Deadlier than ISIS: US Cops Continue to Kill Americans
July 7, 2016 Celisa Calacal / ThinkProgress
In the first half of 2016, police have killed 532 people -- many of whom were unarmed, mentally ill, and people of color. This number comes from The Guardian's police killings database, but the Killed by Police database counts 580 people who have died at the hands of police so far this year. The Washington Post also reports that 488 people have been shot and killed by cops.
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This Is How Many People Police Have Killed So Far In 2016 Celisa Calacal / ThinkProgress
(July 5, 2016) -- In the first half of 2016, police have killed 532 people -- many of whom were unarmed, mentally ill, and people of color.
This number comes from The Guardian's police killings database, but the Killed by Police database counts 580 people who have died at the hands of police so far this year. The Washington Post also reports that 488 people have been shot and killed by cops.
Going by the Guardian's count, 261 white people were killed by police -- the highest total out of any racial group. But data also shows that black people and Native Americans are being killed at higher rates than any other group.
February and March were the deadliest months this year, with 99 people killed by police in each month. In June, the police killed 86 people, all of whom were fatally shot.
The slight discrepancies in numbers between Killed by Police and The Guardianreflect differences in how each outlet collects data about police killings. Killed by Police is mainly open-sourced and also relies on corporate news reports for its data on people killed by police.
For its database, The Guardianrelies on traditional reporting on police reports and witness statements, while also culling data from verified crowdsourced information using regional news outlets, research groups, and reporting projects that include Killed by Police.
There has always been a high volume of police killings, although damning videos, photos, and news reports highlight officer violence -- especially against people of color -- now more than ever. But what’s become an even more alarming trend is the number of officers involved in these killings who receive minor to no punishment.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 2015 saw the highest number of police officers being charged for deadly, on-duty shootings in a decade: 12 as of September 2015.
Still, in a year when approximately 1,200 people were killed by police, zero officers were convicted of murder or manslaughter, painting the picture that officers involved in killing another person will not be held accountable for their actions.
In 2016, several officers have gone to trial but none of them received jail time. Here are some of the most egregious examples of cops who haven’t been penalized for killing:
William Porter, Edward Nero, and Caesar Goodwin
-- Baltimore, Maryland
Freddie Gray was apprehended by police during a bike patrol on April 12, 2015, when a violent arrest left him unable to walk on his own.
On the way to booking, no officer put a seat belt on Gray, causing him to be thrown around the van with no help received from any of the officers. In total, there were six officers involved in his death, and three have been tried so far. But during those three trials, which spanned from December 2015 to June, none of the officers were convicted.
The trial of Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury in December, amounting to no action being taken against Porter unless a second trial scheduled for later this year finds him guilty.
In May, Officer Edward Nero was declared not guilty of all criminal charges against him -- second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Nero was one of the first officers to encounter Gray during his arrest and helped load Gray into the police van, where he was not secured with a seat belt.
On June 23, the latest trial in Gray’s case found Officer Caesar Goodwin not guilty of second-degree depraved heart murder, reckless endangerment, second-degree assault, and manslaughter.
Goodwin drove the police van where Gray suffered the spine injury that ultimately led to his death, didn’t secure the 25-year-old’s seat belt, and waited to call a medic when Gray was in distress. Goodson faced the most serious charges of the six officers.
Peter Liang -- New York City
In April, two months after a jury convicted him of manslaughter and official misconduct, former NYPD Oficer Officer Peter Liang was sentenced to five years probation and 800 hours of community service.
Liang is responsible for fatally shooting 28-year-old Brooklyn resident Akai Gurley last November, in the dark stairwell of a public housing building.
While Liang was in the building, the rookie cop claimed he accidentally fired his gun and the bullet ricocheted off the wall before striking Gurley in the heart. Gurley was innocent of any wrongdoing and unarmed when he was killed.
During the trial, Liang claimed the shooting was accidental, but was convicted of manslaughter in February. The former officer was also convicted of official misconduct for failing to provide any sort of medical assistance to Gurley as he lay bleeding on the staircase. Following his conviction, Liang was fired from the NYPD.
Just before his sentence was handed down, the manslaughter charge was reduced to criminally negligent homicide. And despite being convicted of manslaughter, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced in March that jail time for Liang should be taken off the table. He recommended six months of house arrest, five years of probation, and 500 hours of community service, instead.
Liang was the first NYPD officer convicted of an on-duty shooting in the past decade.
Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze
-- Minneapolis, Minnesota
In March, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark will not be facing any criminal charges for their actions. Clark, who was unarmed, died from a gunshot to the head when Schwarz fired his gun 61 seconds after arriving on the scene.
According to the county attorney, Clark was resisting arrest and attempted to grab Ringgenberg’s gun. Despite this claim, several witness say that Clark was already handcuffed. Although placed on administrative leave following the shooting, both officers returned to desk duty in January.
Two weeks prior to the decision, Freeman announced that Hennepin County, including Minneapolis, will no longer use grand juries to determine whether cops involved in fatal shootings should be indicted.
“I concluded that the accountability and transparency limitations of a grand jury are too high a hurdle to overcome,” he said. Beginning with Clark’s case, Freeman’s office would decide to indict in the future.
The policy shift was made in response to pressure from Black Lives Matter activists who protested against grand jury proceedings in the Clark case.
Celisa Calacal is an intern with ThinkProgress.
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