In 2016, 963 people were shot and killed by United States police officers. So if you don’t think there’s a problem with police brutality, you probably have your head buried in the sand. Police brutality is a problem not only in the United States of America, but around the world. Just very recently, Parisian citizens marched against the excessive use of force utilized by their own police force. Sadly, police brutality is a problem wherein those who have power can exercise it, and all too often, do exercise and abuse it.
Police brutality is a tragedy, a horror, a nightmare. But what makes it even worse is that many police brutality cases show just how much racial profiling and overt racism are still prevalent in our world. Sure, there are occasions when a white person is the victim of excessive force, but the targets of such terrifying acts are most commonly black citizens. Even scarier, many of these targets have done nothing wrong. Many of the people you will see on this list committed no offenses; they were assumed guilty for the color of their skin. This has to stop.
Don’t believe us? Or do you believe us, but you don’t think that “little ol you” can make a difference? Think again. It’s now the time for all of us to take action in defense of equality, justice, and unity. If you think it can wait, let us show you just how urgent the need for action is. Here are fifteen disturbing cases of police brutality from the United States alone:
15. Alton Sterling
Alton Sterling was killed by police officers in July of 2016. The thirty-seven-year-old black man was standing outside of a convenience store when police officers arrived, responding to a call about a man selling CDs. Yes, Alton was the man selling these CDs, and yes, Alton had a criminal record (that included violent crimes). Yes, Alton even had a gun in the back of his pants. The owner of the shop explained that Alton had just recently started carrying the gun for protection, as CD vendors had been a target for muggings in Baton Rouge. Police confronted Alton, and without much resistance or struggle from him, they tasered him to the ground where officers knelt on his thighs and chest to keep him down. Upon seeing the gun in the back of Alton’s pants, they yelled at him to not move — which is kind of hard for a man with two officers kneeling on him just after he’s had 50,000 volts of electricity tasered into him. One of the officers aimed point blank at Alton’s body and let loose six shots (a bit excessive for that range, don’t you think?). The store owner, one of the many bystanders who videoed the incident, reported, “He never wielded the gun or threatened the officers.”
14. Jasmine Darwin
In a North Carolina school, at the beginning of 2017, a young student was assaulted, and it was all caught on cell phone videos. Young Jasmine Darwin, a student at Rolesville High School, was absolutely an innocent party. In fact, she was trying to stop violence herself. She was trying to break up a fight between her sister and another student when the school resource officer (today’s term for a police officer that patrols high schools) assumed she was one of the perpetrators of the fight, grabbed her from behind, and slammed her to the ground. Jasmine hit the ground and was motionless, clearly stunned and possibly concussive. The officer then proceeded to pull her up from the ground and make her walk away. Officer Ruben De Los Santos, the officer who used such excessive force, was placed on paid administrative leave, but he has yet to face further consequences for his violence.
13. Christopher Harris
Christopher Sean Harris is another police brutality victim who did absolutely nothing wrong to merit the horrible violence exacted against him. He was simply walking outside of Seattle’s Cinerama Movie Theatre when a police officer mistook him for a suspect and acted irrationally. He charged into Sean and pushed him back with all his might into the exterior wall of the cinema, where Sean seemed to land on his head and upper spine. The horrible mistake caused irreparable brain injury, one that isolated Christopher to a bed for the succeeding years. Though his wife and family stood by him through the trying times, he was never again the man he used to be. Six years after the attack, Christopher died from complications caused by the attack. Police officers connected with the violent officer responded by saying, “Sometimes bad things happen to good people,” completely shirking accountability for his death.
12. Gregory Gunn
Early in 2016, Gregory Gunn was brutally murdered by a police officer. He was tasered three times, beaten with a police baton, and shot five times (though the officer actually shot off seven rounds) in front of a neighbor’s home. What was Gregory’s crime to merit such use of force? Gregory was walking in his own neighborhood late at night, and, when the officer confronted him, Gregory ran. Instead of chasing him or initiating pursuit in his vehicle, he killed him. Conveniently, the officer’s body and dash cams were both off, and he was patrolling alone at the time. You may ask yourself, dear reader, why Gregory ran? Have the above examples of police brutality not given you reason enough? We’ve engendered hatred into our police force and fear into those they target, profile, and confront. Police are no longer “here to help” the Black community. Who wouldn’t run from someone supposedly authorized to use deadly force without provocation?
