Tag Archives: unarmed

Officer convicted in killing of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards — a rare outcome in police shootings

A former police officer in Texas has been found guilty of murder in the high-profile shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards — a rare victory for civil rights activists seeking justice for the dozens of unarmed African American men and boys who have been killed by police officers in recent years.

As Judge Brandon Birmingham read the verdict Tuesday against Roy Oliver, who worked in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs, sobs came from the gallery of the packed courtroom. The last time an on-duty police officer in Dallas County was convicted of murder was in 1973. Oliver could be sentenced to life in prison.

“I’m just so thankful,” Jordan’s father, Odell Edwards, told reporters. “Thankful, thankful.”

Daryl Washington, an attorney representing the family, said the verdict meant more than justice for Jordan.

“It’s about Tamir Rice. It’s about Walter Scott. It’s about Alton Sterling,” he said, naming victims of police shootings in recent years. “It’s about every, every African American, unarmed African American, who has been killed and who has not gotten justice.”

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted a link to a news story about the conviction, saying that Jordan’s “life should never have been lost.”

On the night of April 29, 2017, Oliver fired an MC5 rifle into a Chevrolet Impala carrying Jordan and two of his brothers as it pulled away from a high school house party. Jordan, who was struck in the head, died later at a hospital.

Police initially said the vehicle had backed up toward Oliver “in an aggressive manner,” but body camera video showed the car was moving away from him and his partner. Days after the shooting, Oliver, who had served in the department for six years, was fired.

Jordan’s stepbrother, Vidal Allen, was driving the car the night of the shooting.

“I was very scared,” Allen testified. “I just wanted to get home and get everyone safe.”

Oliver, 38, has said he feared for his life and his partner’s safety.

“I had to make a decision. This car is about to hit my partner,” Oliver testified in the trial. “I had no other option.”

After a weeklong trial, it took the jury one day to reach a verdict.

Jordan’s death echoes other police shootings involving black boys and men. But no convictions were handed down in most of those cases.

In November 2014, Cleveland police got a 911 call about someone brandishing a pistol near a park — the weapon, the caller said, was “probably fake.” But in an incident captured on camera, a police cruiser pulled into the park and Officer Timothy Loehmann jumped out and opened fire. Within seconds, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had a toy gun, was dead.

Even before Tamir’s death, the U.S. Department of Justice had been investigating the Cleveland Police Department. A month after his shooting, it released a report saying Cleveland police displayed a pattern of using unnecessary force.

A year later, a grand jury decided not to indict Loehmann in Tamir’s death, saying he had reason to fear for his life.

In September 2016, in Columbus, Ohio, police shot and killed Tyre King, 13, who was carrying a BB gun while running from police. A grand jury declined to file criminal charges against the officer who killed him.

And in May 2017, an Oklahoma jury acquitted an officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher, 40, as he stood with his hands above his head along a rural highway.

Those cases and others illustrate the difficulty of convicting police officers. The law in most places gives them the benefit of the doubt.

Prosecutors usually must show that an officer knowingly and intentionally killed without justification or provocation. A fear of harm has been successfully used as the justification for many shootings, even when the victim turned out to be unarmed.

The most recent case that ended in a conviction came last year when Michael Slager, a former officer in North Charleston, S.C., was first tried on murder charges in the April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was stopped for a driving with a broken taillight. But after those proceedings ended in a mistrial, Slager pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The last Dallas County police officer convicted for murder while on duty was Darrell Cain, who shot and killed 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez after forcing him to endure a version of Russian roulette while handcuffed inside a patrol car.

There was no immediate reaction to Thursday’s verdict from local or national police groups.

John Fullinwider, a longtime Dallas activist and co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, said Oliver’s conviction came as a surprise.

“I expected to see an angel fly over City Hall before I saw this murder conviction,” he said. “This is a victory, but we really need independent federal prosecutors in all fatal police shootings.”

Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney who represents the Edwards family, said the conviction was justice for the country.

“We’ve seen time and time again, no charges, let alone convictions, in these high-profile shootings,” he said. “It is my hope that this is a turning point in the fight against police brutality against blacks.”


Stephon Clark Private Autopsy Results Revealed: 7 Gunshot Wounds in the Back

The findings of an independent autopsy commissioned by the family of Stephon Clark reveal that he was struck by a total of eight bullets, with up to seven of them hitting him in the back by the Sacramento police officers who fired on him earlier this month.

When officers responding to reports of break-ins in the Meadowview neighborhood came upon Clark, he was standing in the yard of his grandmother’s house. Moments prior, the 22-year-old was spotted running and hopping fences to the spot where he was located. Without much warning, the cops fired more than 20 shots and waited more than two minutes before beginning to engage an unresponsive Clark from afar. Dr. Omalu estimates that the unarmed suspect died between 3 and 10 minutes after he was struck.

Clark was shot once under the armpit, once in the leg, twice in the neck, and four times in his lower back. The examiner found that he suffered a shattered vertebrae and a collapsed lung.

