This is a compilation of cases I saw in my news feed this week. It is by no means a complete list of events around the country. I will try my best to generate a post like this each week.
Video Shows Border Patrol Taser Igniting Fatal Car Explosion: Attorney (NBC Los Angeles)
Video released Tuesday shows a Border Patrol agent shooting a Taser into a car moments before flames erupt from inside, killing the driver as agents looked on. The family of the victim, Alex Martin, is suing the federal government, claiming the Taser caused the eruption of flames that killed their son. The disturbing video, caught on a dashboard camera in an agent’s vehicles, is part of the evidence in that case.
‘I’m Lucky To Be Living’: Video Shows Cops Brutally Beating Unarmed Black Man In Michigan (HuffPost BlackVoices)
The violent arrest of an African-American motorist by two white police officers in Inkster, Michigan, was caught on video and shows police brutally beating a man who claimed he did nothing wrong.
The Michigan State Police officers said they pulled over 57-year-old Floyd Dent for violating a traffic violation in January. The dashcam video, which was obtained by WDIV and released on Tuesday, shows Dent opening the door to his car only to be met by an officer who withdrew his gun and aimed it directly at him. Officers dragged Dent out of the vehicle, forced him face down to the ground and proceeded to place him in a chokehold.
“I’m lucky to be living. I think they was trying to kill me, especially when they had choked me,” Dent told WDIV. “I mean, I was on my last breath. I kept telling the officer, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’”
How News Outlets Help Convince You That Most Criminals Are Black (ThinkProgress)
Compared to the percentage of crimes they actually commit, African Americans are grossly overrepresented on local news broadcasts about criminal activity, according to a new report from Media Matters for America. In New York City alone, black people make up 75 percent of criminals discussed on local channels, whereas they only make up 51 percent of the actual arrest rate.
It’s Florida, hands down.
Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Falcon v. State that juveniles not convicted of murder may not be sentenced to life in prison, and that even those convicted of murder may not be sentenced to life without parole, citing a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that children are inherently less culpable and more amenable to rehabilitation.
This week, in the wake of that decision, approximately 200 inmates in Florida’s prisons – those who are serving life in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles – may begin applying to have their sentences retroactively reduced.
“It’s a major landmark, what we’re seeing with Falcon,” says Tania Galloni of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s branch in Florida. “This is a huge deal for juveniles in the state of Florida.”
But for Florida juveniles accused of lesser crimes – in other words, crimes that were never punishable by a sentence of life in prison – the outlook in the Sunshine State remains exceedingly dark. In fact, by most available metrics, Florida remains the worst state in the country to be a child in the justice system.
Two LAPD officers awarded $4 million in discrimination lawsuit (Los Angeles Times)
Two Los Angeles police officers have been awarded nearly $4 million after suing the LAPD alleging discrimination and retaliation after the fatal shooting of an unarmed, autistic man in 2010.
After deliberating for nearly three days, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury ruled in favor of Officers Allan Corrales, 35, and George Diego, 34. Corrales was awarded more than $2 million and Diego $1.9 million.
The autistic man’s mother received $950,000 as part of a settlement in 2012 after she filed a claim against the city.
University student, Honor Committee member Martese Johnson arrested (The Cavalier Daily)
Martese Johnson, a third-year student in the College and a member of the Honor Committee and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, was arrested around 12:45 a.m. on Mar. 18 in front of Trinity Irish Pub on the Corner. At the request of University President Teresa Sullivan, a state investigation into the use of force in Johnson’s arrest is now underway.
Trinity owner characterizes interaction with Martese Johnson, refutes claims of racist policy (The Cavalier Daily)
Interactions between third-year College student Martese Johnson and bouncers outside Trinity Irish Pub Tuesday night were cordial and fairly standard, Trinity owner Kevin Badke said in a limited exclusive interview with The Cavalier Daily. Badke said Johnson “seemed sober,” and refuted claims that Trinity’s bouncers were especially antagonistic toward Johnson or treated him differently because of his race.
Badke sought to shed light on the period immediately before Johnson was apprehended by special agents from Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control. Graphic cellphone pictures and a videowhich shows three agents holding Johnson to the ground have prompted a state investigation into whether the agents used excessive force in an encounter which left Johnson with 10 stitches.
Upon being denied entry, Johnson did not raise his voice and “just seemed disappointed he didn’t get in,” Badke said.
