervous about the situation that was going on and decided to go home which is only two blocks away from his home. And the officer never told him to stop, never told him he could not leave. Marquise then proceeded down the driveway of the restaurant drive thru and was shot at nine times, with one bullet hitting him and striking him in the back and he died. Officer Encina shot Marquise Jones nine times.”
Daryl Washington, attorney for the Jones family, testified, “Despite the fact that this officer was not in danger, no third party was in danger. This police officer fired at Marquise, striking him in the back.” Encina did not face criminal charges.
Mr. Washington identified several factors that perpetuate systemic violence against Black people in the United States. Many officers involved in police shootings, including Encina, have histories of committing physical assaults against people of color that do not result in meaningful suspension, immediate job termination, or criminal proceedings. Given that such officers are rarely reprimanded, they continue to kill, knowing that the U.S. criminal legal system will protect them. The lack of transparency allows police chiefs, police unions, and prosecutors to engage in cover-ups. Encina testified that he killed Mr. Jones in an act of self-defense against an armed African-American man, although Mr. Jones was shot in the back. A witness claimed that prior to Mr. Jones exiting the car, he saw him with something that resembled a gun. However, another witness, whom the defense attorney never approached to testify at trial, stated that the victim was unarmed. The witness who contradicted Encina’s narrative was dismissed from the scene at the time of the shooting. A revolver was found in the vicinity of Mr. Jones’ body, but neither his fingerprints nor DNA were found on the gun.
Furthermore, district attorneys assign criminal investigations of police shootings to former police officers, who serve at the discretion of police unions. In some cases, an individual in the attorney’s office or a union representative drafts and writes police statements before trial. Furthermore, police officers can watch the body camera videos of the shooting in question before officially submitting their statements. Such measures are taken to legitimize police officers’ use of force and protect the reputation of the U.S. criminal legal system that devalues the humanity of Black people. The district attorney’s office rarely appoints an independent body to investigate such cases. At every stage of the investigation, police officers are treated as the victims rather than the perpetrator of police brutality in the U.S. Mr. Washington noted, “Whenever a young man is killed by a police officer, the first thing that we get is the background of the victim, the deceased individual who no longer could defend his or her name.”
Killed May 11, 2017
Schenectady, New York
Andrew Kearse was briefly chased by officers regarding a traffic violation. When they caught up to him, he couldn’t stand or walk and it took three officers to carry him to the car. Mr. Kearse was in the back seat of the police car for 17 minutes. During that time, he pleaded for help 70 times, repeating the words, “I can’t breathe.” Mr. Kearse’s cries for help were disregarded. He asked that the window be opened but the officer refused. The officer said that since Mr. Kearse could talk, he could breathe, and thus there was no medical condition or medical emergency. Ambulances were not summoned and no EMT’s were called.
Instead of taking Mr. Kearse to a hospital, which was eight minutes away, the officers headed toward the police station. He died of a heart attack one minute before they arrived at the station.
The lawyers who filed a lawsuit for the family retained a medical expert who concluded that if Mr. Kearse had been treated promptly, his life would have been saved. There was a 78% to 80% chance he would not have suffered brain injury.
When Mr. Kearse’s wife, Angelique Negroni-Kearse, saw him at the funeral home, she “let out of a screech that they never heard before because they sounded like my heart broke. And it did and it’s been broken. It’s an empty hole that I can never fill, refill. I’m sorry.”
It took three years for the police chief to call Ms. Negroni-Kearse and tell her he would make a public announcement that he was sorry and they were wrong. But he did not fire the officer, who, she said, “was like a serial killer with no empathy and you still have this man on the job.” The grand jury refused to indict the officer.
Mr. Kearse and his wife were together 11 years and married for 10 of them. She said she would have to raise seven children, including four under age 10, without her husband. “This wasn’t just somebody just to throw away like he’s garbage and he’s nothing. He was somebody. He was somebody and we had family and children together that miss him that I got to, I got to raise without, without him. It’s unfair,” she said.
Killed May 4, 2013
South Boston, Virginia
Linwood Lambert had a “lifetime of mental health issues.” After he called the police on himself while experiencing erratic behaviors and other symptoms of mental illness, three officers responded. Because of the way he was acting and comments he made, they decided to take him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. The unarmed Mr. Lambert voluntarily allowed the officers to handcuff him and sat quietly in the police car. Upon arrival at the hospital, Mr. Lambert became emotionally unbalanced and began to kick out a window of the police car. As he ran toward the emergency department, the officers chased and tasered him. Mr. Lambert never made it into the Emergency Room.
When Mr. Lambert fell to the ground, the officers descended upon him and continued to Taser him. They used force to place the still handcuffed Mr. Lambert on his chest, put his legs in shackles, and brought him back to the police car. They discharged their Tasers more than 20 times. Tasers create neuromuscular incapacitation, which makes people unable to control their bodies or respond to commands. The officers placed Mr. Lambert back into the police car. But instead of entering the hospital, where they already were, they headed for the police station.
Mr. Lambert, who had no underlying heart condition, went into cardiac arrest in the backseat. When they arrived at the police department, officers found Mr. Lambert unresponsive. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital to which he had originally been transported.
The inexperienced forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy was overseen by a Virginia State Police official with no medical training or knowledge. Mr. Lambert had trace amounts of cocaine in his system, but the pathologist concluded that he died of “acute cocaine intoxication.” The pathologist did not know about the tasering or the video of the incident before conducting the autopsy.
