In March alone, 111 people died during police encounters — 36 more than the previous month. As in the past, numerous incidents were spurred by violent threats from suspects, and two officers were shot in Ferguson during a peaceful protest. However, the deaths follow a national pattern: suspects were mostly people of color, mentally ill, or both.
Conversations about police procedurals and officer misconduct were also front and center last month, due in large part to the Department of Justice’s damning report of racial discrimination and unlawful activity in Ferguson’s police department. Although the incident occurred last January, video of officers brutally beating an unarmed Floyd Dent — and allegedly framing him for drug possession — also circulated the internet in March — raising questions about police corruption in Detroit.
In response to mounting criticism of police tactics and conduct, lawmakers have also considered withholding information about officers to avoid backlash and protect cops’ identity. On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) vetoed a bill that would hide the identities of officers involved in fatal shootings for 60 days.
In light of these developments, here are five police encounters that gained national attention in March:
1. Tony Robinson; Madison, WI: Officer Matt Kenny shot and killed the unarmed 19-year-old, after someone reported a black man yelling and jumping around in the street. Robinson allegedly broke into a home and attempted to strangle someone, and Kenny later said the teen tried to assault him. A second officer also alleges shots were fired before Kenny discharged his revolver in self-defense, although no weapon was found at the scene. Robinson later died of gunshot wounds, and protesters took to the streets shortly thereafter. A district attorney is investigating the shooting.
2. Anthony Hill; DeKalb County, GA: Officers approached Hill, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran with bipolar disorder, when a maintenance worker in his apartment complex reported a “deranged [man] knocking on doors and crawling on the ground, naked.” Witnesses shared inconsistent accounts of what happened before Hill was shot dead by Officer Robert Olsen. One contends that Hill had his hands raised, another alleges Hill’s hands were at his side, and a third agrees with officers who claim Hill ran at them. One thing is certain: Hill was unarmed.
3. Naeschylus Vinzant; Aurora, CO: There are still lingering questions as to why the unarmed 37-year-old was shot. Vinzant was approached by officers after he removed a mandatory ankle monitor — an encounter that left him dead, with gunshot wounds in his chest. Local police officers have yet to announce the reason why an officer used deadly force.
4. Terrance Moxley; Mansfield, OH: Police were called to subdue 29-year-old Moxley, who was participating in a reentry program with Volunteers of America. According to program staff, Moxley had a bad reaction and was violently punching walls. Officers also said he was incoherent upon their arrival, but handcuffing him only required minimal force. As they carried him by his arms and legs to a police car, Moxley started to resist and tried to bite officers, who then discharged two taser cartridges. Moxley broke free before he was wrestled to the ground, after which he showed signs of “medical distress.” Moxley later died at a local hospital.
5. Charly Keundeu Keunang (aka Africa); Los Angeles, CA: A 43-year-old, mentally ill, Skid Row resident was shot and killed by two officers who were responding to a reported theft. In a cell phone video, four cops tried to subdue Africa, who refused to comply with [their] demands. The officers pinned the suspect to the ground and ordered him to drop his gun, even though he was unarmed. Within seconds, two officers fired their guns. According to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, a taser was unsuccessfully deployed before officers used their guns, and Africa attempted to grab a firearm from one of their holsters. Witnesses contend the shooting was unjustified. Soon after, the media narrative shifted from officer force to Africa’s past criminal behavior and immigration status.
Watch the video: