Friday, December 13, 2013

The Body Count

More than one million people in America have been killed by guns since 1980.  By a conservative estimate, at least 194 children have been killed by guns in the year since the Sandy Hook tragedy last December.  In 2011 police shot more than 1,100 people, killing 607.  Shootings by police accounted for almost 10 percent of the homicides in Los Angeles County in 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times. According to the FBI, 323 people were killed nationwide by rifles in 2011 — less than 4 percent of the total deaths by firearms. Nationwide, 10 percent of the killings with rifles were committed by law enforcement officers, according to the FBI.

Maryland police are protected by a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights that prohibits questioning a police officer for 10 days after any incident in which he or she used deadly force. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, police between 1990 and 2001 police shot 122 people, 47 killed. Almost half of those shot were unarmed, and many had committed no crime. Among the shootings the P.G. police department ruled as justified: An unarmed construction worker was shot in the back after he was detained in a fast-food restaurant. An unarmed suspect died in a fusillade of 66 bullets as he tried to flee in a car from police. A homeless man was shot when police mistook his portable radio for a gun. And an unarmed man was killed after he pulled off the road to relieve himself.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  in  2011 noted, “In 142 fatal police shootings in the Las Vegas Valley over a little more than the past 20 years, no coroner’s jury has returned a ruling adverse to police.” But that nonconviction rate actually convicts the entire system. “The deck is stacked in favor of police well before the case gets to the [coroner’s] jurors. That’s because the ‘neutral arbiter of the facts’ is the deputy district attorney who already believes that no crime has been committed. In a comparison of inquest transcripts, evidence files, and police reports dating to 1990, the Review-Journal found that prosecutors commonly act more like defense attorneys, shaping inquest presentations to cast officers in the most positive light.” Another problem is that, as Nevada lawyer Brent Bryson observed, “Frequently in fatal shootings, you just have officers’ testimony and no other witnesses. And most people just don’t want to believe that a police officer would behave wrongly.” Investigations of shootings by police in Las Vegas were stymied in 2010 and 2011 because “police unions balked at inquest reforms, first by advising members not to testify at the hearings and then helping officers file a lawsuit challenging the new system’s constitutionality,” according to the Review-Journal. Las Vegas is so deferential to police that, in cases “where an officer shoots but only wounds or misses entirely … the district attorney looks at the case only if the shooting subject is being prosecuted,” the Review-Journal noted.

Federal agents who kill Americans enjoy similar legal privileges. The Justice Department’s view of the untouchability of federal lawmen is clear from its action in the Idaho trial of FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi. Horiuchi gained renown in 1992 after he shot and killed 42-year-old Vicki Weaver as she stood in the door of her cabin holding her 10-month-old baby. Horiuchi had shot her husband in the back moments earlier, though Randy Weaver posed no threat to federal agents at the time. The judge blamed Vicki Weaver for her own death, ruling that “it would be objectively reasonable for Mr. Horiuchi to believe that one would not expect a mother to place herself and her baby behind an open door outside the cabin after a shot had been fired and her husband had called out that he had been hit.” Thus, if an FBI agent wrongfully shoots one family member, the government somehow becomes entitled to slay the rest of the family unless they run and hide.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/12/wheres-the-body-count-from-shootings-by-the-police/

1 Comments:

Blogger ajohnstone said...

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-texas-cop-who-killed-double-amputee-holding-ballpoint-pen-got-away-it

The Houston Police Department announced the results of its yearlong investigation into the shooting death of Brian Claunch, a mentally ill double amputee killed by an officer last September after refusing to drop a pen. HPD cleared the officer, Matthew Marin, of any wrongdoing.

HPD hasn’t found a single police shooting unjustified in at least six years. Between 2007 and 2012, HPD officers fatally shot 109 people and injured another 111. All those shootings were found justified.

1:01 am, December 16, 2013  

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