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Protests in Chicago: The Laquan McDonald Shooting

From the Chicago Tribune:

Hours after a Chicago police officer was ordered held without bond on a first-degree murder charge, the city released a shocking police dash-cam video that captured the white officer opening fire on an African American teen on a Southwest Side street, striking him 16 times and killing him.

The video is about six minutes long and appears to show 17-year-old Laquan McDonald running down the middle of Pulaski Road near 41st Street when Officer Jason Van Dyke, standing next to his SUV, opens fire….

The case marks the first time a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality in nearly 35 years. Van Dyke faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

The charge comes less than a week after a Cook County judge ordered the release of a video that Emanuel’s administration had long sought to keep out of public view. As the mayor urged prosecutors to conclude their investigation Monday, he met with community leaders and aldermen to defend his handling of the controversy amid criticism that City Hall has not done enough to address police misconduct.

Fairfax Officer Charged w/Murder

From the Washington Post:

A former Fairfax County police officer was charged with second-degree murder Monday, nearly two years after he shot and killed an unarmed Springfield man who stood with his hands raised in the doorway of his home.

The indictment of Adam D. Torres in the killing of 46-year-old John Geer, who had a holstered gun at his feet when he was shot, marks the first time in the 75-year history of the Fairfax County Police Department that an officer has faced criminal prosecution in connection with an on-duty shooting.

Geer’s slaying in August 2013 sparked protests, shook trust in law enforcement and prompted county officials to begin a broad review of the department’s use of force and the way it communicates with the public about police shootings.

Reporter Tom Jackman with the Post has been following this case from the beginning and has done excellent work.

Update on the John Geer Case

Today, former Fairfax County, Virginia officer Adam Torres was indicted for second-degree murder for fatally shooting John Geer.

According to the statements of several other law enforcement officials at the scene, Geer was unarmed at the time of the shooting and had his hands up. However, that information took 17 months to be released and Torres wasn’t terminated until last month, just shy of the two-year anniversary of Geer’s death. The Washington Post and others repeatedly excoriated the Fairfax County government for the unexplained delays and secrecy surrounding the case.

According to today’s Post story, Torres is the first officer from Fairfax County to be criminally charged for a shooting on duty in the department’s 75-year history.

You can read our past coverage of the Geer case here. As always, we will be tracking this and other cases here, on our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed.

2015 Police Shootings

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the Washington Post ran a lengthy article about its tracking of fatal police shootings this year.


So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.

Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.

However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

Check out the Cato event from last year, Lessons from Ferguson.

Murder Indictment for U. of C. Officer who Shot Sam Dubose

The Hamilton County, Ohio prosecutor, Joe Deters, announced the indictment of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing in the shooting death of motorist Sam Dubose. Tensing was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

The Washington Post has a write-up here. A snippet,

“This office has probably reviewed upwards of hundreds of police shootings, and this is the first time that we’ve thought this is without question a murder,” [Deters] said.

While a university police report stated that Tensing said he had been dragged by the car before shooting, Deters said that the officer not dragged. Rather, Tensing fell backwards after shooting Dubose in the head, Deters said.

Deters called the situation “a pretty chicken-crap stop.”

Dubose was shot in the head after no violent action or involvement with Tensing. Without the video evidence from Tensing’s body camera, and no living witnesses to the shooting to counter Tensing’s initial statement, it is likely that these charges would never have been brought.

For more on police use of body cameras, check out our explainer written by Matthew Feeney here.

Washington Post Tracking Police Shooting Fatalities

On Sunday, the Washington Post ran a lengthy story about police shootings in the USA thus far this year.  Fatalities are now 385, about twice a day–and those are only the fatalities (if someone is shot and is crippled or is on life support, that’s not part of this tally).


The most troubling ­cases began with a cry for help.

About half the shootings occurred after family members, neighbors or strangers sought help from police because someone was suicidal, behaving erratically or threatening violence.

Take Shane Watkins, a 39-year-old white man, who died in his mother’s driveway in Moulton, Ala.

