Law enforcement officials have some of the most dangerous jobs in America. They often come in contact with potential criminals, and dangerous criminals at large. However, with the right amount of training, police officers have the skills to defuse potentially dangerous situations before they escalate, minimizing the harm to themselves, the suspect, and the general public. It’s a difficult, treacherous and often thankless job. Lethal force can not always be avoided even with highly trained professionals. USA Today reports that, according to recent reports by the FBI on justifiable homicides, a person was shot and killed nearly twice a week by police during a seven-year period up until 2012. The FBI report also notes that 96 of those involved in the 400 killings each year were black suspects. Eighteen percent of the black suspects killed were under the age of 21. However, the justifiable homicide reports submitted to the FBI and the database in which they are stored have seen considerable criticism…
Some have said the database is flawed because there’s rarely sufficient investigation into any of the incidents and there are no regular audits of the figures, therefore making them difficult to verify. Geoff Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina, said “the FBI’s limited database underscores a gaping hole in the nation’s understanding of how often local police take a life on America’s streets — and under what circumstances.”
There are also glaring and worrisome inequalities in the figures: Eighteen percent of people killed under the age of 21 are black while only eight percent of that group are white. This inequality is all the more concerning when we note that over 70% of the American population is white. These numbers may suggest, among other factors, that racial orientation influences the amount of force used by police officers, how it’s used, and when.
Numbers like this and the increasing use of public video-taking during arrests have drawn attention to the issue of police brutality. Of course, not all violence is unjustified: Crime is still rampant in the United States and dangerous criminals do exist. However, despite the severity of the crimes, the loss of life – and especially, young life – is never the ideal outcome. The following list reviews some of the youngest people to be shot and killed by police in the United States so far in 2014.
5. Drew Marian Spencer – 21
Drew Marian Spencer stole a truck in Hickory, North Carolina, before he was confronted by local police. Spencer drove a city truck into a convenience store parking lot and the officers recognized him as a man involved in a crime at a bar a few days prior. While being questioned, Spencer pulled out a handgun and pointed at the officers.
The officers began to fire on Spencer as soon as they saw the weapon. None of the officers were injured but Spencer was pronounced dead at the scene. According to the police, the truck was stolen from city employees. They also said that it was the second incidence of Spencer shooting at police within a two-week period. Spencer was 21-years old at the time of his death.
4. Jose Reyes-Torres – 20
Jose Reyes-Torres was suspected of committing a horrendous crime. In Folsom, California, he attacked his aunt and her infant baby during one normal afternoon. Tragically, he killed the infant in a fatal stabbing. The baby was his 6-month old cousin.
Police fired one fatal shot when they chased him down, but according to reports, he fought back for a time. He was taken to a nearby hospital only to be pronounced dead at around the same time as his infant victim. The police reported that when they located him he was in the process of finding other family members, presumably with intention to harm. The police also reported that it may have been Reyes-Torres’ intention to commit “cop-suicide” by provoking police. He was 20-years old at the time of his death.
3. Daquan Hendrix – 19
Daquan Hendrix was 19-years old when he was shot and killed in Washington D.C. by police. Hendrix was wanted for the murder of a 19-year old woman and was being pursued for arrest. He was considered armed and dangerous.
When law enforcement officials attempted to arrest Hendrix they discovered he was armed with a handgun. He opened fire on the officers from the back door of his home. In his pocket they found a note saying that Hendrix refused to go to jail and he rather go out “in a blaze of glory.” Although his family members disagreed with some of the events as reported by police, they declined to go on camera to give a public statement. Hendrix was accused of killing Tykia Dickerson about a week before D.C. law officials’ investigation tracked down Hendrix.
2. Michael Brown – 18
The shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has sparked massive public upheaval in the community, leading to riots and a nationwide debate about the nature of deadly force on black people in the United States.
As reported to CNN by Dorian Johnson, he and Brown were walking down the street when a male officer pulled up and demanded they get on the sidewalk. When they explained they were almost at their destination, the officer backed up to them with his car. Johnson then explained that the officer grabbed Brown by the neck and said he was going to shoot. In seconds, the officer fired a shot that struck Brown, and the two began running until the officer got out of his car and shot again, killing Brown. Johnson also told CNN that Brown explained to the officer that he was unarmed before he was finally killed.
The fact that Brown was unarmed and was not committing a crime has been disputed by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. He also claimed that Brown resisted arrest by trying to flee the car and that he assaulted the officer.
1. Villalpando Victor – 16
One Sunday morning in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Victor Villalpando made a 911 call that reported himself as “a suspicious person.” This was his third time making a call claiming he was armed with a weapon. At 10 a.m. two police officers received a call and rushed to the scene. Within one minute of encountering Villalpando, police fired one shot that hit him in the chest. Villalpando died from the wound a short time later in hospital.
According to police logs and first-hand account of the officers, Villalpando had a handgun in his waistband discovered when police performed a standard search. After Villalpando allegedly pointed the gun at the officer they took the ultimately fatal shot. Villalpando then pulled a knife and lunged at the officer until the knife was forcibly removed from his person. The 911 call log reports that although the “crazy kid” had a weapon, he did not appear to be threatening anyone. Inexplicably, according to at least one officer, Villalpando was okay one minute and acting “crazy” the next.
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