And how to reform our bigoted brains.--
By Chris Mooney --- Mother Jones
"YOU'RE NOT, LIKE, a total racist bastard," David Amodio tells me. He pauses. "Today."
I'm sitting in the soft-spoken cognitive neuroscientist's spotless office nestled within New York University's psychology department, but it feels like I'm at the doctor's, getting a dreaded diagnosis. On his giant monitor, Amodio shows me a big blob of data, a cluster of points depicting where people score on the Implicit Association Test. The test measures racial prejudices that we cannot consciously control. I've taken it three times now. This time around my uncontrolled prejudice, while clearly present, has come in significantly below the average for white people like me.
You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can't control these split-second reactions.
That certainly beats the first time I took the IAT online, on the website UnderstandingPrejudice.org. That time, my results showed a "strong automatic preference" for European Americans over African Americans. That was not a good thing to hear, but it's extremely common—51 percent of online test takers show moderate to strong bias.
Taking the IAT, one of the most popular tools among researchers trying to understand racism and prejudice, is both extremely simple and pretty traumatic. The test asks you to rapidly categorize images of faces as either "African American" or "European American" while you also categorize words (like "evil," "happy," "awful," and "peace") as either "good" or "bad." Faces and words flash on the screen, and you tap a key, as fast as you can, to indicate which category is appropriate.
Sometimes you're asked to sort African American faces and "good" words to one side of the screen. Other times, black faces are to be sorted with "bad" words. As words and faces keep flashing by, you struggle not to make too many sorting mistakes.
And then suddenly, you have a horrible realization. When black faces and "bad" words are paired together, you feel yourself becoming faster in your categorizing—an indication that the two are more easily linked in your mind. "It's like you're on a bike going downhill," Amodio says, "and you feel yourself going faster. So you can say, 'I know this is not how I want to come off,' but there's no other response option."
You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can't control these split-second reactions. As the milliseconds are being tallied up, you know the tale they'll tell: When negative words and black faces are paired together, you're a better, faster categorizer. Which suggests that racially biased messages from the culture around you have shaped the very wiring of your brain.
I WENT TO NYU to learn what psychologists could tell me about racial prejudice in the wake of the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. We may never really know the exact sequence of events and assumptions that led to the moment when Brown, unarmed and, according to witnesses, with his hands in the air, was shot multiple times. But the incident is the latest embodiment of America's racial paradox: On the one hand, overt expressions of prejudice have grown markedly less common than they were in the Archie Bunker era. We elected, and reelected, a black president. In many parts of the country, hardly anyone bats an eye at interracial relationships. Most people do not consider racial hostility acceptable. That's why it was so shocking when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games—and why those comments led the NBA to ban Sterling for life. And yet, the killings of Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and so many others remind us that we are far from a prejudice-free society.
An impressive body of psychological research suggests that the men who killed Brown and Martin need not have been conscious, overt racists to do what they did.
Science offers an explanation for this paradox—albeit a very uncomfortable one. An impressive body of psychological research suggests that the men who killed Brown and Martin need not have been conscious, overt racists to do what they did (though they may have been). The same goes for the crowds that flock to support the shooter each time these tragedies become public, or the birthers whose racially tinged conspiracy theories paint President Obama as a usurper. These people who voice mind-boggling opinions while swearing they're not racist at all—they make sense to science, because the paradigm for understanding prejudice has evolved. There "doesn't need to be intent, doesn't need to be desire; there could even be desire in the opposite direction," explains University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek, a prominent IAT researcher. "But biased results can still occur."
The IAT is the most famous demonstration of this reality, but it's just one of many similar tools. Through them, psychologists have chased prejudice back to its lair—the human brain.
We're not born with racial prejudices. We may never even have been "taught" them. Rather, explains Nosek, prejudice draws on "many of the same tools that help our minds figure out what's good and what's bad." In evolutionary terms, it's efficient to quickly classify a grizzly bear as "dangerous." The trouble comes when the brain uses similar processes to form negative views about groups of people.
But here's the good news: Research suggests that once we understand the psychological pathways that lead to prejudice, we just might be able to train our brains to go in the opposite direction.
DOG, CAT. HOT, COLD. Black, white. Male, female. We constantly categorize. We have to. Sorting anything from furniture to animals to concepts into different filing folders inside our brains is something that happens automatically, and it helps us function. In fact, categorization has an evolutionary purpose: Assuming that all mushrooms are poisonous, that all lions want to eat you, is a very effective way of coping with your surroundings. Forget being nuanced about nonpoisonous mushrooms and occasionally nonhungry lions—certitude keeps you safe.
Sheldon J. Korchin/Journal of Personality
But a particular way of categorizing can be inaccurate, and those false categories can lead to prejudice and stereotyping. Much psychological research into bias has focused on how people "essentialize" certain categories, which boils down to assuming that these categories have an underlying nature that is tied to inherent and immutable qualities. Like the broader sorting mechanism of categorization, an essentialist cognitive "style" emerges very early in our development and may to some extent be hardwired. Psychologist Susan Gelman of the University of Michigan explains it this way: The category of "things that are white" is not essentialized. It simply contains anything that happens to share the attribute of "white": cars, paint, paper, and so on. There's nothing deep that unites the members of this category.
But now consider white and black people. Like other human attributes (gender, age, and sexual orientation, for example), race tends to be strongly—and inaccurately—essentialized. This means that when you think of people in that category, you rapidly or even automatically come up with assumptions about their characteristics—characteristics that your brain perceives as unchanging and often rooted in biology. Common stereotypes with the category "African Americans," for example, include "loud," "good dancers," and "good at sports." (One recent study found that white people also tend to essentialize African Americans as magical—test subjects associated black faces with words like "paranormal" and "spirit.") Of course, these assumptions are false. Indeed, essentialism about any group of people is dubious—women are not innately gentle, old people are not inherently feebleminded—and when it comes to race, the idea of deep and fundamental differences has been roundly debunked by scientists.
Even people who know that essentializing race is wrong can't help absorbing the stereotypes that are pervasive in our culture. But essentialist thinking varies greatly between individuals. It's kind of like neurosis: We all have a little bit, but in some people, it's much more pronounced. In national polls, for example, fewer and fewer Americans admit openly to holding racist views. But when told to rate various groups with questions like, "Do people in these groups tend to be unintelligent or tend to be intelligent?" more than half of those asked exhibited strong bias against African Americans. Even the labels we use seem to affect our level of prejudice: Another study found that test subjects associated the term "black" with more negative attributes—such as low socioeconomic status—than "African American."
One of the earliest and most insightful researchers on these varying rates of bias was Else Frenkel-Brunswik, part of a pioneering generation of post-World War II psychologists who sought to understand why some people seem to find prejudiced and fascist ideas so appealing. Born in 1908 to a Jewish family in what is now Ukraine, Frenkel-Brunswik might never have managed to do her research at all had she not twice escaped the forces of prejudice herself. When she was young, a 1914 pogrom forced her family to flee to Vienna. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, she sought refuge in the United States.
Frenkel-Brunswik's work came long before the days of high-tech tools like eye trackers and computer games that measure bias based on millisecond differences between reactions. Instead she used something far simpler: cards.
She studied young children, some of whom she had previously documented to be highly prejudiced and ethnocentric. In one of many experiments, Frenkel-Brunswik showed the children a sequence of cards similar to the ones on this page. On the first card, the animal is clearly and distinctly a cat. On the last card, it is just as clearly and distinctly a dog. But in between, the cat slowly transforms into the dog.
At each of the stages, the children were asked to identify the animal on the card. Among the more prejudiced children, Frenkel-Brunswik noted something striking: As the image became increasingly ambiguous, "there was a greater reluctance to give up the original object about which one had felt relatively certain…a tendency not to see what did not harmonize with the first set as well as a shying away from transitional solutions." In other words, for these children, it was much harder to let go of the idea that a cat was a cat.
