On December 9, Cpl. Amy Wilburn was one of several officers who chased a maroon sedan reported stolen until the car parked outside some southeast Dallas townhomes. After the driver of the car fled, 17-year-old Kelvion Walker remained inside, unarmed and with his hands up, according to a witness. Wilburn shot into the vehicle, hitting 17-year-old Kelvion Walker. Unlike many other victims of recent police shootings, Walker didn’t die.
Wilburn has now been fired, and will face criminal charges, in a rare instance of discipline against police officers who use deadly force. Wilburn is the second Dallas officer fired in recent months over the improper use of deadly force. The other, Officer Cardan Spencer, was caught on tape shooting Bobby Gerald Bennett. Spencer said that Bennett lunged at him with had a knife, but video footage doesn’t appear to show moving toward him at all. Bennett, like Walker, didn’t die from the incident.
These two incidents exemplify the sorts of problems that proliferate a spate of recent police shootings — most of them fatal. Car chases were the fatal flaw in the deadly shooting of Tyler Comstock, whose parents called the cops after he drove away in their truck. Several other victims suffered from mental illness, like Bennett, and police acted hastily to what was likely a misperception of threat.
But what is atypical is that these two officers were punished. While national data is not collected on police shootings, available studies suggest excessive use of police force is rarely punished. One investigation of Central New Jersey found that just one percent of police brutality reports were even investigated through internal review mechanisms. And a Denver internal review found that just three out of almost 6,000 complaints against the Denver Sheriff’s Department were investigated.