At least 550 people — many of whom were unarmed and/or mentally ill — have been killed by police in the first six months of the year. A Guardian database, which puts the figure at 545, shows Caucasians have been killed more than any other race or ethnic group this year, but blacks and Latinos have been killed at higher rates. Nearly 120 people were unarmed. And by the Washington Post’s count, 461 people have been shot and killed by an on-duty officer.
The growing count is alarming, yet there’s also been a proliferation of databases tracking lethal police encounters more closely than ever. Law enforcement has been killing people for decades, however a dearth of reliable national data obscured the number deaths caused by police in years past. But with police brutality becoming more visible, thanks to social media and traditional news media, the need to catalog relevant demographic and geographic information about victims has quickly become a national priority.
CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos
Deng Manyoun; Louisville, KY: One of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” who immigrated to the U.S. to escape a brutal civil war, Manyoun was shot and killed for rushing at an officer with a 7-foot flag pole. The 35-year-old was stumbling on a sidewalk when he was approached by Officer Nathan Blanford, who was driving by in a squad car. Surveillance footage shows the two arguing before Manyoun disappears and returns with the pole. Manyoun then swings the pole at Blanford, who fires his weapon twice. Manyoun died of gunshot wounds, at a local hospital.
Amid public backlash, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad maintains Blanford’s actions were justified. But protesters argue the officer should have used non-lethal force, especially since Manyoun was visibly intoxicated.
You can watch the video here:
Spencer Lee McCain; Owing Mills, MD: The unarmed black man was shot and killed by three Baltimore County police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call. When they arrived at the home of Shannon Sulton, officers reported they heard screams and forced their way into the house. All three fired, later saying McCain was in a “defensive position” and moving in a way that signaled he had a weapon. Nineteen shell cases were found after the shooting, although no weapon was discovered. Sulton was bruised and cut.
Two children, including a 10-year-old who initially called and alerted his grandmother about the disturbance, were present at the time of the shooting — highlighting another major flaw in modern-day policing. Due to inadequate training, police who confront parents in the presence of their kids wind up traumatizing the children, especially when officers are responding to domestic violence calls. Experts say cops should refrain from drawing their weapons or cuffing suspects in front of children. But officers who do use forceful tactics wind up exacerbating children’s emotional distress, making them “feel helpless” and “blame themselves for not preventing the violence, or for causing it.”
Walter William DeLeon; Los Feliz, CA: An unarmed 48-year-old man was shot in the head by Officer Cairo Palacios because the cop thought a towel wrapped around the victim’s hand was concealing a weapon. Then the man was rolled over and handcuffed. Both the officer involved and his partner allege they were stuck in traffic when DeLeon walked in their direction. His arms were extended and covered by a cloth, and he didn’t obey the officers when they exited their vehicle and commanded him to “drop the gun,” the officers say. Palacios fired when DeLeon continued walking in their direction. DeLeon’s son later explained that his dad usually carried the towel to wipe off sweat. The victim may have been flagging down the officers for help, but the reason for doing so is unclear.
“At first, I thought it was like a random person that did it,” said 18-year-old William DeLeon. “Then I found out it was the cops. I didn’t understand why, because I know my dad wouldn’t do anything to provoke it.”