Watkins had never been violent, and family members were not afraid for their safety when they called Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies in March. But Watkins, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was off his medication. Days earlier, he had declared himself the “god of the fifth element” and demanded whiskey and beer so he could “cleanse the earth with it,” said his sister, Yvonne Cote.

Then he started threatening to shoot himself and his dog, Slayer. His mother called Cote, who called 911. Cote got back on the phone with her mother, who watched Watkins walk onto the driveway holding a box cutter to his chest. A patrol car pulled up, and Cote heard her mother yell: “Don’t shoot! He doesn’t have a gun!”

“Then I heard the gunshots,” Cote said.

Lawrence County sheriff’s officials declined to comment and have refused to release documents related to the case.

Read the whole thing.  Excellent reporting.

Note that it’s a private institution that’s gathered this important information together, not the government itself.

The Jermaine McBean Case

From the New York Times:

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. — The witnesses who saw a Broward County deputy sheriff kill a man who had strolled through his apartment complex with an unloaded air rifle propped on his shoulders agreed: Just before he was gunned down, Jermaine McBean had ignored the officers who stood behind him shouting for him to drop his weapon.

Nothing, the officer swore under oath, prevented Mr. McBean from hearing the screaming officers.

Newly obtained photographic evidence in the July 2013 shooting of Mr. McBean, a 33-year-old computer-networking engineer, shows that contrary to repeated assertions by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, he was wearing earbuds when he was shot, suggesting that he was listening to music and did not hear the officers. The earphones somehow wound up in the dead man’s pocket, records show.

Repeat: Somehow those earphones wound up in Mr. McBean’s pocket.


Protests in Cleveland Follow Brelo Acquittal

From the Associated Press:

The acquittal of a white Cleveland police officer Saturday set off angry but mostly orderly protests while shining little light on how an event that started with a car backfiring could end in a 137-shot barrage, the patrolman firing from the hood of the car and the deaths of two unarmed black suspects.

Michael Brelo, 31, put his head in his hands as the judge issued the verdict followed by angry, but peaceful, protests outside the courthouse. Police blocked furious protesters from going inside while across the city others held a mock funeral with some carrying signs asking, “Will I be next?”

As demonstrations continued into the night, police in riot gear made multiple arrests.

The acquittal came at a time of nationwide tension among police and black citizens punctuated by protests over the deaths of black suspects at the hands of white officers–and following a determination by the U.S. Department of Justice that Cleveland police had a history of using excessive force and violating civil rights.

New York Considers Reform Proposals

From the Times Union:

As Baltimore smoldered following the death of an unarmed man in police custody, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered lawmakers a choice about future oversight of similar controversial cases in New York state.

If lawmakers don’t approve his call for an independent monitor to oversee legal proceedings that follow such deaths, Cuomo will use his executive powers to go even farther and create a special prosecutor who would have the power to pursue charges against officers….

Calls for greater scrutiny and oversight following the deaths of unarmed civilians emerged after Garner’s death and a grand jury’s decision not to indict any of the officers involved. But they haven’t gained traction in the full Legislature.

Senate Democrats have pushed for a creation of a special investigator within the Attorney General’s Office to investigate unarmed deaths, but Republicans who control the majority haven’t moved it forward.

The creation of a special prosecutor is opposed by many district attorneys and police unions around the state.


The Samantha Ramsey Shooting


The family of Samantha Ramsey filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death suit Wednesday against Boone County Deputy Tyler Brockman and Boone County.

A grand injury declined to indict Deputy Brockman in November of last year in the death of 19-year-old Ramsey.

Attorney Al Gerhardstein, one of the attorneys on the case stated, “This deputy was not indicted or disciplined. He was wrong to jump onto the car; shoot while Samantha was slowing down; and wrong to shoot at this young lady at all before he jumped back off the hood.  Samantha’s shooing and death was completely unnecessary and avoidable.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Covington.  The issues raised by the shooting match those raised in numerous other police shootings across the nation where police have killed unarmed civilians, according to a release.