Justice

The Most Horrific Police Brutality Cases In October

CREDIT: Jones family photo

Drummer Corey Jones was killed by police in October

During the month of October, police killed 95 people, according to the Killed By Police database. At least 71 of them were shot and killed. The Guardian also reports that 950 people have been killed by police this year, with two months to go til the end of 2015.

During #RiseUpOctober last month, a series of demonstrations in New York City attempted to shut down Rikers Island and called for an end to police terror nationwide. Family members of police victims participated in the march, joined by students, pastors, activists, and public figures like Dr. Cornel West and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.

New research shows the number of U.S. police officers charged in fatal shootings has hit the highest level in a decade. A dozen officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter this year, up from an average of about five a year from 2005 to 2014. Still, these prosecutions represent a very small fraction of police killings. The South Carolina cop who shot unarmed teenager Zachary Hammond ducked criminal charges last week, despite video appearing to show him open fire on Hammond’s car after it passed him.

Here are six of the most shocking police encounters in October, two of which occurred in public high schools:

Corey Jones, Palm Beach Gardens, FL: A 31-year-old, well-known Florida drummer was shot dead by a plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer in an unmarked car after leaving a late night gig. The victim’s car broke down on along an Interstate 95 exit ramp. A police statement released the following day said the officer, Nouman Raja, “stopped to investigate what he believed to be an abandoned vehicle” and was “suddenly confronted by an armed subject.” But Jones’ family says he never fired his gun and had no way of knowing the man approaching him in the dark was a police officer. In fact, Jones was still on the phone with roadside assistance when he was killed.

Student, Columbia, SC: A black teenage student was thrown out of her chair by school resource officer in a classroom at Spring Valley High School. Officer Ben Fields was called to the classroom student refused to put her phone away and leave the room at her teacher’s request. The girl did not move, so Fields was called in. He grabbed her, slammed her backwards to the ground, and dragged her to the front of the room. Videos filmed by students surfaced on social media last week and sparked immediate outrage. Students and graduates reported that Fields has been brutal like this for years. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott stressed that the incident started with a “very disruptive” student who was refusing to let the teacher continue the class. Still, Lott said Fields displayed “unacceptable” behavior and fired him days after the video erupted.

Unidentified, Los Angeles, CA: Officers opened fire on a man in fear they were under attack, after someone threw a beer bottle at the back window of their vehicle. The officers exited the car and fatally shot the man they believed threw the bottle. Buzzfeed reported that the officers felt they were “being attacked,” after watching an Instagram video after showing a person holding a gun while watching an officer from their car. The video that apparently fueled the officers shooting was later determined not to be a threat. In the days following the incident, the LAPD sent its dive unit into a storm drain looking for an “unknown dark object” that officers claim they saw the man holding before they shot him. According to the LA Times, they saw the man pointing toward them with something in his hand, causing them to think he “posed an imminent threat.” Police did not find any objects or weapons during the search. Cmdr. Andrew Smith said it is “unlikely that anything would still be there.”

Student, Round Rock, TX: A black 14-year-old Round Rock High School student was grabbed by the throat and dragged to the ground by a police officer in the school. Two students were shoving each other, reportedly over a pair of sports goggles, when the school’s assistant principal and two school officers interceded. A video published by KXAN revealed the incident. The police department claims the move was for the boy’s “own safety.” No arrests were made, but the incident is under review. The student’s father said he plans to press charges against the officer for unnecessary handling of a “130-pound child.”

Gary Carmona Boitano, Columbia, MD: The 19-year-old man was fatally shot by an officer after making the 911 call to which the police responded. Boitano was in the driveway of the home holding a knife with a serrated blade when Pfc. Luke Buchanan arrived, according to the police. After Buchanan told him to put down the knife, Boitano refused and the officer fired a single shot, killing him at the scene. The officer remains on official leave until further investigations are completed. According to the police Boitano was temporarily staying at the home to visiting a family friend, and here is no indication that anyone other than Boitano was at the residence at the time of the shooting.

Jess Colarossi is an intern for ThinkProgress.