The Commonwealth attorney decided not to file criminal charges against the officers, concluding that Mr. Lambert died from “excited delirium,” which is only diagnosed after someone dies after a police encounter. The video of the incident was kept secret until Mr. Lambert’s sister filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, which was settled confidentially. The U.S. Department of Justice refused to launch an investigation into Mr. Lambert’s death.
Killed June 22, 2014
Juan May and several friends were celebrating a friend’s birthday by taking a party bus to various spots around town. While on the bus, Mr. May’s cousin, Patrick May, suggested that Officer Andres, who was off-duty, dance on the stripper pole inside the party bus. Andres was offended by Patrick’s comment and became angry, using derogatory homophobic slurs against Patrick. In an attempt to diffuse the tension, Mr. May danced on the pole himself.
When the bus stopped, Mr. May assisted with cleaning up and Andres stood across from him. Mr. May told Andres, “We aren’t going to do all this tonight.” Andres then said something to Mr. May which led Mr. May to strike him in the face with his hand. A fight erupted between the two and when it concluded, Andres went back to his car. People in the area yelled that Andres had gone to his car to retrieve a firearm. Hearing this, Mr. May went to calm Andres down. Andres yelled to Mr. May that he was a cop, entered his vehicle, retrieved his gun, and shot Mr. May in the chest.
When the police arrived, they spoke with Andres but did not offer any medical assistance to Mr. May. Mr. May was later transported to the hospital and pronounced dead. He was survived by three children. Shortly after his death, Mr. May’s grandmother stopped eating due to her grief and passed away. Mr. May’s sister, Jindia Blount, began to engage in activism and joined “Mothers Against Police Brutality.”
In the aftermath of the killing, the district attorney was in rehab for substance abuse. In her absence, Andres was never indicted by a grand jury. Andres was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, but has since returned to his job. After an internal affairs investigation, Andres was exonerated. Mr. May’s family filed a civil suit in district court against the Arlington Police Department (APD) and Andres for wrongful death, Fourth Amendment violations, municipal liability for covering up officer misconduct, civil rights violations, and other causes of action. The district court granted the Arlington APD and Andres’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
Killed February 12, 2013
Kayla Moore, a Black mentally-ill transgender woman, was in her apartment with her caretaker when the police arrived. The officers were responding to a request for mental health assistance from Ms. Moore’s friend, John Hayes. When the officers arrived, Ms. Moore was in the midst of a mental health crisis and was afraid that the officers were not actual police. The officers ordered Ms. Moore’s caretaker out of the apartment and then, rather than determining if Ms. Moore needed a mental health evaluation, the officers ran Ms. Moore and Mr. Hayes’ names into the system to see if they had any outstanding warrants. Upon locating one, the officers took Mr. Hayes into custody. After finding an arrest warrant for someone with Ms. Moore’s birth name, but who was 20 years older than Ms. Moore, they decided to take Ms. Moore into custody as well.
When Ms. Moore stated that there must be a mistake and said that she would call someone to sort out the issue, police physically seized her. Ms. Moore struggled as officers tried to handcuff her, so the officers threw Ms. Moore face down on a futon. Six officers put their body weight on Ms. Moore as she yelled for them to get off of her and struggled to breathe. The officers tried to use a wrap device to immobilize Ms. Moore’s legs. Ms. Moore then lost consciousness and fell to the floor face down and completely immobile. After a while, officers turned Ms. Moore on her side, realized she was not breathing, and began to perform chest compressions which exacerbated Ms. Moore’s trauma from being held down earlier and killed her. Although there were several officers qualified to begin airway breathing, none of them initiated the necessary airway breathing that could have saved Ms. Moore’s life.
As her sister, Maria Moore, testified, “[W]ith six offers on top of her putting her in this torture device, do they realize at some point she had stopped moving… [T]hey failed to check on Kayla. Because her last breath, her last words were get off me, I can’t breathe. And they ignored her, her cries for help.”
Ms. Moore’s family testified that Oakland Police officers left her lying on her stomach with her dress pulled up, exposing her private parts. According to Adante Pointer, attorney for the Moore family, “Kayla died on her stomach without the dignity that anyone deserves, even an animal, because after they noticed that she was no longer responsive, comments were made about her sexual orientation… as opposed to these officers going and getting the appropriate equipment in order to do CPR, they sat there and they talked about her in her sexual orientation and expressed some hesitancy of performing life saving measures.”
Ms. Moore’s father, her successor-in-interest, filed a Section 1983 claim against the City of Berkeley on her behalf for violation of the Fourth Amendment, wrongful death, excessive force, and discriminatory arrest. The district court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, determining that Ms. Moore’s family did not present sufficient evidence to prove the officers did not reasonably accommodate Ms. Moore’s disability or that she was discriminatorily arrested. Ms. Moore’s family appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but the court affirmed that the officers had probable cause to arrest Ms. Moore and the officers’ use of force against Ms. Moore was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
Killed November 19, 2015
Nathaniel Pickett II was crossing the street in a marked crosswalk, having committed no crime. An officer first claimed that Mr. Pickett kind of glanced at him as he was crossing the street, and later said Mr. Pickett looked at him 10 different times in a matter of 10 seconds, which made him suspicious. The ride-along passenger in the officer’s car never saw Mr. Pickett crossing the street. Mr. Pickett ran from the officer, who chased him and tried to grab him. As Mr. Pickett attempted to run away, he fell down some steps and injured himself. The officer threatened to taser Mr. Pickett and then began forcefully punching Mr. Pickett in his body, head, and face. Although the officer claimed that Mr. Pickett punched him 10 or 20 times, the ride-along partner never saw Mr. Pickett punch the officer. The defense expert who analyzed the video could not see any punch made or initiated by Mr. Pickett against the officer.
