Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
A boy playing with a BB gun is killed by the police who say he matched the description of a robbery suspect. A man with his hands up is shot dead by the police who say that he didn’t follow their orders. An unarmed burglary suspect is shot seven times by the police after surrendering. A man calls 911 for medical help, but when the police arrive, they beat him to death with their fists. The sister of a mentally ill man calls 911 to get help for her brother, but when the police arrive, they shoot him.
In the first nine months of 2016, police in the United States killed a total of 804 people. 748 died of gunshots. 197 were Black. 130 were Hispanic. 124 were under the age of 24. 14 were under the age of 18. Here are just a few of the many troubling deaths that have occurred in the last two weeks across the country:
Ohio, September 14. Tyre King, age 13. Police said officers were responding to a report of an armed robbery and that they saw three people – Tyre and two companions who matched the description of the suspects. The boy ran from police and was shot by officers when he pulled a BB gun from his waistband, according to authorities.
Oklahoma, September 16. Terence Crutcher, age 40. Crutcher’s car had reportedly stalled in the middle of a road, and police said they received two 911 calls reporting an abandoned car. Video of the shooting from multiple angles shows Crutcher walking slowly away from responding officers with his hands up. Crutcher walks from behind his car to beside the driver’s window, at which point his body crumples after being struck by police gunfire and a Taser. Before releasing video of the shooting, police initially claimed that Crutcher approached officers from the side of the road, refused to show his hands, and appeared to reach inside his car before he was shot. The officer who opened fire, Betty Shelby, was charged with second-degree manslaughter within a week of his death.
Vermont, September 16. Jesse Beshaw, age 29, was shot seven times by a deputy who had accompanied two police officers to serve Beshaw with an arrest warrant for a burglary. Authorities said Beshaw was unarmed but advanced toward the officers with one hand behind his back and refused to stop.
Maryland, September 17. Tawon Boyd, age 21, died three days after a struggle with police that began after he called 911 for medical help. Boyd was acting erratically when officers arrived, and tried to enter two police cars and banged on a neighbor’s door asking them to call police, according to a police report. Boyd’s girlfriend, who was present when police arrived, said officers sat on him and used their body weight to restrain him and struck him twice in the face with a closed fist during the struggle.
California, September 27. Alfred Olango, age 30. Olango’s sister called 911 because her brother was ‘not acting like himself’ and was walking in traffic, according to a police statement. Authorities said Olango initially refused to remove his hands from his pockets, and that one officer opened fire and a second deployed a Taser when Olango drew ‘an object’ from his pocket and stood in a ‘shooting stance’. His sister said that Olango was mentally ill and that she called to get help for her brother.
For The Guardian’s searchable database of homicides by police in the US, updated daily, click here.