Objective Database or Propaganda?
The Guardian's The Counted deliberately muddies the waters while speaking the language of "transparency"By Nick Selby | Aug 11, 2015
It is truly important that civilians maintain accurate records of the killings and uses of force by their police, to understand why these occur. That’s why I personally donate to the Fatal Encounters database, which is an open source and objective attempt to do just that. I believe that the wrongful death of a citizen at the hands of a police officer is among the gravest of crimes. It’s a betrayal of society’s most fundamental compact, and an abdication of the officer’s sworn responsibility to protect and serve.
The U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, maintains The Counted —a feature it refers to as “the most comprehensive database of U.S. police killing ever published.” The Counted states that, as of August 9, 2015, 700 people had been killed in 2015 by US police officers.
That’s a big number, and it’s presented, in my opinion, as a condemnation of U.S. law enforcement. How can a number be a condemnation? It’s not just the number but the descriptions of what happened. It doesn’t differentiate between incidents that were clearly police responses to direct deadly force threats (people pointing guns or knives at cops, for example, or actually shot while shooting at police); incidents that are less clear; and incidents that are considered actually controversial.
Last month’s killing by a police officer of Samuel DuBose, for example, has already resulted in a murder charge against University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. How can that event be in the same category as a pedestrian who dies after crossing against a traffic signal in the middle of the night and is struck by a police cruiser? Especially when the officer, while swerving so violently to avoid hurting the pedestrian, strikes a utility pole and injures himself?
The point is, the only thing these two events have in common is that a civilian died. What’s missing is context, which is exactly what cops deal with day in and day out. In other words, reality.
Note that the summary text, and the links to supporting media stories, are not included in the raw (csv) dataset. You’ll have to do that work yourself. It’s almost as if The Guardian wants to control the conversation around how this data is presented.
But in The Counted, The Guardian’s editors have chosen to show you all cases including those in which the officer involved in the killing was either clearly or possibly acting in the defense of his life or that of another. It includes clearly accidental deaths. It’s almost as if they’re trying to find every single possibly related case to inflate the total.
Personally, I spend my time seeking those cases in which the officer is clearly or unclearly not acting in the defense of his life or that of another. But I’m not in the business of generating advertising revenue for a website.
Part of what I do for a living (I am a police detective and also the CEO of a law-enforcement data analytics company) is seek to find outlier cases that will give us lessons to draw. I look to data to give me patterns of usable and useful information — information that I can use to help articulate plans on training, and action.
Let’s Dig In
So back to The Counted. Browse to the main page and you’ll get the shocking catch-all view. But by making one filter setting change on the page—to show only those people who were “unarmed” when they were killed by police —you reduce the number of incidents by 78.57%.
Other questions I’d like to ask are, “Can I please see the list of people who were clearly not attacking a police officer at the time they were killed by police?” And: “Can we remove people from consideration who seem to be really unrelated to this search?” But the dataset is tightly controlled and scripted.
I selected the month at random — feel free to dig into the data yourself and comment or ping me if you come up with different data. But note that the summary text, and the links to supporting media stories are not included in the raw dataset. I wonder why?
Again: context. It’s missing here. So to get some, let’s dig further, by looking at each of the 22 people The Counted lists as Killed By Police and Unarmed in July, 2015. And even though I am crazy to do it, I’m going to go ahead and give you my personal, seat-of-the-pants, “based on what information we have here,” assessment about the outcome of investigations into each of these 22 listed incidents.
The Counted: Results From July, 2015 of “Unarmed People Killed by US Police”
1. July 30, 2015: Filimoni Raiyawa, Asia-Pacific Islander male, 57.
Raiyawa died in custody in San Francisco. He had been involved in a traffic collision, fought with another at the scene, then had run away and then “allegedly fought with and injured two officers before becoming unresponsive.” The Counted neglects to mention a couple of details. Raiwaya, who was 6 feet tall and 265 pounds, was the caregiver to 96 year-old Solomon Cohen, who was badly beaten before 5 a.m. that day and was not expected to survive his head injuries. At 5.30 am, Raiyawa rear-ended a BMW, pushing it across the street and into parked car, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The victim in the crash got out to talk to Raiyawa, who appeared incoherent and was making disturbing statements about God and “God’s will,” said police Chief Greg Suhr. The victim backed away, police said, and called 911 as Raiyawa got out of his car and approached him in a threatening manner, eventually chasing him around the block. When police responded, Raiyawa beat a female officer several times about the head and shoulders, beating her to the ground nearly unconscious, and throwing her partner by the wrist,” Suhr said. Willie Gunnari, 35, who lives on Lombard, said he saw the two female police officers trying to subdue the suspect. Gunnari said the man resisted, flailing his arms as the officers hit him with batons. “Nothing was going to get him to stop moving,” Gunnari said. Witnesses reported that Raiyawa ignored repeated commands to get on the ground, and to stop resisting, and collapsed after he tried to break into a restaurant. Read the Chronicle coverage here.
