The Endless March of Police Brutality - 7 Stories From Just This Week
From Ferguson, Missouri to Staten Island, New York, it seems like a new story about police brutality breaks every day. Here are some recent incidents of police violence from around the nation that you may not have heard about. Because honestly, who can keep up?
1. 22-year-old black man police claim they shot in self-defense was actually shot from behind
The two officers who shot and killed 22-year-old Darrien Hunt in Saratoga Springs, Utah, claimed that they acted in self-defense after the young man lunged at them with a samurai sword. This week, the family’s lawyer announced that Hunt’s parents had a private autopsy performed, which determined that Hunt had actually been shot in the back six times from a distance of 100 yards. Witnesses also say Hunt was shot as he was running away from the cops. As the family’s lawyer said, “The shot that killed Darrien, which was straight in the back, did not have an exit wound…. It raises the question as to how you can lunge at someone and be shot in the back at the same time.” Hunt’s mother, who is white, explained why she thinks this happened to her son, who is bi-racial: “They killed my son because he’s black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away.” Less than 5% of the population of Saratoga Springs, a wealthy community 30 minutes south of Salt Lake City, is non-white.
2. 17-year-old is in critical condition after being tased, stepped on and allowed to fall
Last Sunday, 17-year-old Bryce Masters, of Independence, Missouri, was driving to a friend’s house to play video games, when the police pulled him over for driving a vehicle for which they had a warrant. According to the police, Masters, the son of a Kansas City Police officer, “became uncooperative, physically resistitive [sic] to exiting the car, and an altercation ensued leading the officer to deploying his Taser." According to witnesses, however, when the police officer asked Masters to roll down his window, he explained that he couldn’t because the window was broken. So, the police officer did what anyone would do when faced with a slight teenager who had made no physical threat whatsoever: tase him in the chest against department policy, pull him from the car, handcuff him and allow him to fall face first onto the concrete. And then, for good measure, put his foot on his back. The Independence Police Department only permits tasering if the subject is an immediate threat to an officer or another person, uses force to resist arrest, flees or attempts to hurt himself. Sitting in a car does not meet any of these requirements. As a result of the totally unnecessary tasing, Masters went into cardiac arrest, stopped breathing, had to be resuscitated, was hospitalized and put into a medically induced coma. Doctors began to bring him out of the coma on Monday and, as of Tuesday, he was in critical but stable condition and was being treated for acute oxygen deprivation to the brain during his cardiac arrest.
3. Milwaukee police officer won’t be punished for lying about witnessing an illegal strip and cavity search
In August, a jury awarded Leo Hardy half a million dollars in damages after determining that Milwaukee police had illegally, “maliciously,” and with “reckless disregard” for civil rights, strip and cavity searched him. Officer Stephanie Seitz, who is either forgetful or legally blind, told investigators she was unaware of these searches. The only problem is that the prosecutor’s office recovered a surveillance video in which Seitz “clearly observes” the anal search. They determined that she had had been “clearly untruthful” and committed perjury. But, she won’t be charged with anything. Because, what’s the big deal? I mean, lying, perjury, probing? They kind of cancel each other out, right?
4. Officer caught beating a suspect on video is suspended…two months later.
It only took the Baltimore, MD police commissioner two months to get around to suspending an officer who was caught on video beating up a suspect at a bus stop back in June. Officer Vincent E. Cosom claimed that Kollin Truss had assaulted his girlfriend and then assumed a position of attack. What makes this version of events so fascinating is that it is contradicted not only by Truss’s girlfriend but by videotape footage. Tuss doesn’t do anything more than get attacked. Officer Cosom not only punches Tuss several times, but does so while another officer restrains the alleged attacker (who didn’t actually attack anyone). Among the members of the community outraged that Cosom had continued to be on active duty for so long is Councilman Carl Stokes, who said the attack "looked unprovoked…. It seems apparent that the officer wrote a dishonest report…. The citizen wasn't in a fighting position…. The more proper thing would have been for the second officer to get between his colleague and this citizen, and say, 'Stop this. Don't do this. This is not what we do, no matter how angry we are.'"
The great news is that even while suspended, Cosum will continue to get paid.
5. Police department famous for police brutality hosts NRA-sponsored law enforcement shooting competition
In a way, it makes a lot of sense. I mean, why not host an NRA-sponsored law enforcement shooting competition in the very city famous for its shoot-first policing policies? Albuquerque is doing just that, hosting the NRA's National Police Shooting Championships, during which any and all law enforcement is allowed to shoot in "just one match or fire in all of the Championship match events."
So what makes Albuquerque such a great fit for this shoot-off tournament, which had its opening ceremony on Monday and will go until Saturday? If anything, the city is overqualified. Since 2009, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has been involved in 47 shootings, 23 of which were fatal. Lest you think Albuquerque just has a really high number of dangerous people who police were forced to kill in self-defense, a Justice Department review found that "the department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force during the course of arrests and other detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment."
6. Police commander and Renaissance man of brutality is finally indicted
On Thursday, Cook County, Chicago prosecutors announced the indictment of Chicago police commander Glenn Evans, who has been charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct. His attorney claims Evans, who is pleading not guilty, will “not only be exonerated but vindicated.” It will be interesting to see how exactly he’ll be vindicated, given that during his 28 years on the police force, he’s been suspended at least 11 times. Evans has been put on leave for behavior including “domestic altercations,” missing court appearances, and the excessive use of force. In one particularly charming incident, Evans is accused of forcibly removing a mother who was trying to visit her daughter in he hospital, slamming her against police cars, punching her and giving her a black eye. On another occasion, Evans responded to a man he suspected of having stolen something from his car trunk by handcuffing him to a porch rail and beating him with a gun, leaving him with a three-inch laceration of his head and a concussion. According to a report by a former chief epidemiologist, city agencies filed 45 excessive-force complaints against Evans between 1988 and 2008. An industrious abuser, Evans has continued to provoke complaints of excessive force and cost the city hundreds of thousands in federal lawsuits in the last few years. His most recent hits include allegedly putting his gun in a suspect’s mouth and a taser against his crotch, threatening to kill him. And yet Evans had received the staunch support of Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy.
7. Police threaten to brutalize man if he reports that they brutalized him
Now for some good news: a judge ruled that people aren’t at fault for not filing a lawsuit on time if the reason for the holdup is the threat of police brutality. Back in 2002, Chicago police officers entered the home of firefighter Robert Cook, threw him to the ground, and beat him over the course of an hour. They threatened that they would plant evidence on him and have him fired if he reported the abuse. When Cook did so anyway, the sergeant assigned to investigate the case called Cook a liar and, once again, threatened to have Cook fired if he pursued the complain. And, surprisingly enough, the allegations were deemed “unfounded.” Ultimately the same officers who brutalized Cook were arrested for, among other things, home invasion, armed violence, kidnapping and more. The officers did what any officers guilty of abuse and police brutality would do: attempt to block a civil rights lawsuit on the technicality that Cook didn’t file it on time. But U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman decided in favor of common sense rather than sociopathy, ruling that the lawsuit could move forward. "Threatening a victim of police brutally to ensure he does not reveal what transpired is clearly wrongful… When such threats are made with the clear intent to prevent a plaintiff from seeking redress for the underlying wrong, the threats constitute active steps distinct from that underlying wrong." The police shamelessly argued that if Cook had really feared for his life, he would have moved away. But Judge Gettleman wasn’t buying that excuse either: "If crooked cops threaten an individual's livelihood and safety, it is not clear that changing his address would offer much protection," Gettleman said. "Even if this were the case, it would be unjust and unreasonable to require that a victim of police misconduct uproot his life.”