What Frenkel-Brunswik realized back in 1949, modern research reaffirms. The Implicit Association Test, after all, boils down to how your mind automatically links certain categories. "It's really how strongly you associate your category of 'black people' with the general category of 'good things' or 'bad things,'" David Amodio told me. "The capacity to discern 'us' from 'them' is fundamental in the human brain," he wrote in a 2014 paper. "Although this computation takes just a fraction of a second, it sets the stage for social categorization, stereotypes, prejudices, intergroup conflict and inequality, and, at the extremes, war and genocide." Call it the banality of prejudice.
THE PROCESS OF categorizing the world obviously includes identifying the group or groups to which you belong. And that's where the next psychological factor underpinning prejudice emerges. Much research has found that humans are tribal creatures, showing strong bias against those we perceive as different from us and favoritism toward those we perceive as similar.
In fact, we humans will divide ourselves into in-groups and out-groups even when the perceived differences between the specific groups are completely arbitrary. In one classic study, subjects are asked to rate how much they like a large series of paintings, some of which are described as belonging to the "Red" artistic school and others to the "Green" school. Then participants are sorted into two groups, red or green—not based on their favoring one school of painting, as they are made to think, but actually at random. In subsequent tasks, people consistently show favoritism toward the arbitrary color group to which they are assigned. When asked to allocate money to other participants, the majority of "reds" more generously fund other reds—despite the fact that they have never actually met them. The same goes for "greens."
The upshot of such "minimal group" experiments is that if you give people the slightest push toward behaving tribally, they happily comply. So if race is the basis on which tribes are identified, expect serious problems.
As these experiments suggest, it is not that we are either prejudiced or unprejudiced, period. Rather, we are more and less prejudiced, based on our upbringings and experiences but also on a variety of temporary or situational prompts (like being told we're on the green team).
One simple, evolutionary explanation for our innate tendency toward tribalism is safety in numbers. You're more likely to survive an attack from a marauding tribe if you join forces with your buddies. And primal fear of those not in the in-group also seems closely tied to racial bias. Amodio's research suggests that one key area associated with prejudice is the amygdala, a small and evolutionarily ancient region in the middle of the brain that is responsible for triggering the notorious "fight or flight" response. In interracial situations, Amodio explains, amygdala firing can translate into anything from "less direct eye gaze and more social distance" to literal fear and vigilance toward those of other races.
WE'VE SEEN HOW a variety of cognitive behaviors feed into prejudice. But you know what will really blow your mind? The way that prejudice (or rather, the cognitive styles that underlie it) can interfere with how our brains function—often for the worse.
Racism has another, lesser-known effect: It can make us less innovative.
Consider, for instance, research by Carmit Tadmor, a psychologist at the Recanati School of Business at Tel Aviv University. In one 2013 paper, Tadmor and her colleagues showed that racial prejudice can play a direct and causal role in making people less creative. We're not talking about artistic creativity here, but more like seeing beyond the constraints of traditional categories—"thinking outside the box."
Tadmor's team first uncovered a simple positive correlation between one's inclination to endorse an essentialist view of race (like associating racial differences with abilities and personality traits) and one's creativity. To measure the latter, the researchers used a simple open-ended test in which individuals are asked to list as many possible uses of a brick as they can think of. People who can think outside of traditional categories—realizing that a brick can be used for many things other than buildings (it can make a good paperweight, for starters)—score better. This study showed that people who essentialized racial categories tended to have fewer innovative ideas about a brick.
But that was just the beginning. Next, a new set of research subjects read essays that described race either as a fundamental difference between people (an essentialist position) or as a construct, not reflecting anything more than skin-deep differences (a nonessentialist position). After reading the essays, the subjects moved on to a difficult creativity test that requires you to identify the one key word that unites three seemingly unassociated words. Thus, for instance, if you are given the words "call," "pay," and "line," the correct answer is "phone."
Remarkably, subjects who'd read the nonessentialist essay about race fared considerably better on the creativity test. Their mean score was a full point—or 32 percent—higher than it was for those who read the essentialist essay.
It's not like the people in this study were selected because of their preexisting racial prejudices. They weren't. Instead, merely a temporary exposure to essentialist thinking seemed to hamper their cognitive flexibility. "Essentialism appears to exert its negative effects on creativity not through what people think but how they think," conclude Tadmor and her colleagues. That's because, they add, "stereotyping and creative stagnation are rooted in a similar tendency to overrely on existing category attributes." Those quick-judgment skills that allowed us to survive on the savanna? Not always helpful in modern life.
So, yes: Prejudice and essentialism are bad for your brain—if you value creative thinking, anyway. But they can also be downright dangerous.
At NYU, David Amodio sat me down to take another test called the Weapons Identification Task. I had no idea what I was in for.
In this test, like on the IAT, you have two buttons that you can push. Images flash rapidly on the screen, and your task is to push the left shift key if you see a tool (a wrench, or a power drill, say) and the right shift key if you see a gun. You have to go super fast—if you don't respond within half a second, the screen blares at you, in giant red letters, "TOO SLOW."
"It does that to keep you from thinking too much," Amodio would later explain.
But it's not just guns and tools flashing on the screen: Before each object you see a face, either white or black. The faces appear for a split second, the objects for a split second, and then you have to press a key. If you are faster and more accurate at identifying guns after you see a black face than after you see a white face, that would suggest your brain associates guns (and threat) more with the former. You might also be more inclined to wrongly think you see a gun, when it's actually just a tool, right after seeing a black face. (The weapons task was created by psychologist Keith Payne of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in response to the tragic 1999 death of Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant shot by New York City police after the officers mistook the wallet in his hand for a weapon.)
I'm sorry to ruin the suspense: I don't know what my score was on the Weapons Identification Task. The test ruffled me so much that I messed up badly. It is stressful to have to answer quickly to avoid being rebuked by the game. And it's even more upsetting to realize that you've just "seen" a gun that wasn't actually there, right after a black face flashed.
This happened to me several times, and then I suddenly found myself getting "TOO SLOW" messages whenever the object to be identified was a gun. This went on for many minutes and numerous trials. For a while, I thought the test was broken. But it wasn't: I finally realized that rather than pressing the right shift key, I had somehow started pressing the enter key whenever I thought I saw a gun. It's almost like I'd subconsciously decided to stop making "gun" choices at all. (Psychoanalyze that.)
But don't take that as a cop-out: Before I (arguably) tried to dodge responsibility by pressing the wrong key, I clearly showed implicit bias. And it was horrifying.
THE UPSHOT of all of this research is that in order to rid the world of prejudice, we can't simply snuff out overt, conscious, full-throated racism. Nor can we fundamentally remake the human brain, with its rapid-fire associations and its categorizing, essentializing, and groupish tendencies. Instead, the key lies in shifting people's behavior, even as we also make them aware of how cultural assumptions merge with natural cognitive processes to create biases they may not know they have.
And that just might be possible. Take the Implicit Association Test: In a massive study, Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia and his colleagues tested 17 different proposed ways of reducing people's unconscious bias on the IAT. Many of these experimental interventions failed. But some succeeded, and there was an interesting pattern to those that did.
The single best intervention involved putting people into scenarios and mindsets in which a black person became their ally (or even saved their life) while white people were depicted as the bad guys. In this intervention, participants "read an evocative story told in second-person narrative in which a White man assaults the participant and a Black man rescues the participant." In other words, study subjects are induced to feel as if they have been personally helped or even saved by someone from a different race. Then they took the IAT—and showed 48 percent less bias than a control group. (Note: The groups in these various studies were roughly three-fourths white; no participants were black.)
Other variations on this idea were successful too: making nonblack people think about black role models, or imagine themselves playing on a dodgeball team with black teammates against a team of white people (who proceed to cheat). In other words, it appears that our tribal instincts can actually be co-opted to decrease prejudice, if we are made to see those of other races as part of our team.