11. Robert Davis
Robert Davis, a retired elementary school teacher in New Orleans, had left his home when the threat of Katrina loomed over his city. He returned in 2005 to check on his family’s property. On his way to buy a pack of cigarettes, he was stopped by multiple police officers and taken down for public intoxication — though he was not at all drunk. In fact, he was twenty-five years sober. He was repeatedly punched in the head by all of the officers, an act which is specifically and expressly forbidden in New Orleans. Furthermore, an Associated Press journalist videoed the incident, and one of the officers grabbed him, screamed at him to turn off the camera, and shoved him against a car. The three officers were released on bonds and had no comment. Meanwhile, Robert Davis left New Orleans with stitches beneath his left eye, a bandage on his left hand, aches in his back, and shoulders that even time couldn’t heal.
10. Sebastian Prevot
If New Orleans is one of the most notorious cities for police brutality, Houston must be quick on its heels. Sebastian Prevot can attest to this, for after spending a late night out with a friend, a cop car began to follow him on his way home. He knew he ought to have pulled over, but he was genuinely afraid of what the officers would do to him, so he kept driving so that he could make it to a well-lit and populated area. Once he made it home, approximately ten cars had converged around him. He exited the car with hands up, clearly surrendering. Officers had guns drawn on him as they approached, but holstered them and attacked him physically without resistance or provocation. By the time he was thrown in the back of a cop car, he was dripping blood, and half of his left ear was dangling from the side of his head.
9. Philando Castile
A Minnesotan police officer shot and killed Philando Castile when he was pulled over. Philando was driving a car with his girlfriend and her daughter inside. He was asked for his license and registration, and Philando turned them over, but he also wanted to get ahead of the problems he could face in the encounter with the officers. He notified them that he had a concealed carry license, and that he was carrying a gun with him at the moment, in order to reassure them that he was no threat to them. When reaching for his ID to prove what he was saying, an officer who thought Castle was reaching for his gun panicked. The officer drew his gun and immediately fired on Philando seven times, causing him to bleed out. Coroners reported he died about twenty minutes after being shot. Thankfully, justice was served (kind of) on this occasion, as the officer in question was charged with three felonies: second degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. Ya think?
8. Rodney King
Here’s a case you all should know. If you don’t know about Rodney King and all of the response to the brutality exacted upon him, prepare for a history lesson. This story is one of the true beginnings of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
This taxi driver in Los Angeles was being pursued by cop cars and refused to pull over. Why? He’d had a few drinks and was afraid of being arrested for driving while intoxicated, even though by the time he was taken in, his blood alcohol levels were within legal limits. Once stopped, Rodney’s two companions in the car got on the ground. There, they were beaten, kicked, stomped, threatened, and manhandled. But Rodney remained in the car out of fear. When he finally emerged, he was attacked by the four officers in a brutal beating — all of which was caught on video by a bystander in his apartment balcony. When officers didn’t face consequences for their violent actions, the iconic Los Angeles riots of 1992 occurred, with attendees demanding justice and equal treatment for the Black community.
7. Angela Garbarino
Angie Garbarino was taken in under reports of driving while intoxicated. She was very argumentative, as any person would be if they felt they hadn’t done anything wrong. She insisted to the officer that was interviewing her that she be allowed to make a phone call. Wylie Willis tried to keep his distance, initially, but she opened the door to the interview room and tried to leave. He then grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the room as she yelled at him, “You can’t not let me call somebody,” — a reasonable demand for a woman with a family. But Willis just pulled her back into the room and restrained her hands behind her back as he forced her into a chair as she screamed, “Get away from me.” In the recording of the interview, you can hear (though not see) him slam her into a wall. When she reenters the shot, her lips are bloodied. Seconds later, the camera is turned off, though a secondary camera with audio just outside the room was on. You can hear (though not see) quite a struggle, which was much more than the officer claimed to have happened. In fact, he insisted she had just slipped and fallen. When the camera is turned back on, Angela is lying on the floor in the center of the room practically motionless, entirely beaten, and in a pool of her own blood.
6. Oscar Grant
In Oakland, California, back in 2009, just after the great New Year’s Eve celebration, Oscar Grant was shot and killed. Responding to reports of a fight on one of the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains, police detained Oscar and several other passengers. Oscar was pinned to the ground of the platform so quickly that his hand was caught beneath him. The officer, frustrated at his inability to get Oscar’s other hand out from under him, drew his gun and promptly shot him once in the back. The entire incident was caught on video by both official police cameras and civilian sources. Oscar died the next morning. The officer claimed he thought he was tasering Oscar, but we have to believe that the officer was trained long enough to know the difference between the feel of his taser and his gun. The officer was charged only with involuntary manslaughter, and, as a result, protests, marches, and riots ensued, demanding justice for Oscar Grant.