My take: Probably Justified
2. July 29, 2015: Wilmer Delgado-Soba, Hispanic male, 38.
Delgado-Soba died after he was shocked with a Taser “after allegedly charging at police in a grocery store. Officers had been called when Delgado-Soba entered the store shirtless and began knocking items of shelves, according to police, who stressed that he was given several verbal warnings.” The Worcester Telegram reports that Delgado-Soba had entered the store and begun smashing glass and throwing things. The store owner, Mike Maranda, said “police “tried everything” before using the Taser.”… “Mrs. Maranda said the officers did not strike the man in any way. “They tried very hard to talk to him,” she said, noting the man had resisted them by swinging his arms and hands.” The Telegram, which links to the police scanner recording, notes that dispatchers told the responding officers, “He’s destroying the store, and he’s got a couple bottles in his hands.” Mr Delgado-Soba had convictions for, among other things, assault with a dangerous weapon, breaking and entering in the daytime with intent to commit a felony, assault and battery and intimidation of a witness. Read the Telegram coverage here.
My take: Probably Justified
3. July 28, 2015 Allan F. White III, white male, 23.
In this case, White was waiting outside the home of a female deputy, “allegedly hiding behind a vehicle” when she returned to her home in the middle of the night. White, “ran out towards her and attacked. The sheriff said Oakley attempted to subdue White with a Taser before shooting him.”According to WCRB TV, White “tackled her and they got in a scuffle and he took his hands and put them around her face and tried to kill her,” Sheriff Eric Watson said. The deputy attempted to TASE White, which was unsuccessful in stopping the attack, before resorting to deadly force by shooting him. Sheriff Watson added, “He was clearly on her property and close to her front door.” Read Times-Free Press coverage here.
My take: Probably Justified
4. July 23, 2015: Derek Wolfsteller, white male, 31.
The Counted says, “Wolfsteller was allegedly causing a disturbance inside an Arby’s restaurant when police arrived. Authorities said Wolfsteller and an officer scuffled, and that at some point the officer removed her weapon and shot the man, reportedly in the head.” WCCO TV, the local CBS affiliate, reports that, “A preliminary investigation determined that two people were trying to subdue the man when Therkelsen arrived. The man did not immediately submit to Therkelsen’s demands, and she used her Taser on the suspect, which did not subdue him. When Therkelsen tried to physically subdue him, a fight ensued and the suspect tried to grab her gun from her holster. Therkelsen regained the weapon, and fatally shot the man.” The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported after an interview with Wolfstetter’s father, “One day before the Plymouth incident, police were called to Wolfsteller’s grandparents’ home for a mental health crisis, but his father said Monday that police couldn’t take him to the hospital against his will.” They add about the incident two important details: first, “an Arby’s employee [had] called 911 about a disturbance and, Duane Wolfsteller said, several restaurant employees tackled his son to the ground.” Second, “The BCA said that, according to the preliminary investigation, officer Amy Therkelsen responded to a report of a disturbance, and was told on the way that the man had a weapon and was inside the restaurant. When she arrived, two people were attempting to subdue Wolfsteller. When he didn’t immediately follow her commands, she used her Taser, but it proved ineffective, investigators said.” Plymouth Police Chief Michael Goldstein said…his department had had previous contact with Wolfsteller. He declined to elaborate.” See TV coverage here. Read the Star-Tribune coverage here.
My take: Probably Justified
5. July 22, 2015: James Bush, white male, 20.
The Counted, which lists this in a database of “people killed by police,” describes the incident thusly: “Bush, who riding a motorcycle, collided with a police car that was making a U-turn. Bush was taken to hospital but later died. St Clair Shores police chief Todd Woodcox called the incident a ‘tragic accident’.” MLive Detroit reported that, “The St. Clair Shores police officer was eastbound on Eight Mile approaching Intestate 94 when he saw a vehicle pass in the opposite direction with no headlights on, state police Lt. Calvin Hart told MLive Detroit. The officer made a U-turn and began heading west. While following the vehicle in preparation to make a traffic stop, the other vehicle turned left off Eight Mile into a driveway and the officer followed, at which point Bush crashed into the front-passenger side of the police car.” Police Chief Todd Woodcox told the Macomb Daily, “We cannot undo the tragedy, but we can promise a full and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash”. Read coverage by MLIVE Detroit and the Macomb Daily. The idea that this was a “police killing” within the scope of the Guardian’s database is hugely telling about the editorial slant that the newspaper takes in these cases. Personally I am sickened that it would include this just to get another statistic, but, hey.