After asking Mr. Pickett for his name and birthdate, the officer told him to turn around. Mr. Pickett said, “No, man . . . I’m not doing anything!” The officer said, “Turn around! Turn around or you’re going to get tazed! Turn around or you’re going to get tazed! Turn around!” Mr. Pickett replied, “For what, man?!” The officer yelled, “Turn around! Turn around! Turn around! Turn around! Stop resisting! Give me your hands! Turn around!” After a struggle, the officer said, “I’m going to shoot you! I’m going to shoot you!” He then shot Mr. Pickett twice in his chest a few seconds apart at point blank range. The officer never called for medical care for Mr. Pickett, who bled to death from his wounds.
No criminal charges were brought against the officer. The federal civil lawsuit filed by the family resulted in a jury verdict of $33.5 million, apparently the largest verdict in U.S. history, although it was later reduced by the judge.
Dominic Archibald, Mr. Pickett’s mother, said of her son, “He was my legacy, my faith in the present moment, and my hope for the future . . . In the final moments of the only life he had, my only child was stopped, beaten, and terrorized like a dog.” A retired Army officer and combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, she noted, “We have more stringent rules of engagement and human rights requirements against the known enemy than law enforcement has in the streets of America.” Regarding the monetary judgment in the civil suit, she added, “You could never pay me for my child . . . Whatever comes is just a down payment on justice.”
Killed May 4, 2018
Twenty-two year old Jeffery Price, who was riding his dirt bike, collided with a police cruiser driven by Officer Michael Pearson in Washington D.C. Mr. Price was pronounced dead at the hospital. Pearson claimed that Mr. Price was riding in the wrong lane of travel, causing the officer to unintentionally crash into his dirt bike, which resulted in the death of Mr. Price. However, several witnesses on the scene contradicted Pearson’s narrative. Attorney David Schurtz testified that the “accident” was a premeditated attempt to kill an African-American male. The independent investigation revealed that officers deliberately chased Mr. Price down Division Avenue, allowing the victim to be captured in a calculated trap at the intersection where Pearson’s police cruiser crashed into Mr. Price’s dirt bike, causing the fatal accident. Pearson ran through a stop sign, violating the state general order for vehicle pursuit, which forces an officer to come to a full stop when approaching a stop sign, even in the event of a high-speed chase, to avoid collisions involving police officers. The police chief dismissed that argument stating that they did not find an improper pursuit of Mr. Price.
Pearson was not charged with murder, nor he was disciplined by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Mr. Shurtz explained that police officers in D.C target young Black men on dirt bikes and hit them with government vehicles, which may result in death or fatal injuries. As he explained, such deadly use of force against Black men constitutes a hate crime and should be considered as such. Once Mr. Schurtz was informed of such practice, he was able to collect between 200 and 300 affidavits telling the stories of African-Americans who have been hit or chased by police officers while on their bikes, driving them into dangerous paths. The MPD has failed to investigate these cases. A former police officer, Michael Pepperman, was assigned to the investigative body for biker motorcycle collisions. He was appointed to investigate the Price case, although he had been implicated in a previous motorcycle collision that led to the fatal injuries of another African-American male. Attorney Schurtz is currently working on a Monell case, in which he seeks to prove the pattern and practice of police officers targeting Black men with such deadly force. As Commissioner Bert Samuels noted, in this new form of police violence, the weapon of choice has become police cars.
Mr. Shurtz suggests that eliminating qualified immunity will not do a great deal to address police brutality in the United States. This will allow politicians and chiefs to excuse police brutality as the doing of “one bad apple” while refusing to acknowledge the systemic police violence that exists in the United States.
Died March 30, 2020
Rochester, New York
Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died due to a brain injury suffered at the hands of police officers in Rochester, New York. While visiting his brother, Joseph Prude, in Rochester, Mr. Prude had been experiencing a mental health crisis. Before his brother could determine the appropriate course of action, Mr. Prude left his home. Joseph called 911, and officers responded to determine Mr. Prude’s whereabouts. By the time police found him, he had completely disrobed himself while running in the middle of the road. The officers quickly subdued the unarmed and cooperative Mr. Prude, placing him in handcuffs with a mesh hood over his head. While the first officer placed his knee on Mr. Prude’s back, allowing the second officer to hold his legs down, the third officer performed a triangle pushup on the side of Mr. Prude’s head, thereby pressing his head and chest into the pavement. Mr. Prude suffered fatal brain damage. As there was no hope for recovery, the family removed him from life support. He died on March 30, 2020.
The lack of transparency in this police-involved killing is evident in the case of Daniel Prude. The Rochester Police Department (RPD) did not disclose any information, either to Mr. Prude’s family or to the public, regarding the events leading to his death. The police union received the body camera videos and other evidence within two or three days after the killing. But the Prude legal team didn’t obtain the body camera footage until six months later after filing several lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act. The video was released to the public and the family in September 2020.
