April 3, 2018
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Lawmakers in California have proposed a change to the state's standard for police use of deadly force, introducing a bill Tuesday that would reduce the number of circumstances where lethal force is authorized.

The legislation would require that police only use "necessary force," rather than the "reasonable force" that is currently allowed, CNN reports. The bill, called the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act, was partly inspired by the recent shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was killed in Sacramento after officers reportedly mistook the cellphone in his hand for a firearm.

If passed, the bill would authorize deadly force "only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death — that is, if, given the totality of the circumstances, there was no reasonable alternative to using deadly force, including warnings, verbal persuasion, or other nonlethal methods of resolution or de-escalation," explained Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D), a co-author. The legislation would also consider a death a homicide if a police officer's negligence contributed to making the force "necessary," the ACLU of California says.

Police shot and killed 162 people in California last year, lawmakers say, and existing use-of-force laws are partly to blame. "The worst possible outcome is increasingly the only outcome, especially in communities of color," said Weber. Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

March 27, 2018
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Louisiana's attorney general will not charge two Baton Rouge police officers in the 2016 death of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man who was fatally shot while selling CDs outside a convenience store, The Associated Press reports. Last May, the Justice Department likewise decided "insufficient evidence exists to charge either officer with a federal crime in connection with this incident."

The officers had been looking for a suspect who matched Sterling's description, police said, and after they tackled Sterling, he allegedly reached for a gun before officers opened fire. The incident was caught on video, and many who have seen the footage say it did not show Sterling reaching for a weapon. After the shooting, protesters marched for several days, with almost 200 people arrested.

Officers are rarely charged in fatal shootings while on duty. Since 2005, The Washington Post found that only 54 officers have been charged in "thousands" of deadly incidents, and most were ultimately acquitted or otherwise cleared. Jeva Lange

December 31, 2017

Police in California have arrested a Los Angeles man, Tyler Barriss, in connection to the prank 911 call that brought a SWAT team to the Kansas home of an unarmed father of two, Andrew Finch, who was killed Thursday when one of the officers opened fire after Finch opened his front door. Barriss is held without bond and will not appear in court until Tuesday at the earliest. It is not yet known what charges may be filed against him or whether he is believed to be the hoax caller.

There is no specific federal law against swatting, but CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said federal authorities might choose charges of "reckless homicide, because when you do something like this to set up a raid by a SWAT team on an innocent family, you're putting people's lives in danger." An additional option would be wire fraud, which Callan explained serves as "a catchall statute for these new crimes that haven't been anticipated."

Past swatting cases have been complicated by the age of the accused; in 2013, for example, a 12-year-old made swatting calls targeting the homes of actor Ashton Kutcher and singer Justin Bieber. If Barriss is the alleged caller, age will not be an issue in prosecution as he is 25. Bonnie Kristian

December 30, 2017

Police in Wichita, Kansas, fatally shot an unarmed father of two, Andrew Finch, during a SWAT raid now known to be instigated as part of a prank called "swatting," a hoax in which an emergency call is made to summon a SWAT team to deal with a nonexistent crisis.

Officers were responding to a 911 call reporting someone had been shot in the head. When Finch, 28, opened his front door to see why emergency vehicles were outside his home, he was shot and his family arrested.

"Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim," said Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston, who said police officers told Finch to put his hands up before shooting and believed he was reaching for a weapon.

"What gives the cops the right to open fire?" asked Finch's mother, Lisa Finch, the next morning. "Why didn't they give him the same warning they gave us? That cop murdered my son over a false report." Watch her comments below. Bonnie Kristian

December 7, 2017
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After pleading guilty in May to a federal civil rights offense in the death of Walter Scott, former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, The Post and Courier reports. In April 2015, Slager fatally shot the unarmed Scott as he fled a routine traffic stop.

Three days after the shooting, a witness posted a video online of Slager shooting Scott multiple times in the back as Scott ran away. The footage of Scott's death sparked protests and demonstrations in South Carolina and across the country, and Slager was arrested on a murder charge shortly after the clip went viral.