On Sunday, The New York Post and NY1 reported that the NYPD’s push to make resisting arrest a felony had officially been introduced as a bill before the New York State senate. After both Commissioner Brattonand NYPDpolice union simultaneously trial-ballooned a similar law change a few weeks ago, the plan to make “aggravated” resisting arrest a felony is officially moving forward after State Senator Tony Avella proposed Bill S04260, that would render anyone who “resisted arrest” more than twice in a ten year span a felon. As the Post spelled out:
Resisting arrest will lead to harsher penalties under legislation proposed by a Queens Democrat. State Sen. Tony Avella is behind a bill that would create a felony charge — “aggravated resisting arrest” — for people who have been convicted of resisting arrest twice in a 10-year period.
The justification for the new measures, in typical NYPD victim-blaming spin, is being presented a a way of preventing future Eric Garners:
The legislation is in response to protests last December following a Staten Island grand jury decision not to charge a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
The bill is based off a letter the Lieutenants Benevolent Association sent to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in January requesting an “aggravated resisting” charge.
GOP lawmakers in Arizona are reacting to the recent media attention to police brutality cases by attempting to scale back transparency. Arizona Senate Bill 1445 would prohibit law enforcement agencies from releasing the names of officers “involved in a use of deadly physical force incident that results in death or serious physical injury” for 60 days after the confrontation.
The bill has already been passed by Arizona’s House of Representatives, with only 13 votes against it, and is set to hit the Senate for a vote this week. If approved there, it would have to get signed off by Governor Doug Ducey, who has hacked away at state programs while earmarking millions of dollars for private prisons.
“When you go to serve a suspect who knows that he is wanted, he is unpredictable, and we have to react based on his actions. That’s what we did today,” Sgt. Ed Cason, with the Smyrna Police Department, told Channel 2 News.
But a witness to the shooting told the news station that police opened fire shortly after they arrived and that Thomas wasn’t driving toward them.
“They were standing behind the car, opening fire. He wasn’t driving towards them,” Brittany Eustache, who was inside the Goodyear Tire establishment, told Channel 2 News. “The car was not moving when they begin to shoot at him. The car had been stopped. He hit a curb; he couldn’t go any further.”
Authorities accused Hummelstown police Officer Lisa J. Mearkle of shooting 59-year-old David Kassick twice Feb. 2 without legal justification. She was released on $250,000 bail, her lawyer said. He planned a news conference later in the day.
It was March 9, a Monday afternoon. A DeKalb County police officer, Robert Olsen, arrived on the scene, responding to a 911 call. Witnesses said that Mr. Hill, an African-American, approached the officer, who is white, with his hands either up or at his sides, but that he did not heed the policeman’s order to stop.
Officer Olsen fired. And Mr. Hill would become another hashtag for a roiling movement of Americans who questioned the value that police officers place on black lives.
As Americans honor those who fought for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, 50 years ago, it’s easy to forget that 5.9 million citizens — 2.2 million of them African-Americans — remain disenfranchised today. One out of every 13 African-Americans is prohibited from casting a ballot in the United States.
Philadelphia, a city with a vastly smaller population than that of New York City, has seen a much higher rate of police shootings in recent years. According to a new report published on Monday by the US Department of Justice, police violence disproportionately affects Philadelphia’s black community, and officers don’t receive consistent training on the department’s deadly force policy.
The 174-page report results from an investigation the DOJ launched in 2013 at the request of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, during a time when officer-involved shootings, including fatal incidents, were on the rise, even as violent crimes and assaults against the police was on the decline. […]
In a city where blacks and whites each make up about 45 percent of the population, almost 60 percent of the officers involved in shootings between 2007 and 2013 were white, while 81 percent of suspects involved were black.
Police shooting of mentally ill woman reaches US supreme court. Why did it happen at all? (The Guardian)
US’s highest court will consider whether police must take special precautions when arresting a person who is mentally ill, after shooting of Teresa Sheehan
In August 2008, Teresa Sheehan, a mentally ill 56-year-old woman, was shot multiple times by San Francisco police officers. The police had been called to take her for an emergency psychiatric evaluation when she threatened a case worker, but the situation quickly escalated.
After Sheehan threatened the officers with a knife, they shot her five or six times, including in the hip and head. She survived but needed two hip replacement surgeries.
Sheehan sued the officers and the city for failing to take her mental health status into account during arrest. Her lawyers argue that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires officers to “reasonably” modify arrest procedures when confronting people who have mental illness; San Francisco says the ADA does not apply to arrests, especially with public safety at stake.
