Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thousands dead, few prosecuted

Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005, only 54 officers have been charged, a Post analysis found. Most were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved.

Story by Kimberly Kindy, Kimbriell Kelly, WashPost
Published on April 11, 2015

On a rainy night five years ago, Officer Coleman “Duke” Brackney set off in pursuit of a suspected drunk driver, chasing his black Mazda Miata down rural Arkansas roads at speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour. When the sports car finally came to rest in a ditch, Brackney opened fire at the rear window and repeatedly struck the driver, 41-year-old James Ahern, in the back. The gunshots killed Ahern.

Prosecutors charged Brackney with felony manslaughter. But he eventually entered a plea to a lesser charge and could ultimately be left with no criminal record.

How the analysis was done: The 54 criminal prosecutions were identified by Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip M. Stinson and The Washington Post. Cases were culled from news reports, grand jury announcements and news releases from prosecutors. For individual cases, reporters obtained and reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports, grand jury indictments, witness testimony and video recordings. Dozens of prosecutors and defense attorneys in the cases were interviewed, along with legal experts, officers who were prosecuted and surviving relatives of the shooting victims.

Now, he serves as the police chief in a small community 20 miles from the scene of the shooting.

Brackney is among 54 officers charged over the past decade for fatally shooting someone while on duty, according to an analysis by The Washington Post and researchers at Bowling Green State University. This analysis, based on a wide range of public records and interviews with law enforcement, judicial and other legal experts, sought to identify for the first time every officer who faced charges­ for such shootings since 2005. These represent a small fraction of the thousands of fatal police shootings that have occurred across the country in that time.

In an overwhelming majority of the cases where an officer was charged, the person killed was unarmed. But it usually took more than that.

(More here.)

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