When it comes to weakening racial essentialism, Carmit Tadmor and her colleagues undertook a variety of experiments to try to produce what they called "epistemic unfreezing." Subjects were exposed to one of three 20-minute multimedia presentations: one exclusively about American culture, one exclusively about Chinese culture, and one comparing American and Chinese cultures (with different aspects of each culture, such as architecture or food, presented back to back). Only in the last scenario were subjects pushed to compare and contrast the two cultures, presumably leading to a more nuanced perspective on their similarities and differences.
This experimental manipulation has been found to increase creativity. But surprisingly, it also had a big effect on reducing anti-black prejudice. In one study, Tadmor et al. found that white research subjects who had heard the multicultural presentation (but not the American-only or Chinese-only presentation) were less likely than members of the other study groups to endorse stereotypes about African Americans. That was true even though the subjects had learned about Chinese and American cultures, not African American culture.
In a variation, the same 20-minute lecture also produced fewer discriminatory hiring decisions. After hearing one of the three kinds of lectures, white study subjects were shown a series of résumés for the position of "Sales Manager" at a company. The résumés were varied so that some applicants had white-sounding names, and some had black-sounding names. It's a research paradigm that has often been shown to produce discriminatory effects, which presumably occur through the manifestation of uncontrolled or implicit prejudices—but this time around, there was a glimmer of hope in the findings.
White subjects who had heard the lecture exclusively about American culture (with topics like Disney, Coca-Cola, and the White House) picked a white candidate over an equally qualified black candidate 81 percent of the time. Subjects who had heard a lecture exclusively about Chinese culture picked a white candidate a full 86 percent of the time. But subjects who had heard the culture-comparing lecture selected the white candidate only 56 percent of the time.
These studies clearly suggest that, at least for the relatively short time span of a psychology experiment, there are cognitive ways to make people less prejudiced. That's not the same as—nor can it be a substitute for—broader cultural or institutional change. After all, there is ample evidence that culture feeds directly into the mind's process of generating prejudices and adopting stereotypical beliefs.
Nonetheless, if prejudice has both a psychological side and a cultural side, we must address both of these aspects. A good start may simply be making people aware of just how unconsciously biased they can be. That's particularly critical in law enforcement, where implicit biases can lead to tragic outcomes.
In fact, this phenomenon has been directly studied in the lab, particularly through first-person shooter tests, where subjects must rapidly decide whether to shoot individuals holding either guns or harmless objects like wallets and soda cans. Research suggests that police officers (those studied were mostly white) are much more accurate at the general task (not shooting unarmed people) than civilians, thanks to their training. But like civilians, police are considerably slower to press the "don't shoot" button for an unarmed black man than they are for an unarmed white man—and faster to shoot an armed black man than an armed white man. (Women weren't included—the extra variable of gender would have complicated the results.)
Such research has led to initiatives like the Fair and Impartial Policing program, which has trained officers across the United States on how implicit biases work and how to control them. Few officers look forward to these trainings, says program founder Lorie Fridell, a criminologist; they don't consider themselves to be racist. "Police are very defensive about this issue," she says. "That's because we have been dealing with this issue using outdated science. We treat them as if they have an explicit bias. They are offended by that."
So instead, Fridell's team focuses first on showing the officers the subtle ways in which implicit bias might influence their actions. For example: The trainers present a role-play where there are three people: a female victim of domestic violence, and a male and female comforting her. When the officers are asked to address the situation, says Fridell, most assume that the man is the perp. Then, the trainers reveal that it was actually the woman—and the officers learn that they do, in fact, act on bias. It's not because they are bad people; in fact, in their work, they may have experiences that reinforce stereotypes. Which is why it's important that police officers—who see the worst in people in their everyday duties—teach themselves not to assume the worst.
"You're an officer, you're pumping adrenaline, you don't have time to evaluate whether your implicit bias is driving your behavior."
The program, which receives support from the US Department of Justice, has trained officers in more than 250 precincts and agencies, but it's hard to measure its success—there is no baseline comparison, since prejudiced policing isn't always rigorously documented. But the feedback is encouraging. "I have a new awareness of bias-based policing within my own agency," one participant wrote in an evaluation. "The presentation of scientific data provided me with a more convincing argument that supported the existence of unintentional, but widespread racial bias, which I was typically quick to dismiss."
Staff members at the University of California-Los Angeles-based Center for Policing Equity use implicit-bias research in a different way: They take unconscious prejudice as a given—and try to make changes within communities to ensure that it does as little damage as possible. A few years ago, Las Vegas was seeking to address police officers' use of force, especially against people of color. Most of the incidents occurred after pursuits of suspects on foot, the majority of which happened in nonwhite neighborhoods. Center president Phillip Atiba Goff explains that he knew how difficult it would be to change the pursuing officers' thinking. "You're an officer, you're pumping adrenaline, you don't have time to evaluate whether your implicit bias is driving your behavior," he says. So instead, the center worked with the department to make a small but meaningful tweak to the rules: In foot chases, the pursuing officer would no longer be allowed to touch the person being chased; if use of force was necessary, a partner who wasn't involved in the pursuit would step in. "We recognized implicit bias, and we took it out of the equation," Goff says. "We decoupled the prejudice from the behavior." Sure enough, use of force in foot chases—and, as a result, overall use of force against people of color—declined significantly shortly after the policy went into effect.
UNSETTLING THOUGH IT IS, the latest research on our brains could actually have some very positive outcomes—if we use it in the right way. The link between essentialism and creativity doesn't just tell us how we might reduce prejudice. It could also help us to become a more innovative country—by prioritizing diversity, and the cognitive complexity and boost in creativity it entails. The research on rapid-fire, implicit biases, meanwhile, should restart a debate over the role of media—the news segment that depicts immigrants as hostile job snatchers, the misogynistic lyrics in a song—in subtly imparting stereotypes that literally affect brain wiring. Indeed, you could argue that not only does the culture in which we live make us subtly prejudiced, but it does so against our will. That's a disturbing thought.
Especially when you consider how biases affect government policy. Consider this: In October 2012, researchers from the University of Southern California sent emails asking legislators in districts with large Latino populations what documentation was needed in order to vote. Half the emails came from people with Anglo-sounding names; the other half, Latino-sounding names. Republican politicians who had sponsored voter ID laws responded to 27 percent of emails from "Latino" constituents and 67 percent of emails from "white" constituents. For Republicans who'd voted against voter ID laws, the gap was far less dramatic—the response figures were 38 percent for Latino names and 54 percent for white names.
You can imagine how this kind of thing might create a vicious cycle: When biased legislators make it harder for certain communities to vote, they are also less likely to serve alongside lawmakers from those communities—thus making it less likely for a coalitional experience to change their biases.
So how do we break the cycle? We could require lawmakers to engage in exercises to recognize their own unconscious prejudice, like the Fair and Impartial Policing program does. Or we could even go a step further and anonymize emails they receive from constituents—thus taking implicit bias out of the equation.
Short of that, you can do something very simple to fight prejudice: Trick your brain. UNC-Chapel Hill's Payne suggests that by deliberately thinking a thought that is directly counter to widespread stereotypes, you can break normal patterns of association. What counts as counterstereotypical? Well, Payne's study found that when research subjects were instructed to think the word "safe" whenever they saw a black face—undermining the stereotypical association between black people and danger—they were 10 percent less likely than those in a control group to misidentify a gun in the Weapons Identification Task.
To be sure, it will take more than thought exercises to erase the deep tracks of prejudice America has carved through the generations. But consciousness and awareness are a start—and the psychological research is nothing if not a consciousness-raiser. Taking the IAT made me realize that we can't just draw some arbitrary line between prejudiced people and unprejudiced people, and declare ourselves to be on the side of the angels. Biases have slipped into all of our brains. And that means we all have a responsibility to recognize those biases—and work to change them.