The Mayor of Rochester fired the police chief, alleging that he had not disclosed any information regarding Mr. Prude’s death to her. The Rochester Independent Counsel is investigating the police chief’s termination to determine the validity of the mayor’s accusations. The head of the Mental Health Crisis Team was also fired for releasing Mr. Prude’s private medical records to the police department without authorization. Unbeknownst to the Prude family, the RPD had conducted an investigation that cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, alleging that Mr. Prude’s death was caused by “excited delirium.” The investigation concluded that there was no inappropriate action because the officers followed all established protocols.
The Rochester Police Department responded to the peaceful protests following the unjustifiable death of Daniel Prude in a hostile manner. Protesters were struck with tear gas, as well as approximately 6,000 rubber bullets in an attempt to provoke physical violence and confrontation. Nearly 100 protesters were injured while others were detained illegally.
As a result of the protests, the attorney general’s office now conducts investigations of police-related killings instead of the local district attorney’s office. There is an ongoing criminal investigation to determine the culpability of police officers in the death of Mr. Prude. Moreover, Rochester initiated The Person in a Crisis Team to respond to emergencies concerning mental health and substance abuse cases.
Training that discusses how officers should manage a mental health crisis is not part of police culture in Rochester. As Donald Thompson, attorney for the Prude family, testified, the lack of officer training caused the death of Daniel Prude. Before introducing the Person in Crisis Team, Rochester did not have resources to assist individuals experiencing a mental health breakdown during a police encounter. As the attorney suggested, the officers did not have the discipline or personality type to provide Mr. Prude the required medical and psychological assistance. Instead of offering Mr. Prude humanized attention, officers asked him whether he was HIV positive or diagnosed with COVID-19. The video camera footage does not show the officers attempting to engage the victim in a conversation to calm him down. Nor did the officers offer Mr. Prude clothing, as he was surrounded by seven police officers, completely naked while in the middle of the street. Moreover, the officers arrived at the scene to make an arrest rather than attempt to aid the victim. They became impatient, agitated, and frustrated because Mr. Prude could not be silenced as he was saying things that the officers could not understand. The officers deemed it more suitable for the officers to arrest Mr. Prude rather than help him return home safely. As Mr. Thompson said, the only way to remedy police violence against individuals like Daniel Prude is to confront the racist culture within police institutions that does not acknowledge the importance of humanizing mental health patience, especially for those who are of African descent..
In March 2021, a grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved in the case on any charges.
Killed November 22, 2014
Tamir Rice, a 12-year old Black boy, was at the park with a toy gun. A 911 caller sitting at a nearby gazebo reported that someone, likely a minor, was pointing a pistol at random people at the recreation center, but mentioned the gun was likely fake. When the dispatcher informed Officers Loehmann and Garmback about the call, they did not mention the gun was likely fake or that Tamir was a young boy. After the caller left, Tamir sat down under the gazebo. When the officers arrived, they claimed to have seen a black toy gun sitting on the table and Tamir putting it into his waistband. Loehmann exited the car and told Tamir to put his hands up. The officer claims he told Tamir to put his hands up three times, but the whole event which occurred within seconds of the arrival of police, transpired too quickly for him to have done so. The officers alleged that Tamir reached into his waistband and pulled out the toy gun and Loehmann fired two shots. The whole altercation was recorded on video and happened in less than two seconds.
Tamir’s sister, Tajai, who was also playing at the park at the time, ran over to Tamir but was tackled to the ground by officers and unable to offer him any aid or comfort. Officers did not provide any medical assistance to Tamir. Instead, an FBI agent who happened to be in the park at the time offered him aid. Tamir died the next day from a gunshot wound to the torso. After the killing, protests erupted in Cleveland.
Timothy McGuinty, chief prosecutor in Cuyahoga County at the time, presented the case to the grand jury. Tamir’s family and those involved in his case said that McGuinty presented the case to the grand jury as if he was “a defense attorney for the cops.” The officers were also allowed to prepare and make statements to the grand jury, but were not cross-examined. The grand jury did not indict Loehmann or Garmback. The U.S. Department of Justice also declined to bring criminal charges against the officers. Tamir’s family filed a wrongful death suit against Loehmann, Garmback, and the City of Cleveland. In 2016, the lawsuit was settled and the Rice family received $6 million. The 911 dispatcher who failed to tell the officers Tamir was a young boy and the gun was likely fake was suspended for just eight days. Loehmann was fired from the police force and Garmback, who had previous excessive force complaints on his record, was merely suspended for several days.
Killed May 29, 2020
Momodou Sisay, a Black Gambian Muslim, was driving through the town of Snellville, Georgia at 3:00am when an officer tried pulling him over for an expired tag. Mr. Sisay, shaken by the recent murder of George Floyd and afraid of what an officer could do to him in the middle of the night, continued to drive.
The officer followed Mr. Sisay and then administered a controversial position intervention maneuver (PIT maneuver) with his squad car, forcing Mr. Sisay’s car off the road, into some trees and bushes, and left hanging over the ledge of a cliff. Squad cars then surrounded Mr. Sisay’s vehicle. While surrounded, Mr. Sisay told his girlfriend on the phone, “I’m surrounded by armed officers. I think they’re going to kill me.” At least 100 officers arrived at the scene and the SWAT team was called. Police claim that as they approached Mr. Sisay’s car, which was hanging off of an embankment on the side of the road, he refused to comply with verbal orders and flashed a handgun at officers. However, Mr. Sisay’s family disputes that he brandished a gun at the officers. Officers then fired three rounds of shots at Mr. Sisay, killing him. More than 200 bullet holes were found on Mr. Sisay’s car.
