Following on from my previous post about 2015 police killings of unarmed black people, here's a breakdown of the reasons behind cases 27-52 listed by mappingpoliceviolence.org (MPV).
I've not detailed Samuel Dubose, since there was prosecution of the police officer who killed him (although they gave up after 2 mistrials)
Police did something significantly wrong
- Kris Jackson (Lake Tahoe, CA): Apprehended by a police officer climbing out of a motel the officer claimed he recognised Jackson as a gang member and thought he might have a gun. Jackson was trying to avoid arrest as he was on probation for selling drugs, but it's not at all clear to me that the officer had any real grounds for opening fire.
Victim shooting seemed justified
- James Carney III (Cincinnati, OH): Carney was assaulting a woman in a car at an ATM, beating her with apparent intention of robbing her. Police had to Taser him twice - with him still leaning into the car - first time had no effect: he became unconscious and died. One assumes he had some underlying health issue, but police reaction seems very proportionate and justified.
- Asshams Manley (Spaulding, MD): crashed a car while apparently under the influence of narcotics, ran from the scene. Fought with an officer when caught, apparently went for the officer's gun, was shot once, continued to fight, was tasered, and expired shortly afterwards.
- Brian Day (Las Vegas, NV): I couldn't find any links for this one (I wonder if the name is correct), but the description from the MPV page indicates the shooting was reasonable: "After speaking to police who were investigating a beating of one of his neighbors, police claim Day went into his apartment and returned with a toy gun. Two officers shot and fatally wounded him after he attempted to 'shoot' them with the toy gun."
- Salvado Ellswood (Plantation, FL): Homeless man with a history of violence who refused to move when a police officer found him trespassing, became aggressive and struck the office, shrugged off a Taser and then was fatally shot.
- George Mann (Stonewall, GA): Mann became aggressive and locked himself in a home's garage. Police tried to negotiate with him and used a Taser. Mann became unresponsive and died. Tasering seemed like a reasonable response to this, but presumably Mann had an underlying condition that Tasering made fatal.
- Freddie Blue (Covington, GA): Blue was one of four men stopped in a car by police. One of the men pointed a handgun at the police, who returned fire. Blue was killed, and one other man injured.
- Victo Larosa (Jacksonville, FL): Caught dealing in an undercover drug sting, Larosa fled in his car pursued by officers. After hitting 5 vehicles his stolen car was trapped so he ran, pursued by officers. He fell, twisted towards officers and put his hand in his waistband. Reasonably fearing Larosa had a weapon there, the officer shot him.
- Spencer McCain (Ownings Mills, MD): After a long history of domestic violence calls, police were called again to McCain's house where he had (again) repeatedly beaten his partner. Police heard screaming, forced their way in, and found McCain "making body movements and arm movements that placed the officers in fear of serious injury or death from a weapon that they feared he possessed and would engage them with". This is a bit weak, but McCain did have a previous handgun conviction so it wasn't off the wall to assume he was armed. He was shot to death by all three officers.
- Kevin Bajoie (Baton Rouge, LA): Police responded to reports of a fight, found Bajoie lying on his back when he suddenly jumped up and attacked one officer. Police had to Taser him repeatedly to stop. He collapsed and later died, probably due in part to the methamphetamine, amphetamine and synthetic marijuana in his system.
Clearly an accident
- Felix Kumi (New York, NY): hit by a stray bullet in an otherwise justified self defence shooting by an undercover cop. The city rightly paid $1.1M in compensation, which seemed a bit low to me but in the ruthless calculus of compensation Felix was 61 years old so had limited future earnings.
- Billy Ray Davis (Houston, TX): Arrested after behaving erratically and clearly being in severe mental distress, Davis repeatedly fought with officers even when handcuffed. He suddenly collapsed and was taken to hospital but died. Death probably related to hypertension. No suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the officers.
- Jonathan Sanders (Stonewall, MS): Stopped while exercising his horses, there was an argument between Sanders and the police officer which escalated to a fight. The officer applied a in-policy choke hold, but this combined with Sanders' situation of acute cocaine toxicity to cause fatal asphyxia.