CHRIS MOONEY Chris Mooney is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science. He was a science journalist and podcaster for Mother Jones and host of Climate Desk Live from 2012 to 2014. He is now a staff writer at The Washington Post.
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the number of guns that 'discharge' is amazing...
Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police,
Rich Juzwiak and Aleksander ChanFiled to: BLACK LIVES MATTER
On Wednesday, after the announcement that NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo would not be indicted for killing Eric Garner, the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund Twitter posted a series of tweets naming 76 men and women who were killed in police custody since the 1999 death of Amadou Diallo in New York. Starting with the most recent death, what follows are more detailed accounts of many of those included in the Legal Defense Fund's tweets.
Rumain Brisbon, 34, Phoenix, Ariz.—Dec. 2, 2014
Brisbon, an unarmed black father of four, was shot to death in when a police officer apparently mistook his bottle of pills for a gun. Aftermath: Pending.
Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, Ohio—Nov. 22, 2014
Officer Tim Loehmann shot and killed Rice, who was holding a BB gun, seconds after spotting him at a park. Aftermath: Rice's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cleveland.
Akai Gurley, 28, Brooklyn, NY--Nov. 20, 2014
Gurley was shot in a dark stairwell of an East New York housing project building by Officer Peter Liang. Gurley was unarmed. Police Commissioner William Bratton called Gurley "a total innocent." "The cop who was standing behind Officer Liang doesn't know what happened; the girlfriend doesn't know what happened," a senior police official told the New York Times. "There is a distinct possibility that Officer Liang doesn't quite understand what happened." Aftermath: District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that he is investigating.
Kajieme Powell, 25, St. Louis, Mo.—August 19, 2014
Powell was shot by police who responded to a 911 call accusing him of stealing some energy drinks and pastries. Cops claimed that he approached them holding a knife "in an overhand grip"; video footage of the incident shows that Powell did not come as close to the police as they reported and that his hands were by his side. Police shot him within 15 seconds of arriving at the scene. Aftermath: Powell's family has filed a wrongful death suit against the St. Louis police chief and arresting officers.
Ezell Ford, 25, Los Angeles, Calif.—August 12, 2014 1
Ford was shot by police who were conducting "an investigative stop." " A struggle ensued," read the LAPD's news release. Ford's family members say he was lying down when shot. Aftermath: The LAPD, which hasn't closed the investigation into Ford's death, put an indefinite "investigative hold" on the coroner's autopsy report to prevent witness testimony from being tainted.
Dante Parker, 36, San Bernardino County, Calif.—August 12, 2014Police responded to a call about an attempted break-in. The suspect fled on a bicycle. Police found Parker nearby riding his bike. He was unarmed. He resisted arrest and a struggle ensued. Police tasered him and he died. Aftermath: Pending. The NAACP has called for a federal investigation.
Michael Brown, 18, Ferguson, Mo.—August 9, 2014
Shot by Officer Darren Wilson after an altercation that happened inside Wilson's car. Wilson reported that Brown "looked like a demon." Aftermath: Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury. He resigned from the Ferguson police force. "The family greatly wanted to have the killer of their unarmed son held accountable. They really would look at every legal avenue," said Brown's family's lawyer Benjamin Crump.
John Crawford III, 22, Beavercreek, Ohio—August 5, 2014
Crawford was fatally shot while carrying a pellet gun in a Wal-Mart. The gun was unsold merchandise and out of its package. A man named Ronald Ritchie told 911 that he looked like he was pointing it at people, but a month later he admitted that Crawford was not pointing the gun at people. Aftermath: No indictment.
Tyree Woodson, 38, Baltimore, Md.—August 2, 2014
Police say Woodson's fatal gunshot wound was self-inflicted. That would mean that he smuggled his gun into a police station after police brought him there for having several open warrants. "Things don't seem quite right here," said Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes. "This person could have a gun, a high caliber gun, that could be used against other officers and then he allegedly kills himself." Aftermath: Pending.
Eric Garner, 43, New York, N.Y.—July 17, 2014
Police alleged they saw Garner selling illegal untaxed cigarettes, but witnesses at the scene said he was stopped because he broke up a fight. After an argument, Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold. Garner died of neck compression from the chokehold along with "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police." Aftermath: The New York City medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide. Pantaleo was not indicted.
Victor White III, 22, Iberia Parish, La.—March 22, 20142
The coroner says he shot himself while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. The autopsy report claims, White's injuries "are possible to be self-inflicted even with the hands handcuffed behind the back." "Short of him being Houdini or David Copperfield, it's not possible," said White's family's attorney. Aftermath: Pending. District Attorney Phil Haney of the 16th Judicial Circuit, who said he will let a federal investigation run its course before making a decision.
Yvette Smith, 47, Bastrop, Texas—February 16, 2014
Officers responding to a domestic disturbance call shot after she opened her front door to them. Initially, police claimed that Smith had a firearm, but the sheriff's office retracted this the next day. Aftermath: Deputy Daniel Willis, who shot Smith, was indicted on a murder charge. Her family is asking for $5 million in a wrongful death suit.
McKenzie Cochran, 25, Southfield, Mich.—January 28, 2014
Cochran died of "position compression asphyxia" during struggle with mall security. Cochran told them, " I can't breathe." His death ruled an accident by medical examiner. Aftermath: No indictments for the security guards.
Jordan Baker, 26, Houston, Texas—January 16, 2014
An off-duty police officer thought Baker fit the description of robbery suspects—both they and he were wearing black hooded sweatshirts. A scuffle and foot chase ensued. Baker, who was unarmed, was fatally shot. Aftermath: Officer J. Castro, who killed Baker, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Baker's mother was said to be considering filing a lawsuit.
Andy Lopez, 13, Santa Rosa, Calif.—October 22, 2013
Lopez was carrying a pellet gun that resembled an AK-47 assault rifle. After officers reportedly told Lopez to drop the gun, he turned toward them and they shot him. Aftermath: No indictment.
Miriam Carey, 34, Washington, D.C.--October 3, 2013
While attempting to make a U-turn at a White House checkpoint, Carey allegedly hit a barricade and a Secret Service officer in front of the White House. After a high-speed chase, police surrounded her, weapons drawn. She was shot five times in the chase and died at the scene. She was unarmed. Her daughter was in the car with her and was unharmed. Aftermath: The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to press charges.
Jonathan Ferrell, 24, Bradfield Farms, N.C.—September 14, 2013
Ferrell crashed his car and knocked on the door of a nearby house. The woman inside called the police. Police said that when Ferrell was apprehended, they shot him. Ten times. Aftermath: Officer Randall Kerrick has been indicted on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. It took two grand juries to get there.
Carlos Alcis, 43, New York, N.Y.—August 15, 2013
Alcis died of a heart attack after the police mistakenly raided his home in search of a cell phone thief. Aftermath: Alcis's family has filed a wrongful death suit against the city and the NYPD for $10 million.
Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr., 32, Austin, Texas—July 26, 2013
Jackson was fatally shot during a scuffle resulting from a chase that took place when detective Charles Kleinert apprehended Jackson for trying to "defraud" a bank. Aftermath: Kleinert was indicted on a manslaughter charge.
Deion Fludd, 17, New York, N.Y.—May 5, 2013
Police say that a train clipped Fludd as the chased him after dodging subway fare. According to his mother, Fludd denied this before succumbing to his injuries. Aftermath: Fludd's mother sued the officers involved, the NYPD, and the MTA.
Kimani Gray, 16, New York, N.Y.—March 9, 2013
Police said Gray pointed a revolver at them as they attempted to question him. Friends and family say Gray had never had a gun, and a witness says he never pointed one at police. The cops shot a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times. Aftermath: No indictments for the cops responsible for shooting Gray.