The officers were wearing body cameras during the killing, but have not released the footage. The Gambian government has contacted the U.S. State Department, urging a “transparent, credible, and objective investigation” into the killing of Mr. Sisay. The Sisay family has retained attorney Abdul Jaiteh but they have not yet filed a lawsuit against the officers. Mr. Jaiteh said there were Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection violations.
Killed January 15, 2020
West Haven, Connecticut
Mubarak Soulemane, a mentally ill 19-year-old, was driving an allegedly stolen car when spotted by Connecticut State Trooper Brian North. Although the dispatcher told the trooper not to chase the car, the officer chased him until Mr. Soulemane’s car was trapped to a standstill. The video of the incident shows North exiting the vehicle with his gun drawn, and shooting Mr. Soulemane seven times through the window, while the victim was just sitting in the car, killing him on the spot. The penalty for car theft is not death, however, and in this case the trooper acted as judge, jury, and executioner. This officer was not in any imminent danger. Despite the Connecticut State’s attorney having this case under investigation for over a year, as of the date of the hearing there has been no result of the investigation and North remains on the force.
As noted by the Soulemane family’s attorney Sanford Rubenstein, “Since local prosecutors need the police to make their cases there is an existing conflict, or at least an appearance of conflict by the public with regard to having local district attorneys investigate police killings… A model for this is in New York state, where state law has authorized the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute police officers who killed innocent victims. In addition, a number of the killings that I have referred to in the list of 20 were mentally ill individuals.”
Attorney Mark Arons, concurs: “Connecticut is a good example of inherent bias built into the system. There is a state’s attorney who is investigating acts of police violence and brutality. The state’s attorney is an employee of the state of Connecticut. The state trooper who brutally murdered Mubarak is likewise an employee of the state of Connecticut. As far as that goes, city and municipal police officers, although they’re employees of the town or the city, they would also be prosecuted by a member of the state’s attorney’s office. So they are all on the same team, if you will.”
Omo Klumsum Muhammad, the mother of Mr. Soulemane, testified about the devastating impact of her son’s killing on herself and the family. But she is “praying for justice” and so far “justice have never came. It’s been over a year that I’m still waiting for justice. . . My son is been suffering from this illness for over six years before this trooper took his life away, murdered my son put seven bullets on my son. He was in the car trapped. He shouldn’t deserve to die the way he was murdered.”
Killed May 16 2003
New York, New York
In the spring of 2003, an unnamed confidential informant for the New York Police Department was deemed unreliable and decertified. But because the decertification was not entered into the system, the decertified informant provided information to the NYPD about drug dealing. The police did not look into the informant’s credibility nor run a check on the name he provided, Melvin Boswell, who turned out to have been in prison at the time.
Based on the informant’s information, police secured a no-knock warrant and violently entered the apartment of Alberta Spruill, a 57-year old city worker, who lived alone. They knocked the door off its hinges, threw in a stun grenade, making a loud flash and a bang. Ms. Spruill was thrown to the floor and handcuffed so violently that the autopsy showed blood vessels had burst in her shoulders. When the police realized their mistake, Ms. Spruill could not catch her breath. The police called EMS to the scene. Ms. Spruill was taken to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, she was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest. The autopsy that followed indicated that her death was caused by a police raid, including use of the flashbang stun grenades, as well as being thrown to the floor.
As explained by Derek Sells, attorney for Ms. Spruill’s estate, race played a role in the stop-and-frisk of the confidential informant that initiated the conduct that led to Ms. Spruill’s death. Race played a role in the fact that the police did not conduct any background check, nor did the prosecutors perform any background check on the reliability of the confidential informant. Further, the no knock warrant was secured in part based on the police’s racial profiling of the neighborhood in which the apartment was located and the police’s implicit bias against the community’s predominantly Black residents as armed and dangerous drug dealers.
After Ms. Spruill’s death, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a 24-page report on the raid, detailing consistent errors and poor judgment by members of the NYPD. Almost every decision leading up to the raid seems to have been flawed, from commanding officers not sharing crucial information, to the failure to seek requisite approval for the use of flash grenades, to officers’ failure to raise concerns about the reliability of the informant. Ms. Spruill’s apartment was not properly surveilled to see if it likely sheltered drugs or guns. The drug dealer whose cache of drugs and weapons was being sought in the raid had in fact been arrested four days earlier on an assault warrant, but this information was not shared.
When the raid sparked public outrage, the NYPD published new guidelines calling for more reliability when taking tips from informants, and promising to conduct proper surveillance and confirm addresses prior to sending in a SWAT team. But later, during the course of a lawsuit that concluded in 2004, and stemming from another mistaken raid, the City of New York disavowed the post-Spruill reforms and stated they were merely discretionary, unenforceable, and could be revoked at will by any mayor or police commissioner.
Killed January 21, 2020
A week before his death, Darius Tarver was in a serious collision. His car rolled over, he was found non-responsive at the scene, and responders had to cut him out of the car. He was admitted to ICU trauma but released after a short time with no observation even though he was still suffering from injuries related to the collision. Mr. Tarver suffered severe injuries to his face and head, including internal brain damage that left him with an extreme sensitivity to light, noise, and sound. He also exhibited bizarre and erratic behavior and had extreme mood swings.