My take: Shouldn’t Have Been In Here In The First Place
6. July 19, 2015: Samuel DuBose, black male, 43.
The Counted reports, “Police initially said that an officer pulled DuBose over for a routine traffic stop which escalated into some type of altercation, and that DuBose dragged an officer with his vehicle for a distance before the officer fired. That account was later disproven by body camera footage released by Cincinnati prosecutor Joseph Deters, who announced that murder charges were being filed against University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing.” The Guardian later reported, “Tensing had maintained he was “dragged” by DuBose’s vehicle after the two entered into a physical altercation and was forced to shoot, but Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters said body-camera evidence completely contradicted this account. In a frank assessment of the officer’s conduct, Deters said Tensing had “purposely killed” DuBose and that he “should never have been a police officer”” Fox News reports that “Deters says the shooting of motorist Samuel DuBose in a “chicken crap” stop over a missing front license plate was “asinine,” and “without question a murder.” He also said the university shouldn’t be in the policing business at all. The prosecutor said he thinks now-fired Officer Ray Tensing lost his temper because DuBose wouldn’t get out of the car”. Read The Guardian coverage here. Read Fox News coverage here.
My take: Suspicious
7. July 18, 2015: Troy Goode, white male, 30.
According to The Counted, “While returning home from a concert Goode allegedly got out of a vehicle his wife was driving and started acting ‘rowdy’. Authorities have not said what happened when police encountered Goode or what caused him to have a medical emergency, but family says there is video of him ‘hogtied face down’ and that Goode told officers he was having difficulty breathing.” WHBQ Memphis reports that Goode, “without explanation got out of the car and apparently started acting in an erratic fashion to attract the attention from a bystander, and they called Southaven Police.”… Southaven Police say they believe Goode was on LSD. Police told FOX13 the 30-year-old was restrained and taken to Baptist DeSoto where he later died. Goode’s attorney told FOX13 he has lots of questions about what happened between the time Goode left the scene and the time Goode’s wife got the call two hours later. “We know that he was hogtied and we know that he was placed face down on a stretcher, and we know a witness said he heard him say ‘I can’t breathe.’ We know he is an asthmatic and used an inhaler,” the police said. WHBQ continued by saying, “We have also learned that the act of “hogtieing” someone during arrest is used on a statewide level by law enforcement in Mississippi. It can be used by officers if a suspect could kick or otherwise injure an officer or EMT worker while being taken into custody.” Watch WHBQ coverage here.
My take: Needs Investigation
8. July 18, 2015: Estevan Gomez, Hispanic male, 26.
The Counted states, “Authorities said they were attempting to book Gomez into custody when he began fighting with police and reached for an officer’s weapon. Police said an officer attempted to use a Taser on Gomez but it had no effect, prompting officers to fire.” Coverage in the Fresno Bee and the Visalia Times Daily state the same basic story: officers were booking Gomez in when he attacked them and attempted to take the gun of one of the officers. Officers attempted to TASE, and when this proved ineffective and they were unable to subdue Gomez, they shot him. Read coverage in the Visalia Times Daily. Read coverage in the Fresno Bee.
My take: Probably justified
9. July 17, 2015: Darrius Stewart, black male, 19.
The Counted reports that, “Stewart was traveling in a vehicle that was stopped by police for a broken headlight. Authorities said he was placed in the back of a patrol car, unhandcuffed, while officers ran his name. When the officers returned to handcuff Stewart and take him into custody for outstanding warrants, police said he became combative and struck an officer with the handcuffs. The officer then drew his gun and fired. Stewart’s mother told local news that her son had never been arrested and that the warrants were for someone else with the same name.” WMC Television reported that, “Investigators said when the officer opened the back door to handcuff Stewart, he kicked the door and attacked the officer.” I note that if the account is correct and the officer was moving to handcuff Stewart, then the officer would presumably have received, or believed he had received, confirmation on the arrest warrants, which WMC states were for a sexual offense in Iowa and another offense in Illinois. WMC continues, “During the fight, Stewart grabbed the officer’s handcuffs and swung them at him. The officer grabbed his gun and shot Stewart to end the fight. Stewart went to Regional Medical Center in critical condition where he later died. The officer had several cuts and bruises from the fight, but he did not need to go to the hospital. He is relieved of duty pending the outcome of this investigation.” The Memphis Flyer identified the officer as 26-year-old Connor Schilling, and noted that “Schilling, who worked in the MPD’s Ridgeway precinct, had a previous suspension for a DUI arrest in Southaven in July 2014 , but criminal charges were dismissed in that case. He did, however, receive departmental charges after the incident. His personnel file also contains one excessive force case in 2013 that was found to be not sustained by the MPD.” Watch WMC coverage here; Read Memphis Flyer coverage here.