Johnnie Kamahi Warren, 43, Dotham, Ala.—December 10, 2012A Houston County Sheriff's deputy spotted Warren struggling with three other men outside a bar. Upon approaching Warren, he used a taser at least twice. Soon after additional officers arrived and arrested him, he lost consciousness and died at the hospital soon after. Outcome:An Alabama Bureau of Investigation probe; the sheriff's deputy was placed on paid leave.
Malissa Williams, 30, and Timothy Russell, 43, Cleveland, Ohio—November 29, 2012
Russell led 62 police cars on a chase that ended with 137 shots being fired at his car, killing him and Williams. Police believed someone in Russell's car had fired at them first. Cornered at a middle school, Cleveland Patrolman Michael Brelo jumped on top of Russell's car from behind, climbed to the hood, and fired 15 more shots. Aftermath: A judge approved a settlement between the city and the two's families—$1.5 million each. Brelo was indicted in May 2014 for voluntary manslaughter. His trial date has not been set.
Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, New York, N.Y.—September 7, 20123
Cuevas was shot and killed by police as he was fleeing armed men attempting to rob the bodega he worked at. Aftermath: The Bronx District Attorney did not find the officer at fault and declined to move the case forward to a grand jury. His mother filed a $25 million wrongful death claim against the city last year.
Chavis Carter, 21, Jonesboro, Ark.—July 29, 2012
Police say Carter killed himself while handcuffed in the back of a police car. His mother pointed out that he was left-handed (he would have shot himself with his right hand), detained for marijuana while his concealed weapon supposedly went undetected, and not suicidal. Aftermath: The officers involved were placed on administrative leave and the FBI stepped in to "monitor and assess " the situation. His mother filed a wrongful death suit.
Shantel Davis, 23, New York, N.Y.—June 14, 2012
Police chased Davis in a stolen car through East Flatbush until it crashed. In the ensuing struggle at the vehicle, one officer fired one shot, killing Davis. She was unarmed. It's "not clear" if the plainclothes officers chasing knew the car was stolen. David was due in court the week she died for helping hold a man hostage as the group robbed his home. Aftermath: The officers involved were placed on administrative duty.
Sharmel Edwards, 49, Las Vegas, Nev.—April 21, 2012Edwards was suspected of stealing a vehicle. A police chase ensued. Cops said that when they were finally able to get her to leave her car, she pointed a gun at them and they opened fire. At least three witnesses disputed that claim, with two saying she wasn't carrying a weapon at all. Aftermath: The Clark County DA office ruled that the officers who killed Edwards acted "reasonably and lawfully."
Tamon Robinson, 27, New York, N.Y.—April 18, 2012
Police responded to a call from Canarsie, Brooklyn that Robinson was stealing paving stones. When confronted by police, Robinson, unarmed, ran toward the building where his mother lived; officers chased him by car, hitting him. Aftermath: Robinson's family reached a $2 million settlement in a wrongful death suit against the city this year.
Ervin Jefferson, 18, Atlanta, Ga.—March 24, 2012
Security guards shot Jefferson to death during a "bizarre chain of events" outside of an apartment complex. Aftermath: Security guards Curtis Scott and Gary Jackson were arrested and charged with impersonating police.
Kendrec McDade, 19, Pasadena, Calif.—March 24, 2012
McDade was chased and shot by two police officers after a 911 caller falsely reported he had been robbed at gunpoint by two black men. Both were unarmed. McDade was shot seven times. Aftermath: The police department and Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office cleared the officers of wrongdoing. Investigations by the FBI and Office of Independent Review are pending.
Rekia Boyd, 22, Chicago, Ill.—March 21, 2012
Off-duty officer Dante Servin fired an unregistered firearm into an alleyway where four people were standing after he allegedly saw a man brandish a gun. One of the bullets hit Boyd in the back of the head. She died the next day. Aftermath: The city of Chicago paid Boyd's family $4.5 million in a wrongful death suit. The officer was charged with last November with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm, and reckless conduct.
Shereese Francis, 30, New York, N.Y.—March 15, 2012
Francis, a schizophrenic who at the time was not taking her medication, became "increasingly emotionally distraught" after an argument with her mother. Her sister called 311, hoping for an ambulance—four police officers arrived instead, who chased Francis through the home. All four allegedly pinned her down as they handcuffed her and she stopped breathing soon after. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. The coroner's report concluded Francis died of "compression of trunk during agitated violent behavior." Aftermath: Her family filed a lawsuit after police dragged their feet on releasing records under the Freedom of Information Act.
Wendell Allen, 20, New Orleans, La.—March 7, 2012
Allen, unarmed, dressed only in jeans and sneakers, was shot and killed by New Orleans police officer Joshua Colclough executing a search warrant of Allen's home for marijuana. Aftermath: Colclough pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison last year.
Nehemiah Dillard, 29, Gainesville, Fla.—March 5, 2012
Dillard was admitted to Meridian Behavioral Healthcare after "displaying strange behavior" in a stranger's yard. He allegedly struck a member of the hospital's staff, who called police. Officers shot him twice with tasers after he allegedly attacked them. After being handcuffed, the Tampa Bay Times reports, "a staffer at the facility injected him with drugs" and Dillard died soon after from cardiac arrest.
Dante Price, 25, Dayton, Ohio—March 1, 2012
Security guards ordered Price out of an apartment complex. They told him to leave his car, but instead he decided to drive away, so they fired 17 shots at him. Aftermath: Justin Wissinger and Christopher Tarbert pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and abduction. They were sentenced 3 to 11 years in prison.
Raymond Allen, 34, Galveston, Texas—February 27, 2012
Police responded to a complaint from a hotel that Allen was repeatedly jumping from the second story. Two officers tased him. He stopped breathing, and died in the hospital. Aftermath: His wife filed a lawsuit against Galveston, the county, and taser's manufacturer.
Sgt. Manuel Loggins, Jr., 31, Orange County, Calif.—February 7, 2012
On a religious fast and off medication for ADHD, Loggins allegedly crashed into a gate a Orange County high school with his car carrying his two daughters. After walking to and returning from the school's athletic field with a Bible, he was approached by a police officer, who shot Loggins three times through his car window. He was unarmed. Aftermath: Orange County paid $4.4 million to Loggins' family in a settlement last year.
Ramarley Graham, 18, New York, N.Y.—February 2, 2012
Graham was shot and killed by police in the Bronx, who chased him into his home without a warrant. He was unarmed. Aftermath: The officer, Richard Haste, was initially indicted in 2012, but the case was later overturned. A second grand jury decided not indict Haste. Graham's mother said just last month that the Justice Department will proceed with its own investigation.
Kenneth Chamberlain, 68, White Plains, N.Y.—November 19, 2011
Chamberlain's Life Aid alert necklace was triggered by mistake, causing the police to respond. He refused to answer his door, saying he did not need help. Officer Steven Hart called Chamberlain a "nigger." The police broke down his door. They allege that Chamberlain attempted to charge them with a butcher knife. They tasered him, and shot him dead. Aftermath: No indictment for Officer Anthony Carelli, who shot Chamberlain twice. Chamberlain's family filed a $21 million wrongful death suit.
Alonzo Ashley, 29, Denver, Colo.—July 18, 2011
Police were called by Denver Zoo security who were alarmed over Ashley's behavior. Ashley was confronted and tasered. He started convulsing and then stopped breathing. Aftermath: Ashley's death was ruled a homicide by the coroner, but no officers were charged. Ashley's family sued Denver and the zoo.
Kenneth Harding, 19, San Francisco, Calif.—July 16, 2011
Harding fled a routine Muni fare inspection. The police said that a shootout ensued, witnesses said that Harding did not have a weapon. According to police Cmdr. Mike Biel, the caliber of the bullet that killed Harding did not match the caliber used by police. "We believe that the fatal wound on Mr. Harding's body was self-inflicted," Biel said. Aftermath: Harding's mother filed federal wrongful death and civil rights lawsuits against San Francisco.