On January 21, 2020, Mr. Tarver was home in his apartment complex with his roommate. Because of his extreme sensitivity to light, Mr. Tarver used barricades made of bed sheets, bedspreads, or the mattress to cover his door to keep out light. He seemed to be in an excited state, muttering incomprehensibly and making religious references. His roommate was fearful and believing this to be an urgent situation, left the apartment and called law enforcement. He described Mr. Tarver’s symptoms in detail, noting that he wasn’t behaving like himself, but that he was nonviolent, apparently in need of help. Other neighbors also called the police, at least one of whom reported a man in the hallway who seemed focused on the lights and who removed or used a frying pan to knock out some hallway light fixtures. Other residents were concerned that Mr. Tarver was pounding on some doors.
The four officers who came to the apartment complex saw Mr. Tarver slowly descend the stairs with a frying pan in his hand and some other weapon like a kitchen knife in his pocket. Upon seeing the kitchen knife, they decided they had authority to use lethal force. Mr. Tarver stood still, looking, talking about God protecting him. His voice was not loud and there was no indication he intended to become aggressive. Officers began shouting commands to drop his weapons but gave Mr. Tarver little time to respond before starting to taser him. He fell forward, apparently out of control of his neuromuscular functions, and dropped the frying pan. Mr. Tarver was tasered a second time and then shot, apparently in the torso, and lost control of the weapons. He stood up and limped over to the pan but didn’t have the strength to lift it. As he limped forward, officers shouted ineffective commands and fired their weapons two more times into Mr. Tarver’s body center, causing him to fall down. They delayed getting him treatment and he perished from his wounds. The officers are still on the job although the investigation has not been completed.
Kevin Tarver, Mr. Tarver’s father, a pastor and member of the police advisory council, called the officers “impatient,” adding, “It wasn’t about trying to protect my son’s life, about trying to save their life. They wasn’t in any imminent danger nor threat. But they escalated the situation, they did not de-escalate the situation. And because of their actions, they killed my son, and they have not owned up to it.” He said the police chief lied, saying that Mr. Tarver raised the pan, tried to attack two officers, and resisted arrest, but that account was belied by the fact that the officers never even tried to handcuff Mr. Tarver.
March 13, 2020
Breonna Taylor, an EMT, was sleeping soundly in her bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. At the time, police had been investigating two men they believed were selling drugs out of a house that was not near Ms. Taylor’s; one of those men was Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover. For a while, the City of Louisville had been trying to clear the area where Mr. Glover lived in order to gentrify it. The police unit investigating Mr. Glover was tasked with targeting “roadblocks” to a large development plan for the neighborhood. Identified as a “primary roadblock,” Mr. Glover was thus targeted by this unit. The officers obtained a no-knock warrant for Ms. Taylor’s apartment because the police believed Mr. Glover had used her apartment to receive packages. However, before the raid, the warrant was changed to a “knock and announce” warrant. Shortly after midnight, Louisville police, dressed in plainclothes, forced entry into Ms. Taylor’s home using a battering ram. Officers did not announce themselves. Ms. Taylor and Mr. Walker both heard the noise and called out, asking who was there. When no one responded, Mr. Walker grabbed his gun and shot a warning shot, allegedly striking Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh, although later evidence indicated that the shot that hit Mattingly may have been fired by other police officers. The police responded by shooting 32 rounds of shots into the apartment; six shots hit Ms. Taylor.
Ms. Taylor coughed and struggled to breathe for five minutes after she was shot. The officers called an ambulance to give medical attention to their colleague, but not Ms. Taylor. Mr. Walker called 911 and Ms. Taylor did not receive medical attention until 20 minutes after being shot. Ms. Taylor was pronounced dead on the scene.
After the shooting, the officers filed an incident report claiming Ms. Taylor had not been injured and there was no forced entry. The three officers involved were all put on administrative leave. Only one officer, Brett Hankinson, was indicted. However, Hankinson was indicted for wanton endangerment for the bullets that went into the neighboring apartment, not for Ms. Taylor’s death. Mr. Walker was arrested for attempted murder of a police officer, but those charges were dropped. In September 2020, Mr. Walker filed suit against the Louisville Metro Police Department for misconduct.
In May 2020, the FBI announced it would conduct its own independent investigation into the killing. Ms. Taylor’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on her behalf against the officers and the City of Louisville. The suit was settled and the Taylors were paid $12 million, but the officers and the city admitted no liability or wrongdoing.
It took weeks for Breonna Taylor’s murder to spark outrage and contribute to the widespread protests all over the country following George Floyd’s death. As a result, Louisville voted to ban all no-knock warrants and members of Congress have introduced policing reform bills in response. Louisville Police Department also announced they would offer housing credits to officers so more would actually live in the Louisville Metro area.
Killed July 13, 2020
Vincent Truitt was killed by a Cobb County police officer in Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations has refused to name the officer who fired the deadly shot. The 17-year-old was a passenger in an “alleged” stolen vehicle. The driver led the officers on a brief pursuit. The vehicle came to an abrupt stop when the police performed a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver. The driver exited the vehicle and immediately fled on foot. As Mr. Truitt attempted to run away, he was shot twice in the back. Not only was the victim handcuffed, but the officers also undressed Mr. Truitt while the minor laid lifelessly on the ground. The last words of Mr. Truitt to the officer were, “Why did you shoot me? I am dying.” Although a gun was found at the scene, the evidence does not indicate that Mr. Truitt presented the gun in an offensive manner, brandished it, or pointed it at the police. Flynn Broady, the District Attorney, has refused to release police body camera footage or any surveillance videos of the shooting to the public. The officer in question is still working with the Cobb County.
