By Simon McCormack
The Huffington Post, 12/29/14 — Has the country reached a tipping point?
The killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and John Crawford III, among others, by police officers this year focused national attention on race, police violence and the apparent unwillingness of grand juries to indict those who carry a badge.
The incidents spurred research that found black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. And recent reports have found an accurate count of all police killings is nearly impossible because of the way records are kept.
As the year ends, mass protests against the killings continue continue, undeterred by claims that protesters have blood on their hands.
What follows are some of the most well-known and controversial instances of officers using deadly force in 2014.
On Aug. 9, the unarmed 18-year-old was shot dead by Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson. Wilson claimed he shot Brown as the teen ran at him after the two fought over his gun. But multiple witnesses, including the majority of those heard by a grand jury, said Brown did not run toward the officer. Many said Brown had his hands up when he was shot and killed. On Nov. 24, a grand jury voted not to indict Wilson, setting off protests across America.
New York City police suspected Eric Garner of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on July 17. In an attempt to place him under arrest, officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in what New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton described as a chokehold, a move banned by the department. Garner can be seen in a video of the incident saying he can’t breathe as Pantaleo holds him. He is later pronounced dead at a hospital. A Staten Island grand jury voted on Dec. 2 not to indict Pantaleo, setting off another wave of national protests.
On Nov. 22, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by police in Cleveland who were responding to reports of someone with a gun. The weapon he had in his hand was a pellet gun. Rice died a day later in the hospital. Video footage released by police showed that Timothy Loehmann, the officer who killed Rice, shot him within two seconds of exiting his car.
On Nov. 20, 28-year-old Akai Gurley exited his girlfriend’s apartment in a Brooklyn, New York, public housing building. He started going down a dark stairwell that had a broken light. Rookie New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang, who had his gun drawn as he patrolled the stairwell, shot and killed Gurley. Police said the shooting was accidental. The New York Daily News reported that, instead of calling an ambulance, Liang texted his union representative after he shot Gurley. A grand jury will determine whether Liang faces charges.
John Crawford III
On Aug. 5, 22-year-old John Crawford III was shot and killed by police inside a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart. Crawford was carrying an air rifle that he had picked up inside the store. Cops were called to investigate a man waving what could be a firearm. Police said Crawford refused to put down the gun and turned toward them in a threatening way. But lawyers representing Crawford’s family say the officers were reckless and negligent. A grand jury voted not to indict either of the officers involved in the killing.
On Aug. 11, Los Angeles police conducted “an investigative stop” and interrogated unarmed 25-year-old Ezell Ford. At some point, Ford was shot and killed. An LAPD statement on the killing said, “During the stop a struggle ensued, which resulted in an officer-involved-shooting.” But witnesses told The Huffington Post that police shouted, “Shoot him,” moments before three bullets hit Ford, who was on the ground. The case remains under investigation.
Samantha Ramsey was killed as she tried to drive away from a party on April 26 in Boone County, Kentucky. Boone County deputy Tyler Brockman said he shot Ramsey after she ran over his foot and forced him onto the hood of her car. He said he feared for his life and the lives of others when he opened fire. But witnesses said Brockman jumped onto the hood of her car and killed her unnecessarily. In November, a grand jury voted not to indict Brockman.