Justice

The Worst Cases of Police Brutality In September

CREDIT: AP Foto/Tina Fineberg

Tennis star James Blake, after he was tackled by NYPD officers.

During the first week of September, police killed more civilians than the total number of police officers killed so far this year. By the end of the month, 99 people were killed, according to the Killed By Police database. At least 77 of them were shot and killed.

The Guardian reports that 873 people have been killed by police in 2015, and the number is growing.

These numbers present a counter-narrative to the “War on Cops” messaging that conservative politicians and commentators have ramped up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. As Radley Balko wrote in a Washington Post column, this rhetoric is damaging and hinders real public discussion about the use of police force. In the midst of the media hype over attacks on police earlier this month, an unidentified Massachusetts officer was fired for fabricating a story about shots being fired at his vehicle, causing an hours-long manhunt for his attacker.

Here are some of the most shocking police encounters in September:

James Blake, New York, NY: When former tennis star James Blake was mistaken for a suspect in an identity-theft ring by an NYPD officer with a history of using excessive force, the unidentified officer charged at him, picked him up and slammed him to the ground. Four other cops helped detain and handcuff Blake, who showed I.D. and cooperated immediately. But Blake was detained for 10-15 minutes before police realized their mistake. The NYPD told ThinkProgress that “once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately.” Blake received swift apologies from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton after the wrongful arrest, but Patrick Lynch, head of the New York City police union, called criticism of the officers “un-American” and irresponsible.

Blake told the New York Daily News that at first he didn’t want to publicly discuss the incident, but felt he had an obligation to bring to light other instances of excessive police force. An investigation of the alleged use of force has been directed to the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Jeremy McDole, Wilmington, Delaware: While responding to a call about McDole shooting himself, several Delaware police officers wound up fatally shooting the wheelchair-bound man. Wilmington Police said that he was “armed with a handgun.” But in a bystander video that depicts McDole adjusting himself in his chair, he does not appear to have a weapon in his hands. Relatives of the deceased contend that he was sitting with his hands in his lap, and also dispute that he was suicidal. His death is under investigation by officials from the Delaware Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust.

Keith McLeod, Reisterstown, MD: 19-year-old Keith McLeod was fatally shot by an officer who claimed to have seen the victim reach around his back and pull out what seemed to be a handgun. The officer was responding to reports that McLeod tried to use a fake prescription. Baltimore County released a statement reporting that surveillance footage showed McLeod “abruptly whipping his hand around and pointing it toward the officer, as if with a weapon.” Police confirmed the following day that no weapon was found at the scene.

The incident occurred close to where 25-year-old Freddie Gray died of a spinal injury while in police custody.

Unidentified, Stockton, CA: 16-year-old black teenager was tackled by multiple officers after allegedly jaywalking in a bus-only lane early one morning. A video of the arrest shows an unnamed officer pressing a baton against him, as the boy screams “get off me.” The officer hits the boy twice with the baton and tells him to get on the ground. Seconds later, four more officers tackle the child to the ground and handcuff him. An investigation was launched after the attack and the boy’s family filed an official complaint. The police department maintains that the officers’ actions were justified.

Unidentified, Rancho Cordova, CA: In a scene that authorities described as a “chaotic situation,” deputies shot and wounded an innocent bystander after mistaking his cellphone for a gun. Police arrived at the scene after neighbors reported hearing multiple rounds of gun shots. Ben Ledford, who was identified as the gunman, walked out of his home and surrendered to authorities. The wounded bystander had his hand stretched out while filming officers swarm the neighborhood, when two deputies then fired shots at him, striking him once in the leg. They later realized the bystander was not involved in the shooting.

Dominic Fuller, Auburndale, FL: Sheriff deputy shot and killed a man armed with a stapler. Deputies were called to investigate suspicious activities and found Fuller sitting in a stolen car outside of a house. Fuller ran as the deputies approached him, which lead to a chaotic chase through the neighborhood. A witness reported hearing Fuller say he had a gun, and other witnesses reported him saying he was armed. According to the Sheriff’s office, he was refusing command and standing in a doorway with his right arm behind his back. When Fuller lifted his hand, the deputy saw a black and chrome object. Deputy Gabriel Reveron fired five times at Fuller. It was later confirmed that he was holding a stapler.