Police Department while under investigation for this killing. As the Commissioners stated, justice for victims of police violence in the U.S. must address systemic oppression, which dehumanizes Black people and is a root cause of police brutality. Police violence is not the result of the misconduct of “a few bad apples” within police institutions across the U.S. Legislation addressing police reforms must go hand in hand with policies that acknowledge the existence of racial profiling and the deadly, disproportionate use of force on innocent Black men, women, and children. Venethia Cook, Mr. Truitt’s mother, stated that justice for her son requires full transparency and accountability that treats police officers as perpetrators of criminal offenses rather than victims. Moreover, the close-knit relationship between police officers, police unions, and prosecutors should be addressed as it threatens the way in which people of African descent interact with the law. Although the prosecutor watched the police body camera footage that incriminates the officer, he has yet to demand an arrest warrant or file charges in the case.
Killed July 11, 2009
Brooklyn, New York
Shem Walker, an Army veteran and father of two, was killed in front of his mother’s home. Mr. Walker routinely checked on his 75-year-old mother, who lived in a neighborhood often riddled with drug trade. Residents had complained about drug dealing and a recent shooting had occurred nearby.
An undercover officer in plainclothes working an anti-drug operation was sitting on the stoop in front of Mr. Walker’s mother’s home. Another undercover officer was working nearby as backup for a buy-and-bust operation. They were called “ghosts.” A third officer was in front of a bodega two doors away.
The police had made three arrests before the events leading to Mr. Walker’s death. The undercover officer never revealed himself as a police officer to Mr. Walker before drawing his gun and firing three shots, killing Mr. Walker While he was on the sidewalk in front of his mother’s home
The prosecutor conducted an investigation but did not convene a grand jury. The officer who killed Mr. Walker was never charged with a crime. Mr. Walker’s family filed a civil suit and reached a $2.25 million settlement. The suit alleged improper and careless initiation of a confrontation with Mr. Walker without probable cause, improper use and discharge of a firearm, firing numerous shots that struck Mr. Walker several times, and carelessly and recklessly using physical force in the unwarranted confrontation with Mr. Walker.
A community activist testified that local activist groups organized a march over the Brooklyn Bridge to protest Walker’s death and that a street had been named for Shem Walker.
Killed January 10, 2021
Patrick Warren, Sr. was shot to death by Officer Reynaldo Contreras, a five-year veteran of the Killeen police department, following a request for mental health services. Mr. Lee Merritt, attorney for the Warren family, explained that the reason the family called the sheriff’s office was that the day before Mr. Warren was killed by police, his family reached out to a Mental Health Resource Officer provided by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
Mental Health Resource Officers are specially trained officers who receive 40 additional hours of training beyond the required 40 hours of training on how to address individuals suffering from mental health distress. The officer who responded to Mr. Warren’s home the day before his death initially had a similar approach to that of Contreras. But he was in plainclothes, and although he had a weapon, it was not on display. He also brought a backup officer with him.
After the officer was invited into the home, he sat down on the couch and he spoke with Mr. Warren. He utilized best practices and was able to successfully convince Mr. Warren to go to a treatment facility. Mr. Warren went to that facility and returned home that night. When Mr. Warren was experiencing a crisis with some “manic” aspects the following day, the family called the same number. The sheriff’s department sent Contreras instead of health workers or a trained Mental Health Resource Officer.
Contreras did not have the additional, critical training of the previous Mental Health Resource Officer who seemed to understand that the people they are encountering are considered patients, not criminal suspects, or offenders.
When Contreras arrived at the door, he had his weapon on display. The family had specifically requested that the responding officer not display his weapon. Contreras stated that the threat that caused him to leave the home and take a tactical position outside was that he got “a bad feeling” when he stepped into the house. Contreras said he was suspicious. He said Mr. Warren seemed “creepy” even though he was visible, standing in the light with his hands showing that he held no weapon. This “creepy” feeling was enough for him to escalate to a tactical position outside and to draw a stun gun.
When Mr. Warren exited the house, Contreras told him to get on the ground, which Mr. Warren did not do. Contreras then discharged a stun gun of 50,000 volts of electricity. This caused Mr. Warren to fall to the ground in great pain but it only exacerbated his condition. Contreras escalated the encounter by brandishing his firearm and shooting Mr. Warren more than three times in rapid succession until he collapsed to the ground a second time.
Contreras’s actions were later ratified by the Chief of Police of Killeen, Texas, Charles F. Kimble. Kimble has asserted that Contreras received more than adequate training on dealing with citizens in mental health crises and that his actions reflected the training that he had received.
In addition to the Warren case, attorney Lee Merritt provided examples of approximately 10 other cases of escalating and killing Black persons in mental health crises, including Everett Palmer, who died in police custody and whose body was returned to his family with key organs missing.
Killed June 18, 2013
Tyrone West was giving one of his neighbors a ride to work using his sister’s 1999 Mercedes. Mr. West and his neighbor were followed by two officers in an unmarked police vehicle. The officers then initiated a traffic stop, citing “suspicious” behavior and backing into an intersection. The officers asked Mr. West and his neighbor if either of them was carrying drugs and asked them to step out onto the curb. There are conflicting reports about what happened next. Some eyewitnesses say that Mr. West and the neighbor just came out of the car, and others say that the police were abusive, pulling Mr. West out of the car by his dreadlocks. The officers then shouted expletives at Mr. West and told him to get on the ground. The officers tasered Mr. West on his neck at least four times. They then searched his car and found no drugs. Later, the officers claimed they saw something bulging out of Mr. West’s sock. When an officer reached for Mr. West’s foot, Mr. West brushed his hand away.