My take: Needs Investigation
10. July 17, 2015: Albert Davis, unknown male, 23.
“Davis was involved in a ‘very, very violent’ struggle with an officer, according to police. The officer had been called after reports of a fight in the area involving five men. The officer deployed his Taser and then fired his gun once, striking Davis. Davis later died in hospital,” reports The Counted. The Orlando Sentinel gives this account : “Orlando police were called to the apartment complex near the intersection of Curry Ford Road and South Conway Road after a fight broke out among five people, including Davis. When Vidro tried to arrest Davis, he took off running but was caught about 100 yards away. Instead of surrendering, Davis chose to fight with the officer, [Police Chief John] Mina said. “Based on the physical evidence at the scene and radio transmissions, it appears there was a very, very violent struggle there,” Mina said. “Our officer did use his Taser at some point during the struggle and a lot of his equipment, to include his Taser, baton, gun magazine, wristwatch and ball cap, were strewn about the scene of this violent struggle.” Mina said Vidro fired his gun one time, hitting Davis in the chest. Police attempted CPR until paramedics arrived. Davis was taken to a local hospital, where he was first listed in critical condition, then later died.” BHTV reported,” “I have to say thank you for the officer doing his job,” said Eileen Curras, who lives at the apartment complex. “Today, we have to be very careful, you know…. We have to be diligent. But, thank God that the officer got the person.” Read Orlando Sentinel coverage here. Watch BHTV coverage here.
My take: Needs Investigation
11. July 13, 2015: Nyal Brown, White male, 77.
In another clear-cut vehicular accident listed in a database of “police killings,” The Counted says, “Brown was turning on to a main street, driving a van. He was killed after being struck by an SUV being driven at high speed by a sheriff’s deputy. Authorities said the deputy was pursuing a separate suspected drunk-driver who had just narrowly avoided crashing into the SUV before speeding away.” While this accounts notes the high speed, I can’t help but note that it does not include the undisputed fact that the deputy had his lights and sirens on. Witnesses state this was a horrible accident. The Columbus Dispatch reports, “Bud Brown’s van was pulling out from a KeyBank parking lot on the south side of Sullivant just west of Demorest Road when it was struck on the driver’s side by the eastbound deputy’s SUV, said Columbus Police Sgt. Brooke Wilson of the accident-investigation unit.” WBNS TV elaborates, “He exited in front of the cruiser and turned in front of the cruiser. The cruiser struck the driver’s side of the van,” said Columbus Police Sgt. Brooke Wilson. “The van actually rotated 360 degrees across the street and came to rest where you see it now. During the rotation of the van, the driver was ejected.”… “Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with this individual,” added Franklin Couty Chief Deputy Jim Gilbert. “This is somebody’s father. This is somebody’s family member. And obviously our concerns are with that family.”” Watch WBNS TV coverage here. Read Columbus Dispatch coverage here.
My take: Shouldn’t Have Been In Here In The First Place
12. July 13, 2015: Bruce Stafford, unknown Male, 55.
Of this man who died while in police custody, The Counted states, “Stafford was arrested for trying to sell stolen puppies. After arriving at the county jail for booking, a ‘brief physical altercation’ occurred and Stafford became unconscious, according to police. He died after officers attempted to render medical assistance, according to police.” The Burlington Times-News reported that, “…there was a brief scuffle as 55-year-old Bruce Dean Stafford was being booked into the jail and Stafford collapsed….[J]ail staff as well as Hendersonville firefighters and the county EMS tried to revive Stafford. He was taken to Pardee Hospital where he was pronounced dead.” The Henderson Lightning reports, “The officer “was wearing a camera on his chest” that recorded all his interaction with Stafford. SBI agents have already interviewed Underwood and his supervisor, Simonds said, and the police department has turned over the camera footage to the state agency. Cameras in the jail also would have recorded the booking process.” Stealing puppies? Read Burlington Times-News coverage here. Read Henderson Lightning coverage here.
My take: Needs Investigation
13. July 12, 2015: Salvado Ellswood, black male, 36.
The Counted explains that, “An officer said he fatally shot Ellswood after the man punched him in the face during an evening encounter behind a doctors’ office building that he was patrolling. Police said the veteran officer, who had asked Ellswood to leave, first used his Taser but that it was ineffective.” This would appear to be relatively straightforward attack on a police officer. The officer reportedly attempted to end the assault on his person with a less-lethal solution — he TASER — nd when that failed and the attack did not stop, the officer fired, killing the man. Plantation police Detective Philip Toman told media including Local10 that Ellswood, “had an extensive arrest record, including acts of violence towards law enforcement officers. He also had an active warrant out for his arrest.” Read Local10 coverage here.
My take: Probably justified
14. July 11, 2015: George Mann, unknown male, 53.
“Authorities said Mann was shocked with a Taser directly on his body during an altercation with officers, and became unresponsive. Police were responding to a report that he was irate and possibly armed while locked in a garage,” said The Counted. The Gwinnett Daily Post elaborated, “According to the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation], officers responded around 4:15 a.m. on July 11 to a call reporting an individual acting “crazy” in the caller’s garage at 5100 Rock Place Drive in unincorporated Stone Mountain. The caller said “his male neighbor was locked in his garage, was irate and possibly armed.”” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that, “Officers made contact with the man and “an altercation ensued,” Doan said. “The suspect went unresponsive at the scene and was transported to Eastside Medical Center where he was pronounced dead,” Doan said.” The Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the Gwinnett Daily Post that, “Mann was stunned with the taser when he resisted the officers and went unresponsive at the scene. He was transported to Eastside Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.” Neither The Counted nor the AJC mentioned, but the GBI did note, that “a gun and suspected methamphetamine were found in the garage where Mann was [arrested]” according to the Daily Post. Read Gwinnett Daily Post coverage here. Read Atlanta Journal-Constitution coverage here.
My take: Probably justified, needs investigation
15. July 8, 2015: Jonathan Sanders, black male, 39.
Another controversial case, The Counted reports, “An attorney for Sanders’s family said an officer choked him to death with a flashlight. But police chiefs denied this, and said he sustained injuries during a physical fight involving no weapons. Sanders had been exercising his horse before the encounter with the officer, according to his family.” The Clarion-Ledger reported, “”We don’t know why he was going after Jonathan, we don’t know what the reason for stopping him was, we don’t know what led up to this incident,” Parish said, adding that he hasn’t been able to talk to all the eyewitnesses yet. That’s when an altercation occurred. Details of that are sketchy by all accounts. Early reports had Herrington using a flashlight to strangle Sanders, but both Street and Parish have since said there was no flashlight. Parish said as far as he knows, Sanders did not have a weapon, but that Sanders ended up strangled to death.” The Associated Press later reported, “Stonewall Police Chief Michael Street said he has turned the inquiry over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, as is typical when a police officer is involved in someone’s death in Mississippi. Warren Strain, the spokesman for MBI, said an autopsy has been completed and that Sanders’ body has been returned to his family. He said MBI has notified the FBI, which he described as “offering support.” Strain said autopsy results are being analyzed and he can’t release a cause of death. Street and Mitchell said MBI is likely to hold a news conference in coming days to discuss the autopsy’s findings. Strain described the encounter between Herrington and Sanders as a physical “altercation.”” This story has not unfolded as of yet because the police have not released autopsy results and the grand jury has not yet made a finding. Read Clarion-Ledger coverage here. Read AP coverage here.
My take: Suspicious
16. July 6, 2015: Shane Gormley, white male, 30.
Mr Gormley was killed by the Utah State patrol when he suffered a heart attack after being TASED four times. As The Counted tells it, “Gormley suffered a heart attack after being shocked with a Taser four times during a struggle with a trooper, according to authorities. After eluding capture by police several times in the preceding few days, following his escape from a jail work-release scheme, he beat an elderly woman and attempted to steal her car in an effort to escape from the trooper. He was placed into a coma in hospital but died a week later.” The important thing to note here is that officers attempted to protect Mr Gormley using less-lethal force despite the circumstances of his chase and subsequent arrest. And this is a great example of how context is important — s horrible as that Counted account makes Gormley sound, reality is much, much worse. Mr. Gormley had in fact been, as The Counted says, on work-release from jail (where he was serving time on a retail theft conviction); the 30 year old had escaped, then after stealing a motorcyle and getting stopped by the state police on a traffic charge, Gormley used the motorcycle to escape again. Gormley then stole a car from Wasatch Front Kia. According to FOX13, police, “went to the apartment where Gormley’s girlfriend lives near 24th St. and D Ave. in Ogden. They saw him jump from the apartment window and speed off in her car. Troopers chased Gormley to 21st St., where they boxed him in but he ran from the car and tried to carjack others. Authorities said he tried to carjack a truck and trailer but didn’t get in.” Then, according to KSL.com, “Investigators looking for Gormley found him Monday. He attempted to escape by jumping into a car driven by a 53-year-old woman. He punched, scratched and bit the woman in an attempt to get her out of the car, according to the UHP. Troopers used Tasers on Gormley four times before taking him into custody. After he was handcuffed, shackled and taken out of the car, Gormley went into cardiac arrest, according to the UHP. Gormley was taken to McKay-Dee Hospital Center where he was placed in a medically induced coma.” He later died. KSL continues, “Tests showed [Gormley] was under the influence of methamphetamine and opiates at the time.” FOX13 reports that the medically induced coma was necessary precisely because of the amount of methamphetamine in Gormley’s system. Read FOX13 coverage here. Read KSL coverage here.
My take: Probably Justified
17. July 5, 2015: Neil van de Putte, white male, 25.
The Counted notes that, “While crossing a street, Van De Putte was struck by a police patrol car being driven by an officer who was responding to an unrelated call. Authorities said Van De Putte was walking against the traffic signal.” This is another horrible accident that seems to be added to this database for the purposes of inflating the numbers. But in this case, it is so obviously biased against the officer that it neglects even in its brief description to mention that it was 3:40 am at the time of the accident, and it mischaracterizes as “authorities said” a witness report stating that Mr. van de Putte was crossing against the signal, and neglects entirely to mention that the officer tried to avoid Mr. van de Putte to the extent that he crashed his patrol car into a utility pole. The Asbury Park Press reported, “Lacey Police Officer Andrew Slota was responding to a call and traveling East on Lacey Road when his patrol car struck Vandeputt before veering off the road and into a utility pole following an evasive maneuver by the officer. Witnesses to the incident indicated that Vandeputt was crossing against the traffic signal to the north of Lacey Road at the Deerhead Lake intersection when he was struck by Slotta, [Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Al] Della Fave said. According to Della Fave, though Slota attempted to avoid Vandeputt, the pedestrian was struck by the front passenger side of the patrol vehicle, and after impact the vehicle struck a utility pole on the westbound side of the road, eventually coming to rest in the bank parking lot adjacent to the roadway. Vandeputt was pronounced dead at the scene by Dr. Konomos from Newark Beth Israel at 3:47 a.m. Slota was taken to Community Medical Center where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries.” This is, quite simply, a most naked example of the worst kind of hack-written, biased reporting. The Guardian should hang its head in shame for this unforgivable hit-job against an officer who did everything he could to avoid a tragic accident. Read Asbury Park Press coverage here.
My take: Shouldn’t Have Been In Here In The First Place
18. July 5, 2015: Johnny Ray Anderson, white male, 43.
“Police were responding to reports of a prowler in the neighborhood but have provided little details on the the circumstances before Anderson’s death. Anderson’s wife said her husband had been fixing a bicycle near the house the homeless couple had been squatting in, but fled when police arrived due to a fear of being caught trespassing. Anderson jumped a fence and was then shot in the torso,” said The Counted. Details on this incident are unclear, and there is suspicion about why Anderson was shot. KTLA reported that, “A 911 caller reported a man was knocking on his or her door and attempting to get inside the house, located in the 12200 block of 216th Street (map), around 9:40 p.m. Sunday.” NBC Los Angeles reported, “The family said Johnny Ray Anderson was knocking on the home’s door because he wanted to escape authorities, but authorities said on Sunday that deputies came after the report of a prowler.” The Los Angeles Times added, “Johnny Ray Anderson was listed on a gang injunction and didn’t want to be arrested, Kathleen Anderson said. At the sight of law enforcement, he climbed over a fence into a neighboring property. About seven hours later, a detective said he was dead.” Read KTLA coverage here. Read NBC Los Angeles coverage here. Read LA Times coverage here.
My take: Needs Investigation
19. July 5, 2015: John Deming, Jr., white male, 19.
The Counted states this fairly concisely, though it fails to note a fairly important contextual clue (especially since it notes that Deming was found inside a business): NBC Bay Area reports, “Police said they found Deming just after 2 a.m. when responding to a burglary alarm at Specialty Sales Classics, a car dealership at 4321 First St. The Counted tells the story thusly: “Police were responding to a burglar alarm when authorities said they encountered Deming inside a business acting ‘agitated and aggressive’. According to police, they attempted to use beanbag rounds to subdue Deming before he escaped through back window, where officer Daniel Kunkel began following him. Police say the two wound up in a physical altercation after Kunkel’s Taser failed to stop Deming, who wound up on top of the officer, ‘pummeling his head’. Kunkel claimed he was afraid he would lose consciousness and fired his weapon once at Deming’s torso and again at his face when the initial shot failed to stop the attack.” Apparently the crime involved malicious mischief: according to ABC7, “Specialty Sales Classics salesman Jeremy Bolen says the hood of a 1967 Mustang was scrawled on with a sharpie. The suspect even walked on a Cadillac worth $115,000. “You can’t repaint this,” he explained. “There’s a bunch of other damage. Graffiti in the bathroom,” he added.” NBC Bay Area continues, “Initially police said Deming was found in front of the business, but clarified Tuesday he was still inside but could be seen through the dealership’s large front windows. Deming allegedly threw a 50-pound floor jack through the window, which landed on the sidewalk near the officers. Police fired at him with a beanbag round but missed, and Deming refused commands to leave the dealership, police said.” Deming then ran out the back through a broken window. NBC continues, “[Officer Daniel] Kunkel was standing watch in the back of the business and saw Deming jump through the broken window. Kunkel ordered him to stop but Deming kept running, and Kunkel hit him in the back with a Taser, according to police. The Taser didn’t stop Deming, and Kunkel started to chase him until Deming turned and charged Kunkel aggressively, police said Deming allegedly kicked Kunkel in the stomach and punched him in the head, knocking him to the ground. Deming got on top of Kunkel, pummeling his head as he lay on the concrete, police said. Kunkel thought he might lose consciousness and used his Taser again, but again it had no effect, so he drew his pistol and shot Deming once in the torso. However, even that didn’t stop Deming and he continued his attack, police said. Kunkel then fired two more rounds, hitting Deming at least once in the face, police said.”Read ABC7 coverage here. Read NBC Bay Area coverage here. Read coverage here.
My take: Probably Justified
20. July 3, 2015: Christian Siqueiros, Hispanic male, 25.
In this case, there are very few facts to discuss, and The Counted’s report is extremely straightforward: “Squeiros died from a heart attack following a physical altercation with police, who were responding to a report that he was causing a disturbance. Police said he became combative and had to be restrained. Siqueiros’s sister and a neighbour said that a large group of officers had been on top of him during the struggle.” NBC Los Angeles reports (and this is in the video, not the written story accompanying the video) that an unnamed witness, “the neighbor who called authorities” who “did not want to go on camera but said that Siqueiros was, “acting strangely” and that his eyes were glazed over. Police ordered him to the ground and the man who called in the authorities said that the arest was orderly and not forceful.” NBC continues, “Siqueiros allegedly “became combative” when police arrived, and officers took him into custody, police said. While in custody, Siqueiros went into cardiac arrest and later died at the hospital, police said.” Read NBC Los Angeles coverage here.
My take: Needs Investigation
21. July 1, 2015: William Jeffries, white male, 57.
The Counted said, “Jeffries was reportedly intoxicated and urinating in public. When an officer arrived, he refused to take a breathalyzer test and leaned on a patrol car, according to police. The two entered into an altercation and Jeffries’ head hit the car, breaking his neck. Jeffries died two weeks later in hospital.” To this, WVMetroNews only adds, “Officer Eric Riddle was suspended pending an investigation, but was cleared by an internal investigation conducted by the Weston Police Department. He returned to work one week after the incident in question.” Read WVMetroNews coverage here.
My take: Be Nice To Have More, But Ruled Justified
22. July 1, 2015: Kevin Judson, black male, 24.
Noting that the status has been “ruled justified,” The Counted reports, “Police said Judson ran on foot from a traffic stop, that a deputy gave chase, and that ‘ultimately shots were fired’. Authorities have not indicated what led to either the initial stop or the shooting.” The Oregonian, though, noted that, “Police are investigating preliminary reports that the motorist bolted from his vehicle, dropped a methamphetamine pipe and ran before trying to steal the deputy’s patrol car.” While The Counted and The Guardian updated the status to, “Justified”, they did not think it important to update their text, which states that “authorities have not indicated what led to either the initial stop or the shooting,” which is more than a littleirresponsible and horribly unfair when you realize that they both link to and quote the result of the outcome of the investigation, which was posted on KATU. That account goes like this: “As Broyles arrived on the scene, he saw Judson fleeing, pulled his patrol car into a parking lot, parked it and gave chase on foot. Berry said during a foot chase the suspect ignored repeated commands to “stop” and “get on the ground.” The deputy fired his stun gun, but it failed to stop the suspect. According to Berry, the video shows the suspect getting into the deputy’s patrol car. The two struggled for control of the car; the deputy drew his handgun and continued to order the man to give up. Berry said the suspect tried to put the car into gear. Witnesses said they heard the car’s engine rev. During the struggle for the car, the suspect’s hand was near the deputy’s loaded AR-15-style rifle, which was mounted in the car, Berry said. The suspect then tried to drive off with the deputy’s hand stuck in the door. Broyles then made the decision to open fire. The first shot hit Judson in the left arm and went into his chest. Broyles managed to free himself from the car as Judson put the car into reverse. Broyles’ second shot hit the door jam. The car crashed into an electrical tower. Broyles fired two more times. One bullet hit the passenger’s door. The other struck Judson in the head. Judson died at the scene. “Deputy Broyles at the time he fired his weapon was reasonably in fear for his own life. He too, reasonably believed that to allow Judson to flee in the patrol vehicle, based on all that had transpired, could pose a significant threat to the community…”” Not convinced that this is something The Guardian editors and the hacks at The Counted knew about? Well, consider that the prosecutors released not one but two videos of the altercation and the incident. How could The Guardian and The Counted know this? Because they link to the KATU story that includes the video, and has the headline, “DA clears deputy in deadly McMinnville shooting after traffic stop, releases video”. When you watch the video, you see that the deputy is apparently in a scuffle with someone, who steals the officer’s car (police cars contain weapons, police radios and equipment) and attempts to drive away in it. The idea that this is not a justified shooting is absurd; that The Guardian and The Counted literally chose not to more clearly state this in their narrative is scurrilous, cowardly and irresponsible at best. Read and watch KATU coverage here.
My take: Ruled Justified, Because It Was
So, What Have We Learned?
With this small but representative sample of those killed in July, 2015 and listed by The Counted as “Unarmed” I find the following: Three of the incidents were very clearly tragic vehicular accidents that should not have been included in any honest count. Eleven were probably justified, or were in fact ultimately ruled as justified. Six need investigation before any honest and fair conclusion can be drawn. This leaves two — two — incidents which frankly look like the cops blew it.
Now, right out of the gate, here in August, 2015, it looks as if fully 50% o f the July cases were either obviously or had already been ruled “justified.” Three of those cases — car wrecks — had no business being included in the database at all, so we’re at 64%. Of the “Needs investigation, I reckon (see my reasoning above for each case) that Bruce Stafford, Albert Davis, and Darrius Stewart are going to be quickly ruled as justified, and, bringing my “right out of the gate” justified number to 72%. Johnny Ray Anderson (who would bring us to 77%) is a little less clear, so let’s say I lose my personal bet that 80% of the “killings” in here will end up being obviously justified.
Just two incidents — 9% — go the other way: they appear to be clearly cases in which a police officer murdered a citizen. And at least two or three of the remainder could go either way.
My overall point is that, when you see a meme on Facebook saying that all cops are doing is killing people? (Like it or not, that’s where many people get their news these days.) And a feature like The Counted is proffered as all the evidence needed.
By the way, in terms of race and gender, all people killed by police in July, 2015, were male. Five (22%) were black. Ten (45%) were white. Three (14%) were Hispanic. Three were unknown. One (4.5%) was an Asia-Pacific Islander. Both cases that were “suspicious” involved black males. Of the “Needs Investigation,” two were black, two were white, two were “unknown.” I don’t think any larger truth can be derived from this, but I include it because it’s there.
Why do people still think Iraq was responsible for 9/11 and that Barack Obama is a Muslim? Because facts are complex, and killings by police are very complex. It takes time and concentration to read this kind of stuff. You cannot judge incident 699 using the same lens as you used to judge incident 698.
It is the responsibility of real journalists and reporters — go ahead and ask one at The Guardian — to honestly and objectively seek and report on fact. When you’re proffering the public something that purports to be an objective compendium of information on which to base honest conversation to help society solve tough problems, you shouldn’t cook the books. That would be a betrayal of your role in society.
The Counted is such a betrayal.
Ways To Make It Better
At a minimum, there need to be some new categories, starting with what I have critiqued here. If you want to include vehicular deaths then you simply have to make a “Vehicular” super-category, with sub categories including “Police vehicle hit pedestrian,” “Police vehicle hit other vehicle,” “Other vehicle hit Police vehicle,” etc.
Categories for those killed by police really has to include an “Intoxicated” category, with sub-categories of “Alcohol” and “Narcotics” and “Prescription drugs” and “Marijuana.” Possibly with a sub-category of “Methamphetamine” since meth itself is responsible for so many encounters and deadly encounters with law enforcement.
Some categories about the activity in which the deceased was engaging would also reduce uncertainty: The idea is to fully isolate people who are killed by police while engaging in criminal offenses versus those who were not — and while that sounds difficult, it is likely not. “Traffic offense” is a real red flag here for “possibly chickenshit,” but “maybe not.” That is true in a way that it is also true that, “Engaging in assault of officer,” “engaging in assault of civilians,” “engaging in vandalism or burglary,” “engaging in robbery,” are highly specific and give you an immediate flavor of how this person came in contact with authorities — without placing the responsibility for establishing justification on the part of The Counted. It brings transparency and allows for sorting.
Other categories could include, “Domestic violence,” “dispute,” “attempting to flee arrest,” etc.
Once these sub categories are entered, users would have the ability to quickly filter down and find the kinds of offenses they are interested in, whether they are using the (somewhat lame) web interface or their own, based on the download of the dataset.
I’m happy to be of help. Just ask.