Adding to yesterday’s post, there are a few more more police-involved deaths in the news this week:
Johnathan Sanders, a black, unarmed Mississippi man was choked to death by a police officer last week. Witnesses say Officer Kevin Harrington used a racial slur before chasing Sanders down and putting him in a chokehold for about 20 minutes. He also brushed off a witness who tried to administer CPR. According to the Guardian, local district attorney Bilbo Mitchell boasted at a Town Hall meeting this week that no police officer had ever been indicted under his watch.
In Denver, witnesses and surveillance video are contradicting the initial claims Denver police made after killing Paul Castaway. The police said Castaway stabbed his mother with a knife, then charged at the police officers with the same weapon. But a local reporter who viewed a surveillance video says it appears to contradict the claim that Castaway charged at the officers. A neighbor then told local media that Castaway’s mother was never stabbed. Castaway’s mother says her never threatened her, either. She also said he was schizophrenic, depressed, and she called the police because she feared for his safety. According to local reporter Tammy Vigil, the surveillance video shows Castaway holding the knife to his own throat when the police shoot him.
The family of Chicago resident Sandra Bland is expressing doubt about the official explanation of her death in a Texas jail cell last week. Local authorities say Bland hung herself in the cell. She had been pulled over for improperly signaling before a lane change. The traffic stop somehow escalated to the point in the video at the link, where two officers are on top of her as she lies face-down on the side of the road. This story is still fresh, but there are lots of questions here, like how a traffic stop for an improper lane change escalates to that kind of force. Bland’s family is understandably skeptical of the suicide claim, given that the reason she was in Texas in the first place was to begin a new job. Over the years, there have been dozens of similar cases in which people arrested for relatively minor offenses were later found hanging in their jail cells. Many had no prior history of mental illness. Subsequent investigations have inevitably confirmed the deaths as suicides. But that should only raise more questions: Suicide isn’t a sane reaction to an arrest over a traffic offense. Why does this happen? What sort of conditions must these jails be in that people facing only minor charges see no other option but to take their own lives?
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