Scott's youngest son had asked U.S. District Judge David Norton to sentence Slager to life in prison, but Norton instead opted to sentence Slager on charges of second-degree murder, which holds a possible sentence of 19 to 24 years, instead of life in prison for voluntary manslaughter. Norton issued the final sentence of 20 years behind bars.

Last December, a state murder trial for Slager ended in a mistrial; those charges were later dropped after Slager pleaded guilty to the federal charge of violating Scott's civil rights. Anthony Scott, the older brother of the deceased Scott, told reporters that he had accepted Norton's decision. "At the end of the day, there's another judge [Slager] has to face." Kelly O'Meara Morales

September 20, 2017

An Oklahoma City police officer shot and killed a deaf man carrying a metal pipe on Tuesday night, despite neighbors screaming that he couldn't hear commands to drop the pipe.

Police Capt. Bo Mathews said Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was Tasered and then shot after he approached officers while holding the pipe; a neighbor told The Associated Press that Sanchez would take the pipe with him while going on walks at night to scare away stray dogs. Officers were at Sanchez's home investigating a hit-and-run that allegedly involved his father. Sanchez was not in the vehicle when the hit-and-run took place, Mathews said, and he had no criminal record.

The 2-foot-long pipe was "wrapped in some type of material" and had a leather loop at the end, Mathews said. Lt. Matthew Lindsey considered the pipe a weapon, and called for backup, Matthews said. After Sgt. Chris Barnes arrived, they both ordered Sanchez to drop the pipe and get to the ground, but Sanchez, not hearing their commands, kept walking forward. Neighbors screamed that Sanchez was deaf and yelled "He can't hear you," Mathews said, but he wasn't sure if officers heard them. "When you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision," Mathews said. "Or you can lock into just the person who has the weapon, the threat against you."

Barnes shot Sanchez when he was 15 feet away, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Sanchez's father, whose name has not been released, confirmed to police that his son was deaf. The case is being investigated as a homicide, and Barnes has been placed on paid administrative leave, Mathews said. The officers were not wearing body cameras during the incident. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2017

Scout Schultz, a 21-year-old computer engineering student and leader of the Georgia Tech Pride Alliance, died early Sunday after being shot in the heart by a Georgia Tech police officer, in an incident that is being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The police officers found Scout, who identified as neither male nor female, when responding to a report Saturday night about a "person with a knife and a gun," the GBI said, though Schultz did not have a gun and a photo of Schultz's pocket knife taken after the shooting shows that the blade was not extended, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Video taken of the encounter from a dorm window shows Schultz approaching police officers, refusing to heed demands to stop and drop a weapon, and Schultz shouting "Shoot me!" moments before one of the officers did. Schultz's mother, Lynne Schultz, said Scout was a "scary smart" student with numerous medical issues, including depression and a suicide attempt two years ago, but she told the Journal-Constitution that she did not understand why the police didn't "use some nonlethal force, like pepper spray or Tasers." Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Scout Shultz's parents, said he thinks that Scout "was having a mental breakdown and didn't know what to do," and that this was not a case of "suicide by cop." So far this year, police have shot dead about 700 people in the U.S., The Washington Post notes. Peter Weber

July 17, 2017

Late Saturday night, two police officers in Minneapolis responded "to a 911 call of a possible assault" in the upscale Fulton neighborhood, and "at one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman," Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said in a statement on Sunday. That woman has been identified as Justine Damond, a 40-year-old Australian woman engaged to be married to an American, Don Damond, in August, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. "The officers' body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident," BCA said in the statement.

On Sunday evening, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said the body cameras being turned off, in apparent violation of recently enacted regulations, is one of the questions she has about the "tragic" shooting. "I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened last night," she added.

Don Damond's 22-year-old son, Zach Damond, showed up at the scene of the shooting at about 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, before heading to the airport to pick up his father, 50, arriving from a business trip. "Basically, my mom's dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know," he said. "I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call police and demand answers. I'm so done with all this violence." He said Justine, whose maiden name is Ruszczyk, called 911 because she "heard a sound in the alley."

When the two officers arrived in the alley in one squad car, "Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver's side door and was talking to the driver," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, citing "three sources with knowledge of the incident." "The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver's side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene." The two officers are on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated. Peter Weber

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