News & Politics

New Report Finds That 44 Percent of All Georgians Killed by Police Were Unarmed or Shot in the Back

The study also illustrates the fact that people with mental illnesses are more likely to die at the hands of police than other people.

Maurice Hampton was shot and killed while running from Atlanta police in 2011.
Photo Credit: WSBTV screenshot

A new report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reveals that, since 2010, 81 of 184 officer-involved deaths in Georgia have involved either unarmed victims, or victims who were shot in the back. This report delves into the startling statistics around police shootings in Georgia. Some key findings:

  • About one in six people fatally shot were unarmed. Of those 31 cases, 17 people were black and 14 were white. That represented 19 percent of all black shootings and 16 percent of all white shootings.

  • In 18 cases, the person killed was shot solely in the back of their torso, neck, head or buttocks. In 52 other cases, they were shot in the backside, but also suffered wounds in other parts of the body.

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  • In at least 11 fatal police shooting cases since 2010, the person shot by police was both unarmed and shot in the back. Seven people killed in this manner were black, four were white.

  • At least one in four of those killed by police had shown some signs of mental illness before the fatal encounter. About one in three whites fell into that category, compared to about one in five blacks. About 16 percent killed were veterans, but that figure could be higher because service records could not be determined for every death.

  • Black citizens killed tended to be younger, with a median age of 29, while white citizens tended to be older, with a median age of 41. Only 9 of the 184 killed were women.

  • At least 20 officers involved in fatal shootings had serious prior issues documented in their records. Four had previously been fired or resigned in lieu of termination from a previous police job in Georgia. Officers in two other shootings had been disciplined for lying. And two officers had failed to complete state-mandated annual use-of-force training to maintain their powers of arrest at the time they fatally shot someone.

The report also illustrates the fact that people with mental illnesses are more likely to die at the hands of police than other people, and also the fact that officers with serious disciplinary issues are likely to continue campaigns of brutality. These data of course don’t tell us much more than we already knew, but they are useful in policy discussions and in efforts to hold police accountable.