The grim list of deaths from police hands grows, even after a verdict

Just as the guilty verdict was about to be read in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Ohio police shot and killed a black teen in broad daylight during a confrontation.

The shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who slung a knife during a fight with another person in Columbus, is in some ways more representative of how blacks and other colored people are killed in police encounters than the death of George Floyd., tied to the ground by Chauvin and videotaped for the whole world to see.

Unlike Chauvin’s case, many murders by the police involve a decision to shoot at a heated moment and are notoriously difficult to prosecute, even if they cause grief and outrage. Juries tend to give officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim to have acted in a life or death situation.

While Tuesday’s sentencing has been hailed as a sign of progress in the fight for equal justice, it still leaves unanswered tough questions about law enforcement’s use of force and systemic racism in the police. The verdict in the Chauvin case may not be repeated anytime soon, even as the list of people killed by police grows.

“This was something unique. The world has seen what has happened, ”said Salt Lake County district attorney Sim Gill, who has investigated more than 100 cases of violence there. To have video, witnesses, forensic evidence and multiple police officers testifying against one of them is unique and “shows just how high the bar needs to be to actually give that kind of accountability,” he said.

Convictions like Chauvin’s are extremely rare. Of the thousands of deadly shootings by police in the US since 2005, about 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter and only seven have been convicted of murder, according to data from Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University.

“This is a success, but there are so many more unjust murders that have yet to be weighed, that we have yet to tackle,” said Princess Blanding, a Virginia candidate whose brother was murdered by a Richmond police officer. Marcus-David Peters, who was black, was fatally shot by a black officer during a mental health crisis after running naked onto a highway and attacking the officer.

In Columbus, Bryant had wielded a knife wildly to another girl or woman who was pressed against a car when the officer shot after yelling at the girl to come down, according to police and the camera video released within hours of the shooting. The mayor mourned the teenager’s death, but said the officer acted to protect someone else.

Kimberly Shepherd, who lives near where Bryant was murdered, had celebrated the guilty verdict of Floyd’s murder when she heard the news about the teenager.

“We were happy with the verdict. But you couldn’t even enjoy that, ”Shepherd said. “Because you get the one call he owed, I get the next call that this is happening in my area.”

In Chauvin’s case, on the other hand, cell phone video seen around the world showed the white officer pressing his knee against the black man’s neck for more than nine minutes while Floyd gasped. It sparked protests in the US, and Chauvin’s colleagues took the extraordinary step of testifying against him.

“Looking at future persecution, the question will be, is this perhaps the beginning of a new era, in which those walls of silence are not impenetrable?” said Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor and executive director of the reformist group Fair and Just Prosecution. Chauvin’s case could also make future juries more skeptical of the police, she said.

The day after Bryant was fatally shot, at least two other people were also killed by police in the United States.

Wednesday morning, a deputy sheriff was fatally shot a black man while serving a search warrant in eastern North Carolina. Authorities declined to provide details of the shooting, but an eyewitness said Andrew Brown Jr. was shot while trying to drive away, and deputies shot him multiple times. And in San Diego’s suburb of Escondido, police said an officer fatally shot a man who apparently hit cars with a metal pole.

A funeral will be held for Daunte Wright on Thursday, a 20-year-old black motorist who was gunned down this month during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, just a few miles from the courthouse when Chauvin’s trial took place. Last month, 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot dead in Chicago in less than a second after throwing a gun and starting to raise his hands as ordered by an officer.

White police officer Kim Potter has been charged with second-degree murder in Wright’s shooting. The former police chief said Potter accidentally fired her gun when she tried to use her Taser. She then resigned from the police force and was charged with second degree manslaughter. Wright’s family has called for more serious charges, comparing her case to the murder charge of a black officer who murdered a white woman in nearby Minneapolis in 2017.

Cook’s state prosecutor will decide whether to sue Eric Stillman, the white prosecutor who shot Toledo on March 29 in Little Village, a predominantly Spanish neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. The boy, who was Latino, appeared to drop a handgun just before the officer shot him. The graphic video of the boy’s death caused outrage, but some legal experts have said they do not believe that Stillman can or should be charged based on criteria established by a historic 1989 Supreme Court ruling on the use of force by the police.

Rather than just prosecuting officers after shootings occur, more needs to be done to prevent such encounters from happening at all, said Eugene Collins, who was a local organizer for the NAACP’s branch office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when Alton Sterling, a black man who sold CDs for a convenience store, was shot and murdered in July 2016 by a white police officer. The two officers involved in the meeting were not charged with his death.

“We are being stopped, stopped and searched more,” said Collins, now head of the NAACP office. “It’s about putting the responsibility with the policymakers.”

Activists say the fight for police reform and a fairer justice system is far from over.

Rachael Rollins, the first woman of color to become a Massachusetts prosecutor, said it must begin, in part, by breaking the misconception that questioning the police or suggesting ways they can improve means, “You don’t get behind. the blue”.

“The police have an incredibly tough job, and believe me, I know there are violent people who harm the community and the police, but not all of us are. So we have to recognize that it is not working and that we have to sit down together to come up with solutions, but it is urgent, ”said Rollins, the Suffolk County district attorney, which includes Boston.

“I’m scared, I’m exhausted and I’m the chief law enforcement officer, so just imagine how other people feel,” she said.


Associated Press reporters Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans contributed to this report, as did Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio, a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national nonprofit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues.


Find AP’s full coverage of George Floyd’s death at:


This story has been corrected to show that the Salt Lake County district attorney’s first name is Sim, not Sam, and that it is the Cook State Attorney’s Office, not the District Attorney’s Office.