Raheim Brown, 20, Oakland, Calif.—January 22, 2011
During a struggle with the police, Brown was shot five times, including twice in the head. Police reports alleged that Brown was attempting to stab an officer with a screwdriver. Aftermath: No indictment for Officer Barhin Bhatt. The Oakland Unified School District settled with Brown's parents for $995,000.
Reginald Doucet, 25, Los Angeles, Calif.—January 14, 2011
Police responded to a "disturbing the peace" call, where Doucet was arguing with a taxi driver. Doucet had stripped down. Doucet reportedly resisted arrest, and a chase ensued. During a violent confrontation, the unarmed Doucet was fatally shot. Aftermath: The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that officer Aaron Goff was justified in shooting Doucet. A judge dismissed the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Doucet's family.
Derrick Jones, 37, Oakland, Calif.—November 8, 2010
Jones' neighbor accused him of assault. Police arrived and Jones fled. According to Officers Perez-Angeles and Daza-Quiroz, when they caught up with Jones, they thought that he was reaching for a gun, so they fired at him. Six of their nine shots hit Jones, who was unarmed. Aftermath: No indictment. Oakland settled with Jones' parents and daughter for $225,000. His widow lost a $10 million civil suit.
Danroy Henry, 20, Thornwood, N.Y.—October 17, 2010
Officer Aaron Hess shot Henry through the windshield of Henry's car as Henry drove during a chaotic altercation. Aftermath: No indictment for Hess. Henry's family filed a wrongful death suit.
Aiyana Jones, 7, Detroit, Mich.—May 16, 2010
Jones was shot when a Special Response Team raided the duplex she lived in. Officers threw a grenade into Jones' apartment. Officer Joseph Weekley claimed Jones's grandmother grabbed his gun, causing Jones to be shot. Aftermath: Weekley was charged with involuntary manslaughter. His first trial ended in a mistrial. So did his second.
Steven Eugene Washington, 27, Los Angeles, CA—March 20, 2010
Police officers spotted Washington on a Los Angeles street. He reportedly approached them, appearing to be removing something from his waistband. He was shot and killed. No weapon was found on him. Later, Washington's family revealed that he was autistic. Aftermath: Police Chief Charlie Beck recommended that Officers Allan Corrales and George Diego be cleared of charges, but the civilian commission that oversees the LAPD disagreed Washington's mother received $950,000 in a settlement with Los Angeles.
Aaron Campbell, 25, Portland, Ore.—January 29, 2010
Campbell was shot in front of his apartment after being reported to the police as suicidal and possessing a gun. Campbell was unarmed. Campbell was walked backward with his hands behind his head. Officer Frashour told Campbell to put his hands straight in the air. When Campbell did not comply, Frashour shot him. Aftermath: No indictment for Frashour. He was fired for not following protocol, but then reinstated. Portland agreed to pay Campbell's family $1.2 million to settle their civil suit against the city.
Kiwane Carrington, 15, Champaign, Ill.—October 9, 2009
Police investigating a suspected break-in at a house encountered the unarmed Carrington. A scuffle ensued and Officer Daniel Norbits's gun "went off," killing Carrington. Aftermath: No indictment for Norbits, but he did receive a total of $423,697 in disability and worker's compensation payments. Carrington's family received $470,000 from Champaign in a settlement of their wrongful death lawsuit.
Victor Steen, 17, Pensacola, Fla.—October 3, 2009
Sheen rode his bike as a cop chased him. Steen refused to stop, and so the cop, Jerald Ard, tasered him. Steen fell from his bike and Ard ran him over, killing him. Ard also may have planted a gun on Steen after his death. Aftermath: Ard was suspended from the force without pay for two weeks. The city of Pensacola paid Steen's mother a $500,000 settlement.
Shem Walker, 49, New York, N.Y.—July 11, 2009
Walker was shot when trying to eject an undercover officer from his stoop. Walker was unarmed. Aftermath: No indictment for the officer. New York City paid $2.25 million to settle with Walker's family.
Oscar Grant, 22, Oakland, Calif.—January 1, 2009
After reports of a fight at the BART train station, police detained Grant and some of his friends. While Grant was lying face down, resisting arrest, a police officer named Johannes Mehserle shot him. The officer claimed he meant to taser Grant. Aftermath: Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years in prison. BART paid Grant's mother and daughter $2.8 million to settle the civil suit they filed. Grant's father lost a civil case against Mehserle.
Tarika Wilson, 26, Lima, Ohio—January 4, 2008
A SWAT team arrived at Wilson's home with the intention of arresting her companion for dealing drugs. When they opened fire, they shot and killed Wilson. Aftermath: Sgt. Joe Chavalia, who shot Wilson, was acquitted of two misdemeanors: negligent homicide and negligent assault. Wilson's family received a $2.5 million wrongful death settlement.
DeAunta Terrel Farrow, 12, West Memphis, Ark.—July 22, 2007
Farrow was out walking with his 14-year-old cousin when gunned down by a police officer, Erik Sammis. Sammis claims that only after he shot Farrow did he realize that the gun Farrow was carrying was a toy. Aftermath: Sammis wasn't indicted. He resigned from the force via a letter that contained the sentence, "Then there are others who are not rational and breed hate and racism in this community." Sammis and Jimmy Evans, who was also on duty with him July 22, 2007, were found not liable in Farrow's family's $250 million civil suit.
Sean Bell, 23, New York, N.Y.—November 25, 2006
On the night before Bell's wedding, Bell and his friends attempted to flee the scene of escalating tension with the police. The police fired about 50 shots into Bell's car, killing him in the process: Aftermath: All three officers were acquitted on all charges. They and their commanding officer were fired/forced to resign. New York City agreed to pay Bell's family $3.25 million to settle their wrongful death suit.
Henry Glover, 31, New Orleans, La.—September 2, 2005
Glover was shot in the chest by NOPD officer David Warren at a strip mall in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Glover, with the help of a friend, attempted to get aid, and ended up handcuffed. He died. NOPD Officer Greg McRae set fire to Glover's body in Glover's friend's car. Aftermath: David Warren was sentenced to 25 years and 9 months on a manslaughter conviction. Greg MacRae got 17 years and 3 months for obstruction of justice. About a year and a half later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Warren's convictions and two of MacRae's, ordering new trials. Warren was acquitted in the retrial.
Ronald Madison, 40, and James Brisette, 17, New Orleans, La.—Sept. 4, 2005
Police received a call claiming gunfire on the Danziger Bridge. Police opened fire upon arriving in a Budget Rental Truck. They hit Brisette. Madison, who was developmentally disabled, fled. Two cops chased him down. One, Robert Faulcon, shot him. The other, Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, was convicted of stomping Madison on the back before he died. Aftermath: That conviction was later overturned. Police attempted a coverup. Eventually five officers involved in the shooting were found guilty of various charges. Faulcon was sentenced to 65 years' imprisonment, Bowen and Sgt. Robert Gisevius Gisevius received 40 years, Officer Anthony Villavaso got 38 years, and Arthur "Archie" Kaufman, who was the investigator placed on the case and eventually found guilty of conspiring to conceal evidence, received 6 years. A month later, the same judge that convicted them, Kurt Engelhardt, vacated their convictions and ordered a new trial as a result of the defendants' appeal and "highly unusual, extensive and truly bizarre actions" by prosecutors.
Timothy Stansbury, 19, New York, N.Y.—January 24, 2004
Officer Richard S. Neri Jr., testifed that he shot the unarmed Stansbury by accident when Stansbury pushed open the rooftop door of a building Neri was patrolling. Aftermath: Neri was not indicted. He was suspended for 30 days without pay and stripped of his gun permanently. The NYPD settled the wrongful death lawsuit of Stansbury's family for $2 million.