- Zamiel Crawford (McAllah, AL): Led police on a high speed chase after suspicion of robbery. His SUV eventually spun out and slammed into a wall. Police took him to the hospital but he later died.
- Jermaine Benjamin (Vero Beach, FL): Arrested after being high on something called "Flakka", causing him to be disoriented, aggressive and combative. Police arrested and handcuffed him, but he quickly collapsed and died despite being given CPR. He had known heart problems, which couldn't have helped matters.
- Kevin Higgenbotham (Trenton, NY): Arrested after he called police who arrived to find him fighting with a neighbour. They had to pepper-spray him before arresting him, but he went into cardiac arrest after transportation to a hospital, and died after being in a coma. There was also concern that he was improperly restrained in hospital though strictly speaking that's not a police issue.
- Ross Anthony (Dallas, TX): Tased by police after acting erratically by running into traffic and banging the windows of nearby businesses, Anthony was cuffed and arrested, but showed signs of medical distress and was taken to hospital where he died.
- Richard Gregory Davis (Rochester, NY): After driving erratically and crashing his pickup - twice, Davis got out of his vehicle at police urging but then charged the police and was tased. He received medical attention at scene but was pronounced dead at hospital. There were a large number of contributing factors to the death according to the autopsy report.
- Curtin Jordan (Huntsville, AL): Police arrested Jordan at his house after being called out by his wife as he was acting irrationally and threatening people. He threw coals in an arresting officer's face. They handcuffed him, but he had a medical issue and was transported to hospital where he died a few days later.
- Darrius Stewart (Memphis, TN): After being detained but not arrested for a broken headlight, Stewart's name came up as having outstanding warrants. When the officer went to arrest him there was a struggle, video evidence showing Stewart as getting the upper hand with the officer, and the officer shot Stewart twice. A federal review found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, though Stewart's family have filed a couple of lawsuits, one of which is still open.
- Albert Davis (Orlando, FL): After a fight at a pool party, police were called to the apartment complex. An officer tried to talk to Davis and a fight broke out; the officer used Taser and then shot Davis. I can't find any information on any subsequent investigation.
Something needs to be done
- Christian Taylor (Arlington, TX): Loaded with marijuana and LSD, Taylor was apprehended by a sole rookie police officer in a car dealership where he was wrecking the cars. Other police officers were waiting outside but the rookie went in, there was a confrontation, and he shot Taylor as Taylor approached him. The shooting itself is somewhat understandable, but the officer should not have gone in alone, and was later fired; the family was paid $850,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Troy Robinson (Decatur, GA): Robinson was a passenger in a car that police tried to stop for a license tag violation. After a chase, the car stopped and the occupants ran. Robinson was tasered while climbing an 8 foot wall, fell and broke his neck. You can argue that he shouldn't have run, all else being equal, but tasering someone climbing a wall (and running away) was rather reckless and against police department guidelines.
- Michael Sabbie (Texarkana, TX): Died in jail after being restrained by officers. Had a number of health conditions known by the jail when he was admitted. The restraint situation may have been reasonable, the lack of health monitoring and follow-up checking was clearly not. A federal lawsuit was settled in favour of Sabbie's family, correctly.
- Sandra Bland (Waller, TX): Committed suicide in jail after being arrested for a very minor driving offence that apparently escalated way past what it should have due to the police officer's aggression. While Bland chose to take her own life, it can't be ignored that she wouldn't have been put in that situation if the police officer had been more reasonable.
Of these 26 cases we have:
- 9 where the shooting was justified,
- 9 accidents,
- 4 where there seems to be a need for improvements even if the police officers weren't strictly at fault,
- 1 where police were at fault and charged, and 1 more where they seem clearly at fault,
- 2 where I have no idea due to lack of information.
Taser does seem to be a recurring theme in the accidents - it's a lot safer for everyone than gunplay, but it's certainly not perfectly safe. For the cases needing improvement, again we have a clear need for police officer training in de-escalation - and monitoring of prisoners' health in jail post-arrest.