The officers then grabbed and arrested Mr. West. During the arrest, the officers rolled him over on his backside and one officer put his knee on Mr. West’s back. The officers also pepper sprayed Mr. West several times. In reaction to the pepper spray, Mr. West screamed and tried to get up and the officers started beating him with fists and batons in response. Mr. West was able to get up briefly and ran off, but when the officers caught up to him, he laid face down with his arms spread out. The officers then continued their beating. More officers then entered the scene, and at least seven joined in the beating of Mr. West.
The officers claimed that one officer noticed that Mr. West had stopped breathing and the officers made efforts to resuscitate him. However, eyewitnesses said that an officer stood on Mr. West’s back and neck for five minutes. The paramedics reported that they were not called to help Mr. West, but to help the officers who got pepper spray in their eyes from their use of it. It took 30 to 45 minutes for the paramedics to take Mr. West to the hospital. He died of cardiac arrhythmia.
Mr. West’s family filed a Section 1983 action against the City of Baltimore and settled with the city for $1 million. The Baltimore Police department conducted an internal investigation. Eight officers were put in administrative positions, but city prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence to charge any of them. In 2014, Mayor Rawlings-Blake commissioned another investigation, which found that the officers did not use excessive force nor did officers’ force contribute to Mr. West’s death, but the officers did not completely follow protocol. The independent review board instead blamed his death on the extreme heat that day, dehydration, and a medical issue aggravated by the encounter with the police.
Mr. West’s murder led to many protests against police brutality in Baltimore. His family became involved in activism against police brutality in Baltimore and Maryland at large. The family campaigned for Marilyn Mosby to replace Gregg Bernstein as state attorney and Mosby won the race. Once she entered office, Mosby reneged on her campaign promises and informed Mr. West’s family that she would not reopen the investigation into his murder.
Killed January 4, 2008
Tarika Wilson, the mother of six children ages one through 8, was holding her 14-month-old baby when she was shot dead. Ms. Wilson lived with her boyfriend, Anthony Terry, in a two-story home. Police, who suspected Mr. Terry of drug dealing and argued that he posed a danger to others, applied for and received a no-knock warrant for his arrest.
The officers waited for Mr. Terry to go inside the home before executing the warrant in the evening, knowing that Ms. Wilson and her children would be there as well, and despite the fact that they had the opportunity to arrest him outside. Armed with automatic rifles and machine guns and wearing vests and helmets, the officers burst through the door. Mr. Terry was downstairs with his dogs. When police set off stun grenades that made a loud noise and emitted a bright light, Ms. Wilson took her children upstairs and told them to get down on the floor to protect them. She was standing up holding her baby named Sincere.
One officer with the team went upstairs, holding a semi-automatic rifle that would emit three bullets automatically when the trigger was pulled, despite knowing that the person they were seeking was located on the ground floor. Ms. Wilson posed no resistance to the officer. The 60-year-old officer squeezed the trigger and three bullets were ejected. One bullet ripped through Sincere’s index finger and severed it. The bullet then entered Ms. Wilson’s chest, killing her.
The officer who killed Ms. Wilson was charged only with misdemeanor reckless assault. The all-white jury acquitted him. Ms. Wilson’s family filed a civil suit against the police department and received a $2.5 million settlement.
Killed May 22, 2003
New York, New York
Ousmane Zongo, a wood instruments maker from Burkina Faso, West Africa, was working in a storage unit in a warehouse repairing African artifacts when he heard the commotion of a police raid on an alleged counterfeit CD ring operating out of a different storage locker. Mr. Zongo had no involvement in the counterfeit ring.
Mr. Zongo, who was unarmed, entered the hall to see what was happening and saw Brian Conroy, a plainclothes officer with a gun in his hand. Apparently thinking he was about to be robbed, Mr. Zongo ran through a maze of corridors of lockers until he reached a dead end.
Conroy chased Mr. Zongo and fired his semi-automatic pistol five times. Four bullets hit Mr. Zongo, who was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He died on the operating table several hours later.
A grand jury indicted Conroy for second degree manslaughter. The trial ended in a hung jury–10 to two for conviction. Conroy waived jury for the retrial and tried his case to a judge. The judge acquitted him of secondary degree manslaughter and convicted him of negligent homicide but imposed no jail time. The officer retired with his pension. The family’s civil suit resulted in a monetary award of $3 million for Mr. Zongo’s wife and two small children in Burkina Faso.
 See Estate of Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst et al., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 380 (4th Cir. 2016).
 See Harrison v. The City of Dallas, Texas, Civil Action No. 3:14-cv-3585-N.
 The Monell doctrine bars lawsuits against municipalities for acts of police officers unless the bad acts were done pursuant to a government custom or policy under Monell v. Dep’t of Social Servs. of New York.
 Apparently, Mr. Soulemane suffered from schizophrenia.
 Persons in mental health crises are people who simply need help, and should be treated accordingly. There is a conflict between training officers receive with respect to escalation of the use of force to demand compliance and when compliance is not immediately attained, and escalation of force against individuals in mental health crisis because the use of force spectrum is ineffective for those in mental health crisis.