Alberta Spruill, 57, New York, N.Y.—May 16, 2003
Police knocked down Spruill's door, apparently acting on bad information that there were drugs and guns inside her apartment. They threw a concussion grenade into her home. She died of a heart attack. Aftermath: The city paid Spruill's family $1.6 million as a settlement for the wrongful death lawsuit they filed.
Ousmane Zongo, 43, New York, N.Y.—May 22, 2003
Zongo was shot four times (twice in the back) by officer Bryan Conroy during a police raid in a storage facility where Zongo worked. Zongo was unarmed and his business (art and musical instrument reparation) had nothing to do with what the police were investigating (CD and DVD piracy). Aftermath: Conroy was convicted of criminally negligent homicide. He received five years probation and lost his job. Zongo's family received $3 million in a wrongful death suit.
Orlando Barlow, 28, Las Vegas, Nev.—February 28, 2003
Barlow was hired to babysit seven children. After a supposed argument, his employer (the children's mother) called the police, saying that Barlow was holding her children hostage with a sawed-off shotgun. Police responded to the call. Barlow was shot while surrendering. He was unarmed. Aftermath: A coroner's inquest labeled the shooting "excusable." The FBI looked into it. "The shooting was unanimously ruled justifiable, but Hartman and two other officers were fired after they printed T-shirts with the initials 'BDRT' — 'Baby's Daddy Removal Team,'"reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Timothy Thomas, 19, Cincinnati, Ohio—April 7, 2001
Nine officers pursued Thomas, who was wanted on 14 misdemeanor counts. Twelve of them were traffic violations. A chase ensued. Thomas ran into an alley and was shot by Patrolman Stephen Roach, who joined the group of nine officers during the pursuit. Roach said he believed Thomas was going for a gun, but an investigation later revealed that Thomas was attempting to pull up his pants. Aftermath: Roach was acquitted on a charge of negligent homicide. An investigation later revealed that Roach lied on his incident report and broke protocol.
Prince Jones, 25, Fairfax County, Va.—Sept. 1, 2000
An undercover narcotics agent followed the unarmed Jones, firing 16 shots at him while Jones was in his Jeep. Eight landed. Officials later confirmed that Officer Carlton Jones (no relation) mistook Prince Jones for someone else. Aftermath: The Fairfax commonwealth's attorney and the Justice Department declined to file charges against the officer, Carlton Jones. The case was not put before a grand jury. Five years after the killing, Prince Jones's parents and daughter were awarded $3.7 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Ronald Beasley, 36, and Earl Murray, 36, Dellwood, Mo.—June 12, 2000
Beasley and Murray, described as family and friends as small-time drug dealers, were shot and killed during an attempted drug bust in a restaurant parking lot. One cop called the killings "unintended, but not a mistake." Aftermath: The officers were cleared of wrongdoing after a yearlong investigation.
Patrick Dorismond, 26, New York, NY—March 16, 2000
An undercover cop approached Dorismond and his friend, Kevin Kaiser, when they were standing outside of a lounge. The cop asked where he could buy marijuana. A scuffle ensued and another undercover cop, Anthony Vasquez, stepped in to help his partner. Vasquez claimed Dorismond grabbed his gun and caused it to discharge into his own chest. Vasquez said the first cop was in their face, and that he attempted to pull Dorismond out of the confrontation to no avail. Aftermath: Vasquez was not indicted. New York paid the Dorismond family $2.25 million as a settlement in a wrongful death suit.
Malcolm Ferguson, 23, New York, N.Y.—March 1, 2000
Drug officers "noticed some movement" in the hallway of a public housing building and investigated. Ferguson, who was unarmed, ran up the stairs. "At some point, on the second-floor landing, there was a struggle," Chief John Scanlon said. "The [officer Officer Louis Rivera's] firearm discharged." Aftermath: Rivera was cleared of wrongdoing. Ferguson's mom, Juanita Young, was awarded $10.5 million as a result of her wrongful death suit against the NYPD and the city.
Amadou Diallo, 23, New York, N.Y.—Feb. 4, 1999
Four plainclothes officers fired a total of 41 shots at Diallo outside of his apartment in the Bronx. Nineteen hit him. He was armed with a wallet, which an officer mistook for a gun when he pulled it out of his pocket. Officers initially approached him because he supposedly matched the description of a serial rapist. Aftermath: The officers were acquitted of all charges. Diallo's mother and stepfather filed a $61 million ($20m plus $1m for each shot fired) wrongful death suit against the officers and New York city. They settled for $3 million.
Obviously, this list is by no means complete. If you are so inclined, please add to it in the comments below.
Police Killings Almost Never Lead To Murder Charges
By CARL BIALIK
Baltimore’s chief prosecutor announced charges Friday against six police officers — including four charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter — in the death of Freddie Gray last month. Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said at a press conference that Gray was arrested without probable cause; transported in a police van handcuffed, shackled and unrestrained, which caused him serious injury; and not given prompt medical attention. He died a week later.
It’s very rare for police officers anywhere in the country to be charged in connection with homicide, and even rarer for them to be convicted. But officers in the Baltimore Police Department are more likely than average to be charged with crimes of all kinds, most of them far less serious: They were charged at twice the average rate of officers in other big-city forces in a recent seven-year period.
Very few of the 1,000 or more incidents in which people are killed by police officers each year lead to charges against the officers, which makes Mosby’s announcement Friday an outlier. Reports from Talking Points Memo, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post suggest about four or five police officers each year are charged criminally for on-duty fatal shootings.1
Each of those media reports relied on data collected by Philip M. Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminologist, using Google Alerts for media coverage. Stinson has said his method probably doesn’t miss many charges in police killings because those usually are reported by local media.
Gray wasn’t shot, so his case wouldn’t have been counted in those reports. The number of police officers charged with killings of all kinds, not just fatal shootings, is higher — 126 cases with the most serious charge of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter between 2005 and 2011 (two in Baltimore), according to Stinson, and 64 more cases where the most serious charge was negligent manslaughter (none in Baltimore).
But the Washington Post analysis shows that Gray’s case may share certain attributes that often are present — and perhaps necessary — in the rare cases when police officers are charged in connection with a killing. Part of Gray’s arrest was caught on camera. Gray would probably also be classified as unarmed, since according to Mosby he was restrained when he suffered the fatal injuries. According to Stinson’s data, police officers are more likely to be convicted when they kill someone without a firearm. His database includes 48 arrests of police officers in connection with on-duty killings not involving a firearm. In the 41 of those cases for which he has conviction data, 25 — 61 percent — resulted in conviction.
None of the data that could put Gray’s death into context is collected officially: not how many people are killed by police officers, nor how many police officers are charged in connection with homicides or with other crimes. Unofficial efforts, using media reports, fill the gap. They typically count about 1,000 people killed each year, which might miss about 200 or 300 cases that aren’t reported in the media. From the start of 2014 through March 2015 — before Gray’s death — seven people in Baltimore were killed by police, according to the data-collection project Mapping Police Violence. That’s above the average per-capita rate for the country’s 100 biggest cities.
Stinson’s data set, funded by a National Institute of Justice grant, also covers arrests and criminal charges of police officers. He and his collaborators have coded the data from 2005 to 2011, and found that Baltimore Police Department officers were arrested at a rate2that is about double the rate of departments in the neighboring big cities of Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and more than double the rate among the 200 biggest law-enforcement agencies nationally. That could reflect a higher rate of misconduct among Baltimore police officers, or a higher level of willingness to prosecute officers — or both.3 The Baltimore Police Department didn’t respond to my request for comment Tuesday on the above-average rate of people killed by police in its city, and the above-average rate of officers arrested from the department.
