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Police Kill How Many Unarmed People

Protestor in Ferguson, MO says, "We Need Answers"

Police kill how many unarmed people? How often is deadly force used and under what conditions? Seems like a set of questions that should be easy enough to answer with a little digging. That's what I thought until I started to dig.

A few months ago I wrote a piece about the shooting of Keivon Young, an 18-year-old man who was shot seven times from behind by San Bernardino County Sheriff deputies who encountered him just as Young was zipping up his fly after taking a leak -- outdoors, in the dark.

Fortunately, Keivon survived the shooting. When interviewed by KNBC, Young maintained that the officers didn't identify themselves until after they shot him. The investigative team at KNBC News uncovered a video that corroborated Young's account of the incident and contradicted the officers who justified the shooting by accusing Young of assaulting them.

On tape, it is clear that Keivon didn't assault anyone. Listening to the tape, you can also hear one of the deputies tell Keivon that they (the deputies) had mistaken him for someone else and that he was not going to jail.

But instead, the opposite happened. Keivon Young was charged with felony resisting arrest, two counts of assaulting a peace officer and possession of daggers. He was taken to the hospital that night but immediately upon his release was taken to jail. Young had been in jail for several months -- with a bullet lodged in his body -- when I learned of the incident and wrote my piece.

You can read the full story and see the video here.

I bring this up because, months ago, when I wrote the story about Keivon, I also wanted to include statistical data on police involved shootings of unarmed people, but I couldn't find a central database that contained this kind of information.

Long after I published the piece I continued to look. Initially I thought it would be easy to find a national database that contained this kind of information. Boy, was I wrong!

This month, with the news of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Dante Parker, Ezell Ford, John Crawford and perhaps others whose names we have not yet or may never hear about, I created a White House petition.

What I discovered, through the Stolen Lives Project, was that there was a Congressional crime bill introduced in 1994 that mandated the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to gather and disseminate statistics on the number of people killed by law enforcement, but that adequate funding was never provided. According to the Stolen Lives Project, this unfunded mandate to collect and report on these law enforcement involved shootings has not been carried out because of, you got it, a lack of funding.

This month, with the news of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Dante Parker, Ezell Ford, John Crawford and perhaps others whose names we have not yet or may never hear about, I created a White House petition.

The petition asks that the legislators set aside funds sufficient to collect data and report on all unarmed civilian fatal encounters with police officers, sheriffs, and other deputies for all state, county, and municipal authorities.

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You can sign the petition by clicking here.

The goal is to establish a centralized national database that would contain empirically acquired information that is then made available to the public to support the efforts of community-based organizations, legislators, other policy makers and individuals who strive to reduce the abuse by law enforcement officers. It could also be used to quell damaging myths about law enforcement or confirm suspicions. Either way, this nation and, particularly, taxpayers have a right to this data.

The Stolen Lives Project published a book documenting over 2,000 cases of lives lost at the hands of law enforcement. According to their research, they maintain:

  • The main targets of police brutality are young Black and Latino men but increasingly, all others are becoming targets, including women of all colors and the mentally ill
  • Most of the cases they list concern people who were unarmed and/or committed no crime or were involved in a situation that should have been settled without the use of deadly force
  • Many police killings result from 911 calls for help during domestic disturbances where families never expected police brutality to be the end result of the call
  • Many victims had no idea they were being confronted by law enforcement agents when plainclothes or undercover police stormed into their homes
  • There are cases where the deaf or non-English speaking people were killed for failing to obey police commands they could not understand

This week the news is covering protests and a funeral in Ferguson, Missouri. Last week the site of a similarly caused protest and funeral was Staten Island, New York -- not long ago our focus was on Fruitvale Station in Oakland, then there was Pasadena, California, and the list goes on.

We need answers. But as a taxpaying citizen I feel it is incumbent upon my government to provide them.

sharon kyle

Please join me and sign this petition. I must gather at least 150 signatures before the White House petition site will post it to the public. Please help me to do that by sharing this widely via social media.

Thank you --

Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive