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Deadly Force Data: What Does ‘Unarmed’ Really Mean?

Deadly Force Data: What Does ‘Unarmed’ Really Mean?

Three years ago the Washington Post began tracking citizens killed by law enforcement.  Leading up to the collected data was a daily mantra of so called experts and politicians discussing trigger happy and racist cops.

That has always been a lie and what the data from the Washington Post continues to do is show anyone that takes an honest look at the data that law enforcement is doing a remarkable job in the midst of violence around them.

For the last three years, the number of citizens killed has been just about the same and that has caused some to scratch their head.  How could that be after massive reform and training measures were demanded and taken by so many agencies in an effort to reduce force? As I have pointed out in previous articles, until suspects stop attacking and committing violence against cops, force will never change and that is why the data is literally staying the same from year to year.

Society must start approaching this issue with facts and leave emotion out.  There is someone to blame when deadly force has to be used and it is very rarely the police officer.

The data proves it.

The 2017 data was not much different than the previous two years.  Law enforcement shot and killed 987 suspects compared with 963 the year before and 995 in 2015.  The accompanying data was also relatively unchanged including what the media has been ramming down the throats of the public for years, that law enforcement has  a problem shooting unarmed people with a specific emphasis on African Americans.

That lie has bothered me the most through my career and I have had to have this same discussion with parents and kids that tell me they are scared of law enforcement.  We owe them more than emotions and lies.  We owe parents, children and the public the facts in regards to this issue and as I found out diving into the data, the facts certainly matter.

Those facts don’t keep the media from using the data in a false fashion in an effort to paint cops as racist and brutal and they typically use the “shooting of unarmed” people to show that, but as I found out, unarmed certainly did not mean innocent and harmless.

When a citizen stands up at a community event and says they are more scared of the police than violent criminals, that is a problem.

When a parent tells me they are more scared of their kids being stopped and shot by the police than the gang members on the street corner, that is a problem.

And that problem lies squarely on the shoulders of the liars and frauds that are spreading that message.  Those liars don’t want others to see the Washington Post data.  Those liars are more concerned with stoking hatred toward those that protect the community than telling the truth and the truth is that there are some communities that have a violence problem and that violence is not coming from law enforcement.  It is coming from cowards that are preying on the very citizens in their neighborhood while at the same time blaming law enforcement for all of the problems.

It is intellectually dishonest to keep blaming cops when the facts are known.

The data breaks down all races but because African American deaths at the hands of law enforcement are the sticking point for some and the media hangs on it, I took a look at the shooting of unarmed African Americans by police in 2017 first and then looked at the shooting of unarmed whites.  I didn’t find bias in law enforcement.  Police shoot more unarmed whites than blacks and at a higher percentage but I did find extreme bias in the way the media covered each race in what became very similar situations within both races.

The public and especially minorities are being played by a biased media that cares more about emotion and sensationalism than facts.

The trends were exactly similar across races and those trends say that there is much more to the story than “unarmed.”

In 2017, according to the Washington Post, law enforcement shot and killed 20 African Americans that were considered “unarmed.” It was 18 in 2016 and 38 in 2015.

I did what the Washington Post did not list in their data.  The actual facts from each incident.  Because I have been in law enforcement for two decades, I wasn’t surprised by what I found.  I know that the montage of stories that law enforcement targets blacks to kill them is a complete lie and the data along with the facts of each case proves it.

It’s too bad that the media or some of our community leaders don’t focus on these facts but we will.

Out of the 20 “unarmed” suspects, 11 were committing a violent crime and fighting with a police officer before they were shot.  The fights were brutal with some choking the officer.  Others like Nana Adomako was beating an Fremont (CA) Police officer in the head so violently that he almost lost consciousness.  After Adomako was shot and killed, he was considered “unarmed.”

Brian Easley was a 33 year old military veteran that was shot by a SWAT Officer after he took two bank employees hostage and claimed to have a bomb.  He didn’t have a bomb so therefore he was “unarmed.”

Two suspects were running from cops and simulated shooting them after placing their hands in their waistband.  JR Williams was one of them.  A registered sex offender, he fled on foot when a Phoenix Police officer tried to place him under arrest.  During the chase, he kept his hands concealed and threatened to shoot the officers.  At one point, he turned and drew his arm from his waistband with a clenched hand, simulating a shooting stance. That action got him killed and also classified as “unarmed.”

Isaiah Tucker drove his car at an Oshkosh (WI) Police officer and they were classified as “unarmed” which is a mistake by the Washington Post considering they classify cars as a weapon in their data.

There was a tragedy in the data when a woman was shot by police in Florida during a search warrant when her boyfriend used her as cover as he was shooting at cops.  She was “unarmed” but the man behind her was firing at will as officers entered the residence.

All but two officers were cleared of any wrongdoing.  A police officer was charged with murder after he killed 14 year old Jordan Edwards, who was a passenger in a car fleeing a party that police were present at.  An Amtrak Officer in Chicago tried to arrest a man for marijuana possession when he took off running.  The officer shot and killed the suspect as he was fleeing and the officer was also charged with murder.

Police shot and killed 30 White Americans in 2017 that were considered “unarmed” by the Washington Post.  That was 3% of all shootings compared to 2% of all African American Shootings.

Almost half of the suspects were in brutal fights with officers.  One incident occurred in Toms River (NJ) when Christopher Apostolus busted out of a closet and ran towards officers.  He grabbed an officer’s neck and the officer’s gun before being shot.  He was also “unarmed.”

Many officers attempted other means of force prior to using deadly force including one Ohio officer that was attacked by Vincent Palma.  Palma charged at the officer and attacked him.  The officer utilized a Taser, Baton and even fired warning shots in the ground but the attack continued.  Palma was shot and killed and he was also considered “unarmed.”

Suspects also ran, took aggressive stances and simulated shooting officers before being shot and in some cases this was done to citizens.  Hayden Stutz called a Canton Police Dispatcher and threatened to kill officers when they arrived.  The officers did arrive and he was holding a woman’s head on the ground telling her he had a gun and was going to kill her if she moved.  He refused to get off the woman when cops arrived and told them he had a gun.  After being killed by police and a weapon not being found, he was also considered “unarmed.”

As in the earlier cited data, there were a few “unarmed” citizens that were with violent felons and were unfortunately shot by the police in the process including an incident in Mississippi where an ex-con was shooting at officers and in the return fire, his girlfriend was also killed.

Out of the 30 deadly force incidents that involved White Americans, a Dallas Police Officer was charged with aggravated assault after he shot into a car that was backing up towards him.  While there are a few cases still pending, based on the facts I saw, I would anticipate that four police officers will be charged with a crime out of the 50 deadly shootings of “unarmed” suspects and citizens.  That is a stark difference in the narrative being spoken in regards to this data.

Facts matter and there are few facts being spoken by those that seek to do harm to law enforcement in regards to these cases.

One thing that always frustrated me and still does is the unsubstantiated fear that a few in a community tries to tell the masses about law enforcement.  I saw this up front and personal in a recent community forum.  A mother stood up and asked a local politician I was sitting next to what they should tell their kids to do when they were contacted by law enforcement because she feared for her children’s life.

He told her that she should tell her kids to do what the police ask them to do.

Some in the crowd booed his answer and I was appalled.  That advice also happens to be what I tell my kids.

The data shows that this was excellent advice.  If you want to exponentially increase your chances of getting shot by law enforcement, then just do the following:

  1. Fight Cops
  2. Run From Cops
  3. Simulate Shooting Cops
  4. Drive Cars at Cops
  5. Steal Police Cars
  6. Grab Cop’s Guns

In virtually every incident I researched for 2017, there were marches and protests in honor of the suspect.  There were demands to fire and arrest every cop involved and that is a very sad state of affairs for our society.

What the Washington Post fails to mention is that over 50,000 cops are assaulted every year by “unarmed” suspects and very few of those suspects are shot by police.

Yes, mistakes happen and sometimes a police officer commits a crime but in the vast majority of police shootings including the shooting of so called “unarmed” people, the police are not to blame.  It is the actions of the suspects and I wonder what would happen if society started to actually blame the violence of criminals instead of the heroes behind the badge trying to protect others?

Would fewer suspects fight, flee and assault cops if we placed the accountability on them?

Would the use of deadly force be reduced if we told others about the inherent dangers of attacking police officers rather than constantly blaming law enforcement?

I’m not sure but after looking at the data, the last person that should be getting the blame are the very ones standing up in their communities trying to stop the violence.



Editor’s Note: 
We fully anticipate getting hateful and vile commentary in regards to this article.  That is likely why these facts are rarely spoken of.  On behalf of Law Officer, we will not back down to the intimidation of a few that is only designed to silence the truth.  A truth that these few knows exposes their lie.  While the liars may have emotion and hatred on their side, we will stick with facts and those facts tell us that our law enforcement officers deserve incredible praise for the work they do each and ever day. 

 

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About The Author

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Travis Yates is a writer and editor at Law Officer. An ILEETA Trainer of the Year, his Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates is a current Doctoral Student in Strategic Leadership and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training (www.safetac.org) and the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute (www.courageousleader.org), providing leadership consulting and training to law enforcement around the world.

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