A criminal charge is a long way from conviction and imprisonment. And police officers charged with crimes are less likely than other people to be convicted and incarcerated. Among officers charged nationally in 2010 with misconduct — a broad category that includes excessive force (including fatal excessive force), sexual misconduct and assault — 33 percent were convicted and 12 percent were incarcerated. The equivalent percentages for felony defendants in the general population in 2006 were 68 percent and 48 percent, respectively. In Baltimore, though, the rate of conviction has been higher. Stinson has conviction data on 46 cases involving police officers charged with crimes between 2005 and 2011. Nearly three in four of those cases — 34 in all — resulted in conviction.
The object of innocentdown is to document the innocent people killed by law enforcement and to remember those innocent victims of police violence.
It is always sad when anyone loses their life: police or non-police. No one’s life has more value over another. Statistics are meticulously gathered by the Department of Justice on the number of LEOs that die each year and specifically how they lose their lives. LEO deaths are not always at the hand of an assailant. Some die from their driving negligence, poor health or even violence against themselves.
Those killed by law enforcement are technically innocent since they have not been on trial and found guilty (remember, innocent until PROVEN guilty is supposed to be the standard). The problem in determining the guilt of the person killed is that police are often the only ones present and they control all of the evidence. The general public (which make up juries) and media tend to believe the police version of events.
There is no funeral cortège, no salute, no remembrance of the innocent people killed by law enforcement. They are often forgotten except by their family and friends. This is the reason for this site – to remember all of those innocent people killed at the hand of law enforcement.
If you know of a victim of law enforcement, let us know through our “Submit A Story” page:
More Than 1,000 People Have Been Killed by Police in 2014
by Scott Shackford --- Reason --- Dec. 9, 2014
There are no frills to be found at www.killedbypolice.net. The site is just a simple spreadsheet. The information it contains, though, is invaluable. It is a list of every single person documented to have been killed by police in the United States in 2013 and 2014. There are links to a media report for every single death, as well as their names, ages, and when known, sex and race.
The site is so valuable because, as we’ve noted previously, there is no reliable national database for keeping track of the number of people killed by police each year. The FBI tracks homicides by law enforcement officers, but participation is voluntary, and many agencies don’t participate. As I noted last week, Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a New York Police Department won’t show up in the FBI’s statistics for 2014 because the state of New York does not participate in the program.
The FBI’s statistics for 2013 say that law enforcement officers killed 461 people that year. Killedbypolice.net apparently got its start last year. Using their system of monitoring by news report, they have calculated that police actually killed 748 people between May and December. That’s 287 more than the FBI reports for the whole year.
And for 2014, which still has a couple of weeks left, the site has reported 1,029 people have been killed by police. That’s about a 30 percent increase over last year, though with four-month gap at the start of 2013 (measuring 25 percent of the year), it's possible the numbers would be much closer if we had January through April. Even with the FBI’s broken numbers, we know that 2013 marked a two-decade high in killings by police.
Neither the site nor its Facebook page indicates who is responsible for compiling this information, and they’re protecting their identity by hosting the site through GoDaddy. We can’t talk to whoever is responsible for this database about how or why they started it and how much effort it is to keep track of this information. Here is a page for people to submit information to help improve the quality of the database.
Man Dies in Police Raid on Wrong House
By Vicki Brown
A 61-year-old man was shot to death by
police while his wife was handcuffed in another room during a drug raid on the wrong house.
Police admitted their mistake, saying faulty information from a drug informant contributed to the death of John Adams Wednesday night. They intended to raid the home next door.
The two officers, 25-year-old Kyle Shedran and 24-year-old Greg Day, were placed on administrative leave with pay.
“They need to get rid of those men, boys with toys,” said Adams’ 70-year-old widow, Loraine.
John Adams was watching television when his wife heard pounding on the door. Police claim they identified themselves and wore police jackets. Loraine Adams said she had no indication the men were police.
In a outrageous example of police incompetence, cops burst into the wrong home during a drug raid and kill an elderly African-American man.
by ASHLEY FANTZ
Police alleged they saw Garner selling illegal untaxed cigarettes, but witnesses at the scene said he was stopped because he broke up a fight. After an argument, Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold. Garner died of neck compression from the chokehold along with "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."
While attempting to make a U-turn at a White House checkpoint, Carey allegedly hit a barricade and a Secret Service officer in front of the White House. After a high-speed chase, police surrounded her, weapons drawn. She was shot five times in the chase and died at the scene. She was unarmed. Her daughter was in the car with her and was unharmed.
Russell led 62 police cars on a chase that ended with 137 shots being fired at his car, killing him and Williams. Police believed someone in Russell's car had fired at them first. Cornered at a middle school, Cleveland Patrolman Michael Brelo jumped on top of Russell's car from behind, climbed to the hood, and fired 15 more shots.
Francis, a schizophrenic who at the time was not taking her medication, became "increasingly emotionally distraught" after an argument with her mother. Her sister called 311, hoping for an ambulance—four police officers arrived instead, who chased Francis through the home. All four allegedly pinned her down as they handcuffed her and she stopped breathing soon after. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. The coroner's report concluded Francis died of "compression of trunk during agitated violent behavior."
Dillard was admitted to Meridian Behavioral Healthcare after "displaying strange behavior" in a stranger's yard. He allegedly struck a member of the hospital's staff, who called police. Officers shot him twice with tasers after he allegedly attacked them. After being handcuffed, the Tampa Bay Times reports, "a staffer at the facility injected him with drugs" and Dillard died soon after from cardiac arrest.
On a religious fast and off medication for ADHD, Loggins allegedly crashed into a gate a Orange County high school with his car carrying his two daughters. After walking to and returning from the school's athletic field with a Bible, he was approached by a police officer, who shot Loggins three times through his car window. He was unarmed.
Chamberlain's Life Aid alert necklace was triggered by mistake, causing the police to respond. He refused to answer his door, saying he did not need help. Officer Steven Hart called Chamberlain a "nigger." The police broke down his door. They allege that Chamberlain attempted to charge them with a butcher knife. They tasered him, and shot him dead.
Campbell was shot in front of his apartment after being reported to the police as suicidal and possessing a gun. Campbell was unarmed. Campbell was walked backward with his hands behind his head. Officer Frashour told Campbell to put his hands straight in the air. When Campbell did not comply, Frashour shot him.
Police received a call claiming gunfire on the Danziger Bridge. Police opened fire upon arriving in a Budget Rental Truck. They hit Brisette. Madison, who was developmentally disabled, fled. Two cops chased him down. One, Robert Faulcon, shot him. The other, Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, was convicted of stomping Madison on the back before he died.
An undercover cop approached Dorismond and his friend, Kevin Kaiser, when they were standing outside of a lounge. The cop asked where he could buy marijuana. A scuffle ensued and another undercover cop, Anthony Vasquez, stepped in to help his partner. Vasquez claimed Dorismond grabbed his gun and caused it to discharge into his own chest.
Four plainclothes officers fired a total of 41 shots at Diallo outside of his apartment in the Bronx. Nineteen hit him. He was armed with a wallet, which an officer mistook for a gun when he pulled it out of his pocket. Officers initially approached him because he supposedly matched the description of a serial rapist
Parents called 911 for help after Mah-hi-vist had an episode of his Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Before officers entered the residence Goodblankets father, Wilbur, asked them not to shoot his son. Police claim Goodblanket had a knife, a fact disputed by witnesses. He was tasered twice and shot 7 times.
One sworn affidavit that was presented to the grand jury read as follows: "On 03/10/13 around 12:15 am I was coming into my apartment that night and saw Clinton Allen with his hands up and the officer pointing his gun at Clinton… I heard 4 to 5 gun shots. I am an ex-military man and I know aggression when 1 see it. Clinton was not showing any signs of aggression towards this officer." The grand jury did not indict officer Staller who remains an active member of the Dallas police department. The family has filed a civil suit against the city.
the police attitude seems to be shoot first, shoot second, shoot third and keep on shooting... the only limiting factor seems to be the number of bullets their gun will hold... just keep shooting...