Saturday, November 29, 2014

List of recent police killings – caught on tape – that warrant more outrage than the killing of Michael Brown

(Bear in mind that this list is woefully incomplete, as it includes only those questionable shooting videos I happen to have stumbled upon during my online browsing, and is by no means a comprehensive database of such incidents).
  • January 1st, 2009 – Police officer shoots an apprehended black man lying on his stomach in the back from point blank range at a bus station. The officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted of second degree murder. Full video, with audio, can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0P8TSP2YJU.
  • May 16th, 2010 – Police shoot a 7 year old black girl in the head, killing her instantly, within the first 6 seconds of a no-knock raid on the wrong house, without a warrant. They then tie up her father and make him lie in his daughter’s blood until they finish the raid. Two mistrials later, nobody has been convicted of any wrongdoing. The timing and audio of the shot was caught on video for the reality TV show “The First 48,” (there’s suspicion the raid only took place so that they could have some cool action footage for the show), so you can watch it here: http://www.policestateusa.com/2014/aiyana-stanley-jones-raid/
  • September 16th, 2010 – Police shoot and kill a drug addict armed with a golf club in the early seconds of a nighttime no-knock raid. The Weber County Attorney’s Office found no wrongdoing. You can decide for yourself here: http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy/2011/jan/18/brutal_drug_raid_killing_caught
  • July 5th, 2011 – Policemen beat, taser and strangle a homeless man to death after a brief physical altercation, while he lies helpless on the ground screaming “I’m sorry,” “I can’t breathe,” “Help me!” and finally “Dad!”. Moments before the altercation began, a policeman is caught on tape saying “you see my fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up,” before which time the homeless man had given the cop some attitude but showed no signs of aggression. The policemen then began beating the man with batons, causing a struggle that lasts about 25 seconds until the subdued man can be heard yelling “okay, I’m sorry!” and stops struggling. Over the next four minutes, the policemen taser him 4 times, beat his face with the front of the taser, strike him with their fists, and perform a variety of body-weight choke holds, eventually inducing a fatal coma due to “mechanical suppression of the thorax.” The video defies description, and you can watch it in its entirety here (physical altercation begins at about 15 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU0Imk2Bstg. A picture of his face in the hospital, days before his parents decided to pull the plug on his life support, can be seen here (though it’s not for the faint of heart). The officers were found not guilty on all charges this January.
  • July 1st, 2012 – 8 policemen standing in a ring shoot 45 bullets into a mentally handicapped black man armed with only a pen knife. The shooting is caught on dash-cam video, which shows that the officers had time to deescalate the situation, and that the man never comes within 3 meters of an officer. No charges are filed against any of the officers. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Iigvm5iPkU#t=201
  • September 14th, 2013 – Police shoot into a crowd, trying to hit an unarmed and mentally disturbed man who was throwing himself in front of traffic in Times Square. They hit two bystanders. Assault charges are filed…against the unarmed man, for supposedly causing the situation in the first place. The policemen face civil lawsuits but no criminal charges. http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/05/how-do-you-charge-an-unarmed-man-with-sh
  • April, 2014 – Police break up a house party, and when a 19 year old girl tries to drive away with three other people in the car, an officer jumps on the hood of the car and shoots her 4 times. He claims it was self-defense because she was going to run him over, but multiple witnesses say he jumped on the car trying to get it to stop. The seconds immediately preceding the shooting are caught on dash-cam, in such a way that it’s pretty easy to see what must have happened. The Grand Jury decided not to indict just a few weeks ago. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/30/dash-cam-deputy-kills-girl_n_5240353.html
  • July 17th, 2014 – Police put an asthmatic, obese black man, whose only crime was being peacefully uncooperative, in a chokehold until he yells “I can’t breathe!,” goes into cardiac arrest, and dies. The entire incident is caught on video. The grand jury will release its decision of whether to indict in a few days. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/staten-island-man-dies-puts-choke-hold-article-1.1871486
  • August 5th, 2014 – Police shoot and kill an unarmed black man in a Walmart when they, following a tip from a concerned bystander, mistake the BB gun he was attempting to purchase as a gift for his son for an actual rifle. The man committed no crime. Surveillance video catches the entire incident on tape, and appears to refute the officer’s claims that the man – who was talking on the phone at the time he was shot – knowingly defied Officer’s orders to drop the weapon. Nevertheless, a grand jury declined to indict the officers after a month-long investigation. You can watch the whole incident here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9FtNOV6Qhk
  • November 22nd, 2014 – Police shoot black 12 year old Tamir Rice while he was holding a toy gun they mistook for a real gun. Surveillance video shows they shot him immediately after leaving their patrol car, and shows no indication Rice directed the toy towards them. You can watch that video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z8qNUWekWE
Each of these incidents were met with local outrage, and some received brief national publicity, but nothing like the sort of extended media drama unfolding in Ferguson. Further examples of unjust police shootings in recent years that lack video proof can be found here, here, here, herehere and here. The last one happened 2 days ago on Thanksgiving, when an innocent, unarmed black man was shot in a stairwell for no apparent reason. Overall, policemen kill 10 times as many American residents as vice-versa.
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I have only two pieces of commentary to add to this list. The first is a question for those protesting the recent developments in Ferguson, Missouri: don’t each of these videotaped incidents offer a much clearer example of unjustified and unnecessary police killing – often with racial overtones – than the murky circumstances surrounding the death of Michael Brown? And as such, might it have been a more productive expenditure of our awareness-raising efforts to focus on one of these injustices instead? If we're going to go "all-in" on just one of many examples, shouldn't we choose that anecdote pretty carefully to ensure it's actually an instance of the injustice we seek to highlight?


The second is a question for those lamenting the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and getting defensive about accusations of broad, systemic bias in the criminal justice system, on the basis that it's plausible Michael Brown had it coming: might you be missing the point? Does the possible or even probable innocence of Officer Darren Wilson really permit our society to sidestep the uncomfortable but necessary discussions about racial bias in the criminal justice system? And even apart from race, don't incidents like the ones above occur entirely too often, with the culprits far too rarely being held accountable?

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