Arizona: The family of 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker, who was fatally shot in the back by a police officer investigating a noise complaint, settled in December 2020 with the city of Phoenix for $3 million by unanimous City Council vote. Whitaker was shot in the doorway of his apartment by Officer Jeff Cooke in just seconds of answering the knock with his gun. Fellow officer John Ferragamo pointed his weapon at Whitaker but did not fire. “Hands,” the officers screamed. “Whitaker is seen in the video starting to get on his knees, putting his left hand up and putting the gun behind his back when Cooke fires into Whitaker’s back,” azcentral.com reports. The incident took place the night of May 21, 2020, after an upstairs neighbor phoned 911 twice to complain of noise. Body camera video reveals Whitaker “seemingly to comply with police officers,” azcentral.com reports. Whitaker’s lawyer says police were reckless. The department said the officer fired because thought he was “in imminent danger.” Whitaker’s girlfriend told police that Whitaker and his daughter were playing a video game. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office had not given a decision on whether to criminally charge Cooke, and both officers remained employed by the city in December. The city is facing 12 lawsuits related to police shootings, abc15.com reported.
Florida: Homeless people often face the pandemic on the streets. Now a City of West Palm Beach ordinance adopted December 28, 2020, empowers police to arrest them for certain behavior — indecency, panhandling, soliciting and urinating or defecating — in the downtown or in nearby Northwood Village, according to The Palm Beach Post. Lawbreakers could be fined up to $500 or sentenced up to 60 days in jail. Under the ordinance, however, the officer must first tell the person he or she is violating the law and give information on locations of homeless shelters. Mark Schneider, president of the Palm Beach County chapter of the ACLU, predicted the ordinance’s “constitutionality is quite likely to be challenged, possibly at significant cost to the city.”
Illinois: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, appearing on MSNBC December 19, 2020, apologized for the lack of accountability in an incident in February 2019 in which local police raided the wrong home with a battering ram and handcuffed Anjanette Young. The social worker, who was handcuffed as police ignored her pleas, appears naked in bodycam videos because she was undressing for bed. “Tell me what’s going on,” Young cried in the video. “You’ve got the wrong house, you’ve got the wrong house, you’ve got the wrong house,” Young repeated. They treated her with “utter disrespect,” Lightfoot said. “It shatters your confidence that we have made any progress in police reform,” she said. Since then, the search warrant protocols in Chicago have changed, including not basing a raid just on a paid informant. She was asked why the officers had not been charged. “This was a failure and we need to fix that,” she said. Lightfoot called out the city’s civilian oversight commission and others for “sitting on their hands for over a year. Have we come to the point where we have lost our humanity?” she asked.
Kansas: Lionel Womack — a 35-year-old former police detective from Kansas City— alleges in a federal excessive force lawsuit that Kiowa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez intentionally swerved to mow him down Aug. 15 with his patrol truck, causing serious bodily injuries, the Associated Press reports in December 2020. Rodriguez launched a chase over “an alleged traffic violation,” according to the lawsuit. Sheriff’s deputies from Pratt County and Kiowa County joined in the pursuit. “When the first officer turned his lights on, I pulled over and complied ... exactly as you’re supposed to,” Womack told the media. “But when three additional vehicles pulled up quickly and started to surround my car, I freaked out. That’s when I took off, it was a ‘fight or flight’ moment and I was going to live,” he said. “I felt like I was in danger. This was out in the country, late at night, and it was dark. So I ran for my life. That’s what you see in the dashcam video. I’m running in an open field, and I’m scared.” Womack said he suffered serious injuries to his back, pelvis and thigh, plus his right knee, ankle and foot. “Womack remains jailed, four months later, on felony charges of attempting to elude a law enforcement officer by engaging in reckless driving and interference with a law enforcement officer,” The Associated Press reports. He is also charged with several misdemeanor traffic citations. The lawsuit cites violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which protect against unreasonable searches and deprivation of life and liberty.
Maryland: A 25-year-old grocery shopper carrying a crutch and wearing a cast on his right foot ended up face down on the pavement after a police officer allegedly attempted to enforce mask-wearing to comply with state and local mandates. In December 2020, a Baltimore City grand jury indicted Detective Andre Maurice Pringle, who faces one count of second-degree assault and one count of misconduct in office for the April 19 confrontation, nbcnews.com reports. “The incident happened after [Brandon] Walker allegedly entered the store with his face mask on top of his head,” the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office said in a news release. A manager asked Walker to put his mask on correctly or to leave. Store security and the detective also got involved with the shopper “yelling and cursing” at Pringle. “Detective Pringle grabbed Mr. Walker by his jacket and shoved him. Detective Pringle continued to push Mr. Walker out of the store’s exit. Once outside, Detective Pringle slammed Mr. Walker to the ground, face first, causing Mr. Walker to hit his head on the concrete,” according to the release. Pringle then allegedly got on top of Walker and forced his left leg toward his rear. Pringle, 45, faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the misdemeanor assault charge, triblive.com reports.
