Police brutality is an epidemic in the United States. Unfortunately, its victims are typically young men of color. In 2017, a staggering 1,129 people were shot dead by police officers. To put its scale into context, that’s more than the number of US soldiers killed in action last year.
This violence stems from a number of factors, but perhaps the most shocking fact of all is that it is completely legal for officers in the US to use deadly force if they perceive any kind of threat from an individual, and this has led to the deaths of countless innocent people.
The video below provides a shocking insight into police brutality:
These deaths have inspired rallies and protests around the country, however, few of them have led to the officers in question being charged with murder. In an attempt to shed light on this problem, journalist Shirin Barghi compiled a poignant list of victims’ last words.
1. Christian Taylor
Officers were called when Taylor was caught robbing a car dealership. Despite being unarmed at the time, the African American man was shot dead by Arlington PD officer Brad Miller, who was later cleared of any wrongdoing in court. Taylor was shot four times in the dealership.
2. Freddie Gray
Arrested while in possession of a suspected illegal knife, Freddie Gray was an African American man who died in police custody. He fell into a coma while being transported in a police van, and it is believed that undue brutality was used against him. The officers involved were not charged.
3. Kendrec McDade
Shot for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Kendrec McDade’s mother had previously warned him that he could be singled out by authorities for being an African American man. Even though he had committed no crime, the officers involved were never charged.
The Police Violence Report states:
“Black people were more likely to be killed by police, more likely to be unarmed and less likely to be threatening someone when killed.”
The last words in this list were spoken either just after the victim was shot, at the time of the event, or even on social media before they were killed. They provide a haunting insight into the minds of those whose lives were tragically cut short for no good reason.
4. Trayvon Martin
At the age of just 17, African American man Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a neighborhood watch coordinator during a physical altercation. Like the other men on this list, he was unarmed, and the man who murdered him was not charged on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
5. Lavon King
After entering an unlocked shed, Lavon King was shot dead by two police officers. He too was an African American man. The officer who shot him, Kenneth Bowes, had previously had at least twenty Use of Force reports filed against him.
6. Kajieme Powell
Mentally ill African American man Kajieme Powell was shot dead after a petty theft where he was carrying a knife and acting erratically. Twenty-three seconds after they arrived at the scene, he was shot dead by officers after he came towards them. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Police brutality on this scale is a problem unique to the US. In other developed countries like the United Kingdom and Germany, a comparatively tiny number of people are killed by officers, and, in some years, no one at all is killed by them.
7. John Crawford
After picking up a toy BB gun in a Walmart store, another customer, Ronald Ritchie, called the cops of African American man John Crawford. Ritchie claimed Crawford was threatening people with the gun, but this was later disproven. He was shot dead when officers arrived.
8. Michael Brown
Robbery suspect Michael Brown, once again an African American man, was fatally shot close to the store he stole a box of cigars from. After getting into an altercation with officers at the scene, he was shot at least six times and died on the street.
9. Eric Garner
Unlike most of the victims on this list thus far, African American man Eric Garner was not shot. Instead, he died while being held in a headlock or chokeholds by police officers when he was being arrested. The latter of which was illegal. This action led to his death. Although the officer in question denied choking him, Garner was medically declared to have died from choking and his death was ruled as a homicide. His family was later paid an out-of-court settlement fee of $5.9 million by the state of New York.
As this list proves, there is a huge racial disparity when it comes to police brutality and race. Black people make up just 13% of the population in the US, but they make up 52% of all those killed by police, and 49% of the number who are killed without attacking.
10. Kenneth Chamberlain
When Kenneth Chamberlain, a retired African American, accidentally triggered his medical alert necklace, cops arrived at his home, and when he told them that he wasn’t in need of assistance they broke into his house and tasered him before shooting him dead. The officers involved had no criminal charges brought against them after claiming Chamberlain approached them with a knife when they entered his home.
11. Kimani Gray
Police claimed that that 16-year-old Kimani Gray pointed a gun at them so they shot him dead on the spot. His family, however, have said that he did not own a gun and was simply adjusting his belt when he was shot, although a weapon was recovered at the scene.
12. Amadou Diallo
Guinea immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot dead after police mistook him for a rape suspect. They fired a combined total of 41 shots at the 23-year-old. Diallo was completely unarmed at the time of his death, which incited outrage in New York where it took place. The officers who shot Diallo were said to have acted within policy.
These haunting last words are a testament to the fact that radical change is required in the US police force. While the majority of officers who have killed people without just cause face no repercussions of their actions, we can only hope that their actions weigh heavily on their consciences for the rest of their lives.