5. Amadou Diallo
Amadou Diallo was a twenty-three-year old immigrant from Guinea, someone who came to the United States in search of opportunity and all the great things this country claims to offer. He was killed by four New York City street-crime police officers in 1999. The four officers claimed that Diallo fit the description of a serial rapist or that he may have been a lookout — two very inexplicably different reasons for apprehending the young man. Diallo ran inside as the officers came towards him, ignoring the police’s warnings. He drew his wallet from his pocket while just inside the door, and through his view of a fuzzy silhouette behind paned glass, an officer thought Diallo was drawing a gun. The four officers opened fire and released a total of forty-one shots at the young man (though only nineteen actually hit him). Diallo had no weapons on his person. It was discovered he was actually a small-business owner just afraid of how police treated people of his color in the United States.
Don’t be mistaken; we’re not talking about an incident of police brutality in Africa. No, unfortunately this incident occurred right here within our borders. On Skid Row, there was a homeless man that, like many others in the homeless community, seemed nameless. But anyone that knew him called him “Africa.” He was killed by Los Angeles police in March of 2015. He was confronted and tried to argue with the officers. When they obviously overpowered him, him being outnumbered and all, he tried to jump back into his tent. Maybe he thought he was safe there, or maybe he thought they’d go away — he’d been to a mental institution, reportedly, as many of America’s homeless have been. But officers fired after him six times and killed him in the streets despite him having little to nothing to incite their confrontation in the first place.
3. Dakota Access
There are actually so many cases of police brutality and use of excessive force when it comes to the protests on the Dakota Pipeline, it’s hard to choose just one or a few cases to discuss here. Protests at Standing Rock have been primarily, if not entirely, peaceful. Yet, police and authority officers have been exercising unnecessary amounts of force. On one occasion back in November of 2016, demonstrators were getting more aggressive as their calls for preservation of the land were being ignored. They tried to cross police lines and lit bonfires. How did police respond? By firing rubber bullets into the crowd, by firing tear gas on the young revolutionaries, by shooting powerful hoses of water at them, thus bruising and battering them from afar. Many protesters were hospitalized for the brutalities against them, yet no police officer was ever harmed or threatened throughout the entirety of the process.
2. Eric Garner
Eric Garner was a wizened New Yorker. He had seen and heard all of the terrifying stories of police brutality, and he knew that, as a Black man, he was not at all safe in the hands of police officers. Eric was pursued by police officers for selling cigarettes individually — a minor crime, all things considered. When one of the officers moved to put Eric’s hands behind his back, Eric resisted (as almost anyone would). The officer then put Eric in a chokehold and wrestled him to the ground. As four officers restrained him, Eric repeated over and over, eleven times to be exact, “I can’t breathe.” He was ignored. By the time officers released their grip, Eric was unconscious and not breathing. CPR was not performed. Instead, the officers waited for an ambulance to arrive, which was, of course, far too late to save him.
1. Dymond Milburn
It’s hard to find a “most horrific case” of police brutality. They are all horrific and saddening and terrible. But Dymond Milburn’s case is one that should be spoken of more often as she was simply a twelve-year-old girl when she was abused and arrested, and she had done absolutely nothing wrong.
Dymond’s mother sent her outside to flip a circuit on the breaker as she was preparing her kids for school. The twelve-year-old then headed outside and was immediately accosted by a police officer in a blue van. He yelled, “You’re a prostitute. You’re coming with me.” Panicked and confused, she grabbed on to a tree and yelled for her dad. The officer grabbed her, covering her mouth to muffle her screams, and beat her about the face and mouth. Apparently, this officer and his companions were about to respond to a call about Caucasian prostitutes who were soliciting two blocks away, but they assumed they’d made it to their destination when they saw young Dymond. Of course, she resisted arrest; she’d done nothing wrong, and she was a scared young girl, literally being dragged from her family into a van. She was released from custody when police realized the honors student was not, in fact, a prostitute. However, shortly after, police came to her school and arrested her during classes for resisting arrest (totally unjustified!) and assaulting a public servant. What the hell? This child was TWELVE YEARS OLD!