Woman held 8 days in NYC psych ward for saying Obama followed her on Twitter — even though he does (Raw Story)
A Long Island woman was detained in a Harlem mental institution for eight days for claiming, among other things, that President Barack Obama followed her on Twitter — even though he does.
George Zimmerman: Killing Trayvon was God’s plan, and wishing he lived is ‘almost blasphemous’ (Raw Story)
The following report is from The Orlando Sentinel, broadcast March 23, 2015.
George Zimmerman in a recent interview accused President Barack Obama of a “dereliction of duty” by using “racially charged comments” to divide the public against him during his murder trial.
Rape victims often feel like they’re the ones being put on trial, but Joanna Walters of the Washington Post published a story late last week about a young victim of repeated gang rapes who actually was. When Danielle Hicks-Best was only 11 years old, she says a group of two or three young men took her to a house to sexually assault her. Her parents reported this to the police, and Hicks-Best was taken to the hospital, where the doctor discovered vaginal tears and scrapes. A few days later, when Hicks-Best was walking to the store, she says, the same group of young men grabbed her and did it again. Again, the rape kit showed evidence of assault.
Despite all this, no young men were arrested for the crime. Instead, Hicks-Best was arrested six weeks later and charged with filing a false police report.
Law enforcement officials said this week that a black student at Texas A&M Corpus Christi had been terrorized when someone broke into her apartment and scrawled racist slurs and lynching threats on her walls.
At a news conference on Monday, Corpus Christi Police Chief Floyd Simpson said that he wanted to speak out about the case because of a trend of racism at other universities throughout the country.
Why Accurate Coverage Of Crime Matters (Color of Change)
Witnesses: DA Bullied Testimony That Put Rapper Away For 30 Years (HuffPost Crime)
ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — Fourteen years after rapper McKinley “Mac” Phipps was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a teenage fan at a show, five prosecution witnesses have told The Huffington Post that police and prosecutors bullied them into fingering the once-promising hip-hop artist as the gunman.
The star witness, Yulon James, who testified she saw Phipps fire the fatal shot, said she was repeatedly threatened by the parish district attorney’s office, headed by DA Walter Reed, who left office in January amid a reported federal grand jury investigation into campaign funds and side businesses.
An important but unreported indicator of Ferguson’s dilemma is that half of young African American men are missing from the community. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, while there are 1,182 African American women between the ages of 25 and 34 living in Ferguson, there are only 577 African American men in this age group. In other words there are more than two young black women for each young black man in Ferguson. The problem of missing black men extends to other age groups. More than 40% of black men in both the 20 to 24 and 35 to 54 age groups in Ferguson are missing.
It is worth noting that there are approximately equal numbers of African American boys and girls, under the age of 20, in Ferguson (2,332 boys and 2,341 girls). What has happened to young African American men in Ferguson? There are several possibilities. First, the Census counts only the civilian population, and excludes individuals serving in the Armed Forces. Second, tragically, some of these young men have already died. Third, Census figures do not include individuals who are incarcerated at the time of the survey. Finally, the Census Bureau may undercount homeless men, men who are marginally attached to the community, and men who are primarily engaged in criminal behavior.
An average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade, according to a report released on Tuesday.
The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.
The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishingannual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that arewidely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides.
With some states never participating, and major police departments such as the NYPD failing to report for some years, the Bureau of Justice (BJS) statisticians were never satisfied with their data pool. In March of last year, the bureau pulled the plug on the project, leaving the truth about the most high-profile year for police killings in US history – the truth about fatal police violence – to discarded spreadsheets, bad numbers and acronymed taskforces with little to show.
As revelations about patterns of abuse in Ferguson and beyond rattle the US criminal justice system from bottom to top, calls for a national police-killings database have once again gained urgency. But an awareness of what has been tried – and failed – remains elusive. And while even Barack Obama, after meeting with his post-Ferguson taskforce on policing, spoke of the “need to collect more data”, relatively little public discussion has centered on how such a count – a real count – would actually work.
The former Imperial Wizard of what the Justice Department once described as the most violent faction of the Ku Klux Klan has turned up after disappearing nearly 30 years ago — and he is living among the very races whose intermingled existence he once decried.
According to The Daily Mail‘s Ryan Parry, Bill Wilkinson is now a multimillionaire who runs a resort in San Pedro, off the coast of Central America. The island’s non-tourist population is mostly black, Mayan, and Hispanic.