Massachusetts: Jesse Anderson filed suit in December 2020 against two officers in the town of Sandwich alleging police caused serious injuries by using excessive force, namely a Taser, in taking him into protective custody on the night of Jan. 5, 2018, after his father had called police to say his son was “out of control” and possibly experiencing psychotic problems, Cape Cod Times reports. “Anderson, 34, is seeking a trial by jury as well as $6 million plus interest, expert fees and attorney fees. The suit names Sandwich police Officer Nathan Reid, police Sergeant Joseph Cotter and the town as defendants,” capcodtimes.com reports. His lawyer says Anderson, who is diagnosed with major depressive disorder and panic disorder, “has suffered substantial and permanent damages, including a traumatic brain injury and damage to his face and sinuses.” He was not charged with a crime.
Minnesota: A man described as a “felony suspect” was killed by Minneapolis Police during an attempted traffic stop Dec. 30, 2020, becoming the first Minnesotan killed by cops since George Floyd in May. A day later police released bodycam video showing Dolal Idd of Eden Prairie firing first. However, his family and community are calling for more information. As Idd tried to drive away during the stop, he was blocked by police cruisers, according to Slate.com January 1, 2021. “‘Hands up! Police! Hands up!’ one officer yells. Then there appears to be at least one shot who fired from inside the car before officers returned fire,” Slate.com reports. More than a dozen police shots were fired. Jaylani Hussein, the director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, questioned why police are not trained to respond in a different way. “There are so many ways to deal with incidents like this. They have no de-escalation efforts at all,” he said. Idd’s father Bayle Gelle contends his son “was just sitting in the car, and bullets were shot at him, and no reason,” he said, quoted by CBS News. “Why are we here?... Because of color. He is a black man. We want to know why my sweet son gets shot and killed.”
Minnesota: A memorial and a protest followed the killing of 19-year-old Estavon Elioff on December 5, 2020, the Mesabi Tribune reports. Sheriff’s deputies investigating a shoplifting report confronted Elioff outside the business and he fled on foot. When deputies and a police dog found Elioff in the woods of Mountain Iron, “there was a confrontation, deputies deployed Tasers and then two of them shot Elioff. Authorities have not indicated that the man was armed or provided details about the confrontation prior to the shooting.” The teen also “matched the description of a suspect in a drive-by shooting … in the nearby town of Virginia, where Elioff lived,” according to a sheriff’s news release. “I just can’t comprehend how my 19-year-old cousin — 125 pounds — was a threat to the deputies,” Mariah Krulich told the Mesabi Tribune. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension named the deputies involved, Ryan Smith and Matt Tomsich. They were on administrative leave, fox21online.com reports.
Missouri: Seventeen-year-olds in Missouri are now considered juveniles in the eyes of the criminal justice system — and can no longer be prosecuted as adults under a new law rolled out January 1, 2021. The Raise the Age measure was supported by prosecutors in St. Louis City and county. “Young people are young people. They make rash decisions, but we have to look at the systemic issues that drive them to crime,” Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner told KMOV4. “Many of the kids have problems going on that are deeper than the crimes they are committing,” said Demetrius Evans, who was certified as an adult at age 15 for an armed robbery. “There are issues in our society, in homes. There are fatherless homes, no examples, no [role] models. It’s plaguing us real bad.” Advocates said youth transferred to adult prisons were 34% more likely to re-offend. Missouri joins 45 other states in changing the age. Still, there will be some exceptions, reports KMOV.com, in which “courts will still be able to certify defendants younger than 18 as adults.”
Ohio: A U.S. Marshals Service task force was ending a search for a suspect on December 4, 2020, in Columbus when a fatal shooting took place. A sheriff’s SWAT deputy who was part of the task force was in an unmarked car when he reportedly saw a Black man drive by with a gun. His family insists it was a Subway sandwich. According to npr.com: “The man killed, 23-year-old Casey Goodson, was not an object of the search, nor was he wanted by law enforcement prior to the incident, according to police. Family members said Goodson was shot three times in the back,” and a Franklin County coroner’s report ruled the “manner of death” a homicide. Goodson stopped by his grandma’s house. He was reportedly asked by the deputy to drop his gun. Goodson’s sister posted online: “My brother literally walked across the yard, walked into the back fence to get to the side door, had his subway [sandwich] and mask in one hand keys in the other, UNLOCKED AND OPENED THE DOOR and stepped in the house before he was shot.” Deputies did not have body cameras.