“These findings from the independent autopsy contradict the police narrative that we’ve been told,” family attorney Benjamin Crump said of the results. “This independent autopsy affirms that Stephon was not a threat to police and was slain in another senseless police killing under increasingly questionable circumstances.”


Charlotte shooting: State of emergency amid protests

North Carolina’s governor has declared a state of emergency in the city of Charlotte, after violence erupted during a second night of protests over the police killing of a black man.

Keith Lamont Scott was shot dead by a black officer on Tuesday.


One protester remains in a critical condition after a “civilian on civilian” shooting, police said.

Nine protesters were also injured while police arrested 44 people, according to the police chief.

Protests Break Out In Charlotte After Police Shooting

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said charges included looting, failure to disperse and assault.

Five officers also required medical care, including two for minor eye injuries, he added.

Police officers wearing riot gear block a road during protests after police fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Adam Rhew/Charlotte Magazine
Police officers wearing riot gear block a road during protests after police fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Adam Rhew/Charlotte Magazine

Mr Scott was the third black man killed by US police in a week. Such shootings have sparked nationwide protests.



Akai Gurley $4 million Settlement

In a case that frustrated two major American minority groups, the family of Akai Gurley, a black man fatally shot by a New York City police officer, will receive more than $4 million in compensation.


In 2014 Akai Gurley was struck and killed by a bullet that had ricocheted off of a wall in the stairwell of his public housing building. On Tuesday, Mr. Gurely’s family reportedly agreed to more than $4 million in the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit with New York City.

But is this settlement – and others like it by American police departments – likely to change police behavior?


In January 2015, New York City paid $3.9 million to the family of Bronx teen Ramarley Graham, who was shot inside his home on in 2012 after being chased by an officer who thought he had a gun, reports the New York York Daily News.

Six months later, the city paid $5.9 million to the estate of Eric Garner — who died after an undercover cop put him in an illegal chokehold in July 2014.


 In September 2015, the city of Baltimore paid the family of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody, $6.4 million in the settlement of wrongful death suit.


Some police departments have implemented reforms in the wake of such large settlements, but the recent trend suggests that message often might not be getting through.

“The idea is that these large settlements could deter widespread police misconduct,” Kami Chavis-Simmons, a former assistant United States attorney who now directs the criminal justice program at the Wake Forest University School of Law, told The Christian Science Monitor after the Freddie Gray settlement.  But the proverbial jury is still out as to whether such settlements are effectively curbing police-related deaths.


The bullet that killed Gurley had been fired from the New York Police Department standard-issue 9mm Glock pistol in the hands of Chinese-American police officer Peter Liang. For many Gurley’s death was another unjustified example of the killing of an African-American man by a police officer. Mr. Liang claimed he had been startled and flinched, causing a reaction that would ultimately end the life of another man and alter the path of his own life.

“My life is forever changed,” Liang said in his trial. “I hope you give me a chance to rebuild it.”

The subsequent trial was marked by frustration from both African-American and Asian-American protestors, many of whom stood outside the courtroom with Black Lives Matter signs written in English and Chinese.


Mr. Liang’s initial conviction of manslaughter angered some Asian-Americans, who saw him as a scapegoat in an attempt to pacify the ever-increasing tension over the killing of black men by police officers across the country. For many of the Black Lives Matter protestors, his conviction was finally a victory after a stream of acquittals over police-caused deaths.

That conviction led to the largest scale activism by Asian-Americans since the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Protesters wondered why Mr. Liang was put on trial when a number of white officers had not been charged in other police-related killings. They asked whether the New York Police Department was supporting Liang – an officer only one year out of the academy – sufficiently, as compared to other non-Asian officers in similar situations. His trial came in the wake of grand juries deciding not to convict the officers involved in the killing of fellow-New York City-resident Eric Garner, or of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.


“For 150 years, there’s been a common phrase in America: ‘Not a Chinaman’s chance,’ which means if you’re Chinese in America, there’s no hope for you,” said former NYC comptroller John Liu in an address to a crowd of protestors outside the trial, as reported by Gothamist.

When Liang’s conviction was downgraded from manslaughter and he was sentenced to five years of probation and 800 hours of community service, Mr. Gurley’s family was furious.

“When you stole Akai’s life, you stole mine as well,” Melissa Butler, Gurley’s girlfriend told Liang at the trial.


Now in a recently announced settlement, New York City will pay $4.1 million, with the New York City Housing Authority providing an additional $400,000 and Mr. Liang himself paying $25,000 to Gurley’s daughter, who will receive the money in structured payments once she reaches 18 years of age.

Scott Rynecki, who represents Mr. Gurley’s domestic partner, Kimberly Ballinger, and their 4-year-old daughter, Akaila Gurley, said of the settlement that Ms. Ballinger “looks forward to raising Akaila to be a productive member of society and someone Akai will be proud of,” according to The New York Times.