8 Victims Of Police Brutality In 2014 We Can't — And Shouldn't — Forget
There were a lot of stories, and types of stories, that defined the American news cycle in 2014. Although instances of police brutality (as well as oft-toxic relationships between law enforcement and communities of color) rose to national prominence late in the year with the killing of unarmed Ferguson teen Michael Brown and the chokehold death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, they're far from the only such stories. The truth is, it was a bad year for police brutality in 2014, with controversial, harrowing and tragic tales of people losing their physical health or their lives in encounters with police officers on full display. And it's important — if not vital — to know some of their names.
After all, these issues are now the subject of widespread, national protest, spurring acts of civil disobedience in the public eye. Want to know why? Here are some examples of police violence in 2014 that are worth remembering.
Professor Ersula Ore
An English professor at ASU, Ersula Ore was at the center of a police encounter which drew national attention. Not just for how quickly it escalated and how seemingly unnecessary it was, but for what happened subsequently.
Ore was caught jaywalking by a police officer, and after an initial, relatively calm exchange, things turn bad. Ore insisted she was jaywalking to avoid construction, but the officer, Stewart Ferrin, drew out handcuffs to arrest her. Ore protested this, rather understandably given the circumstances — virtually every living person in America has probably jaywalked before and not been arrested, even if a cop spotted them — but that momentary refusal to comply spurred the officer to grab her, wrench her arm around, and wrestle her to the ground in the middle of the street, the whole thing caught on his dashboard camera.
The result? Ore ultimately pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. She received nine months probation, though she and her attorneys made it clear she didn’t view the plea as vindicating Ferrin’s actions, with Ore saying ”I am hurt, upset, angry and humiliated. I deal with fears on a regularly hourly basis –they wake me up at night.”
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Pinnock, 51, was homeless and reportedly off her medication for bipolar disorder when she suffered a brutal attack at the hands of a California Highway Patrol officer — the kind of attack, frankly, that some may have been reluctant to believe had it not been captured on video by a nearby driver.
If you haven’t seen it, well, the video is horrifying. CHP officer Daniel Andrew throws her to the ground, straddles her, and begins rearing back with punch after punch. Pinnock later said she believed Andrew was going to kill her. She received a $1.5 million settlement in the aftermath of the attack.
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Chris Lollie was simply waiting for his kids to get out of school, waiting in a public place no less — a chair in a St. Paul, Minneapolis skyway — when a security guard called the police on him, setting off a slow-motion escalation of events that ended with the man screaming on the ground while being tased.
The case was vigorously defended by St. Paul police, who insisted that the officers had acted appropriately, though charges of trespassing against Lollie were quickly dropped after it was laid bare that he was sitting in a public place. The encounter escalated because Lollie refused to produce identification, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that he’d done nothing wrong — citizens are not required to provide identification to law enforcement without reasonable suspicion, which in Lollie’s case, none existed. Except, possibly, the allegation he leveled at the officers at the time — that they were scrutinizing him because he was black.
Lollie has since filed suit against the police, and says he intends to use any compensation to secure his children’s college fund.
You may have heard about this one — 21-year-old Ohio man John Crawford, who was shot to death by responding police officers in a Walmart. The police were called on him because he had an airsoft rifle in his hand, a type of replica pellet gun that the store, you know, sells to people — when police arrived on the scene and confronted Crawford, surveillance footage shows him being shot in a matter of seconds, if that.
Adding to the controversy, Ohio is one of those controversial “open carry” states, meaning that even if Crawford had been ambling through Walmart with a genuine rifle in his hand, he was within his legal rights to do so.
His death led to much tumult and protest, as well as understandable accusations that “open carry” doesn’t really exist for black people the way it does for whites — no white people got killed gleefully taking their assault rifles into Chipotle, for example. In spite of the troubling video and the innocent loss of life, neither of the responding officers were charged, as a grand jury declined to indict — a phrase that’s depressingly familiar in these stories.
Image: Liz Howard/Twitter
This undoubtedly needs no introduction. The fatal encounter that inflamed a community, and ultimately galvanized a nation, the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson was arguably the biggest domestic news item of 2014.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the Ferguson Police Department was roundly criticized for unleashing an overbearing, military-style presence on the streets of Ferguson, aimed at thwarting broadly peaceful protests. Citizens were teargassed, as were members of the media, cops were rolling around with their guns leveled at people for no good reason — in every sense, a civil rights nightmare.
And, of course, you probably know how it ends — despite conflicting witness testimony, an extremely forgiving and lightweight prosecution, and inconsistencies in Wilson’s own account of the shooting (detailed expertly by legal analyst Lisa Bloom), a St. Louis grand jury declined to indict him for Brown’s death. This was, in statistical terms, highly unlikely — according to FiveThirtyEight, out of 160,000 grand juries convened in 2010, only 11 failed to indict.
While the #BlackLivesMatter movement isn’t just about Brown — in different ways, every story on this list is a different reflection of the necessity of that message — his story was what first set off the nationwide protests we’re seeing today.
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This one is as heartbreaking as anything. A 12-year-old boy, killed in more or less similar fashion to what happened to his aforementioned fellow Ohioan John Crawford, Tamir Rice was fatally shot by Cleveland police in a matter of two seconds, after being reported for playing with an airsoft pellet gun.
The person reporting Rice told the 911 dispatcher that he was likely a child, and the gun was likely a fake, but this information allegedly never reached the responding officers, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Gramback. The pair tore up alongside Rice in their squad car, leapt out, and just like that, it was over. The whole thing was captured on surveillance footage, and has fueled widespread scrutiny and condemnation of the officer’s approach and actions.
Tamir’s mother Samaria has filed a lawsuit against the two officers, and in spite of the rough run that black victims of police violence have had in recent memory, she isn’t hedging her bets — she says she wants a conviction.
Again, a case which needs little preface. Here it is, in simple, broad strokes: 43-year-old Staten Island man Eric Garner was approached by the police, allegedly on suspicion he was selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner expressed frustration at being hassled by the officers, and reacted with indignation when they moved to arrest him.
Then, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbed him around the neck from behind, and dragged him to the ground, all as Garner choked and gasped that he couldn’t breathe. In fact, Garner pleaded that case eleven times before falling silent — he ultimately died of a heart attack as a result of the chokehold.
Pantaleo, when facin a resulting grand jury, denied the move was a chokehold, despite the existence of a clear, close-up video of the entire brutal encounter. Not a chokehold, just a hold that choked someone to death? And apparently, the grand jury agreed — Pantaleo got off unindicted, without even facing criminal charges, in what was widely received as one of the most flagrant injustices in recent memory.
Combined with the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the Garner decision added fuel to the fire of the nationwide protests, with activists shutting down roads and public spaces from New York City to the Bay Area.
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A 23-year-old woman from Washington state, Durden-Bosley was punched in the face by Seattle police officer Adley Shepherd, despite already being handcuffed in the back of his police car. In the in-car footage of the incident, Durden-Bosley appear to kick at Shepherd, though as detailed by the Huffington Post, he suffered no injury. Shepherd also claimed she made threats against him — claims she denies — but regardless, there can be little doubt that this was way over the line, restrained as she was by handcuffs.
Even moreso considering what an aggressive and dangerous way Shepherd struck her. Durden-Bosley suffered a concussion and a broken eye socket, and described hearing the drops of blood flowing from her battered eye.
The end result? No charges were filed against Shepherd, a fact which Durden-Bosley found hard to take. She’s called for him to be fired, and while it’s possible further disciline could await, there’s no guarantee.
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