Ohio: In December 2020, the Department of Justice said it would not charge two Cleveland cops in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 because video surveillance of the shooting was grainy. Prosecutors contended, the AP reports, that they could not be conclusive about what took place. Tamir was playing with a toy airsoft gun outside a recreation center when Officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shot him. A 911 caller had said a “guy” was pointing a pistol at people. While the caller said the gun was “probably fake” and the individual was “probably a juvenile,” those details were not conveyed to officers Loehmann and Frank Garmback. Tamir was shot in the abdomen and his 14-year-old sister forced to the ground and handcuffed. Tamir wasn’t given first aid until a paramedic trained FBI agent on duty in the area offered help. A grand jury declined to indict Loehmann. “The [DOJ] decision, revealed in a lengthy statement on Tuesday, does not condone the officers’ actions but rather says the cumulative evidence was not enough to support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution,” the AP reports. “Let’s get some proper training so nobody else has to go through this,” Tamit’s mom Samaria Rice said.
Ohio: NPR reports that Andre Maurice Hill was fatally shot by Columbus police officer Adam Coy on December 22, 2020 in a garage. The incident followed a nonemergency call to police about a man turning his car ignition on and off repeatedly. Officers came upon the open garage and shone flashlights inside. Hill turned around and held up his cellphone, npr.org reports. “Hill took several steps toward Coy, who raised his gun and shot him.” Body cameras were not turned on until after the shooting , but a “look back” option gave video of what happened, though not audio of the first minute. “‘Put your f***ing hands out to the side. Hands out to the side now,’ Coy shouts in the video, breathing heavily. ‘Roll to your stomach now.’ Coy asks another officer if medics are coming, walks up to Hill and rolls him over onto his back.” Since it was a nonemergency call, there was no dashcam video. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther told reporters that he was “outraged.” In addition, he said, “I am also very disturbed about what I don’t see next in the body-worn camera footage. From what we can see, none of the officers initially at the scene provide medical assistance to Mr. Hill. No compression on the wounds to stop the bleeding. No attempts at CPR. Not even a hand on the shoulder and an encouraging word that medics were en route.”
Texas: Dallas police released body-camera footage in December 2020 of 35-year-old Steven Keith Jarrell Jr., who became the sixth in-custody death involving Dallas police in 2020. He died in police custody while he was being taken from his home to a mental health hospital, WFAA.com reports. The mom assured her son he would be fine and would receive help. She told the officers her son was schizophrenic. The video reveals “Jarrell’s mother told officers her son hadn’t been violent since 2010 and that he usually goes to Green Oaks when he has a mental illness episode.” However, the young man groaned as the handcuffs were applied, then struggled to get in back of the squad car. His mom said “bye” and “I love you.” He was heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” in reply. His mother looked at the officers and said, “He could breathe.” But Jarrell continued to say he can’t breathe, and at one point officers said they would crack open the window for him. “Do you want me to sit back there with him?” an officer asked the other. But the officer replied no, the video revealed. The man groaned. At the hospital, cops noticed Jarrell was unconscious in the back seat, said Dallas police Maj. Danny Williams. “Hey, Steven!” an officer yelled as he realized Jarrell wasn’t breathing anymore. Fluids were coming out of his nose. ”Medics transported Jarrell to the emergency room, but he was later pronounced dead,” WFAA.com reports. The Special Investigations Unit is investigating what happened.
Virginia: Two Rocky Mount police officers who boasted on social media about being in the Capitol during the January 6, 2021, riot were arrested a week later. Officer Jacob Fracker and Sgt. Thomas Robertson were charged with “one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds,” according to a Department of Justice statement. The complaint says the off-duty officers were photographed inside the Capitol making “an obscene statement in front of a statue of John Stark,” a Revolutionary War officer. Robertson wrote: “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business ... The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”
Wisconsin: For years, Dane County families faced fees when children were “placed in the Juvenile Detention Center, under an at-home detention program, in a program where social workers provided case management and supervision, and into the Shelter Home, a temporary living facility for youths who don’t need to be detained but need a place to stay,” the Wisconsin State Journal reports December 31, 2020. Now the policy has changed, thanks to county supervisors like Heidi Wegleitner, who said the fees were “putting more stress on already stressed-out families.” The county’s 2019 budget stopped the collecting of detention center fees and 2020 eliminated home detention fees. In the recent decision, the board “canceled all of that existing debt and discontinued the collection of Shelter Home fees and social worker supervision program fees.” That will help many, forgiving $1.4 million in outstanding debt for the families of more than 580 juveniles.
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