21 Times Cops Weren’t Held Accountable For The Death Of Black Victims

Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Sean Bell. Tamir Rice. Alton Sterling. Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

The list goes on and on of black men, women and children who died as a result of encounters with law enforcement and receive no justice while those responsible for their deaths ― the same ones who pledge to “protect and serve” ― face little to no repercussions. 

The St. Anthony, Minnesota, cop who shot Philando Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, seven times was acquitted in June 2017. Castile was in the car with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter at the time of his death.

Castile’s mother, Valerie, expressed her outrage during a press conference after the trial. 

“The system in this country continues to fail black people and will continue to fail us,” she said. “My son loved this city, and this city killed my son. And a murderer gets away.”

Sadly, the anger Castile conveyed is a familiar feeling for those who have witnessed the repeated acquittal of cops who have been involved in unjust killings of black men and women, often over prosecutors’ claims of “lack of evidence.”

Time and again, the nation has mourned the loss of black lives and taken to the streets and social media to demand both an end to these killings and accountability for those involved. Here are 20 other cases where officers have escaped prosecution and walked free. 

  • Amadou Diallo
    Richard Harbus via Getty Images
    Four plain-clothed cops fired 41 bullets at 23-year-old Amadou Diallo outside of his New York apartment in 1999. They were all charged with second-degree murder and eventually acquitted.

  • Patrick Dorismond
    New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images
    Patrick Dorismond, 26, was killed by undercover cops while he was waiting for a taxi outside of a New York City bar in 2000. A scuffle ensued after the cops approached him and asked to buy drugs. Witnesses said police didn’t reveal themselves until after one cop fired his gun. The officer who pulled the trigger was cleared of criminal charges.

  • Sean Bell
    New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images
    Sean Bell, 23, was shot and killed in Queens, New York just hours before his wedding in 2006 by four plainclothes officers and an undercover detective. Only three out of five of the detectives involved in his killing went to trial. They were all found not guilty of all charges.

  • Aiyana Stanley-Jones
    Family Photo
    Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, was asleep when she was shot and killed by Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley during a raid on the wrong home in 2010. Weekley was charged of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun. The first trial ended in a mistrial in 2013. He was cleared of his involuntary manslaughter charge during a retrial in 2013 and cleared of the remaining charge in 2015.

  • Kenneth Chamberlain
    Wikimedia Commons
    Kenneth Chamberlain was fatally shot by White Plains, New York, police after he inadvertently triggered his medical alert necklace while he was home alone in 2011. Cops demanded the 68-year-old retired Marine open the door. He refused, telling them he didn’t need help. Police broke down the door, Tasered him and shot him. A grand jury declined to indict the officer that killed him.

  • Ramarley Graham
    Family Photo
    Officer Richard Haste shot Ramarley Graham, 18, in the bathroom of his grandmother’s New York City apartment in 2012. Haste entered the home despite not having a warrant. There are still many unanswered questions revolving around his death, especially since there were no witnesses. Haste was charged with manslaughter but the charge was later dropped.

  • Rekia Boyd
    Family Photo
    Rekia Boyd, 22, was killed when an off-duty Chicago detective, Dante Servin, fired five shots at a group in a dark alley in 2012. One of the bullets hit Boyd in the head and she died. Servin claimed his life was in danger and said one person in the group pointed a weapon at him. Servin did not tell the group he was a detective before he fired. Though his actions were “beyond reckless,” according to the judge, Servin was found not guilty on all charges.

  • Eric Garner
    Family Photo
    Eric Garner, 43, said “I can’t breathe” 11 times while NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo held him in a chokehold in July 2014 after accusing him of selling loose cigarettes. Garner’s encounter with the police was caught on camera, yet a grand jury did not indict Pantaleo. The man who recorded the last moments of Garner’s life, however, has been sentenced to four years in prison on unrelated charges.

  • Michael Brown
    Family Photo
    When former Ferguson cop Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown six times, his dead body lay in the street for four hours on August 9, 2014. Brown’s death resulted in civil unrest and eventually led to the revelation of corruption within the city’s government. The Justice Department decided not to prosecute former Ferguson cop Darren Wilson.

  • Tamir Rice
    Family Photo
    Tamir Rice, 12, was playing with a toy gun at a park in Cleveland when he was killed in November 2014. Two officers responded to a call that a man had a pistol, though the 911 dispatcher didn’t relay that the caller said the gun was “probably fake.” Before the car came to a complete halt, Officer Timothy Loehmann jumped out of the car and shot the child in his torso. He later stated that it looked like Rice was reaching towards a gun in his waistband. Loehmann did not face charges.

  • John Crawford III
    Family Photo
    John Crawford III was shot and killed in a Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart after police responded to a report that he was waving a gun and pointing it at other customers in 2014. Crawford, who was actually holding a BB gun which was sold at that store, was shot when police arrived. The cops involved weren’t charged in the 22-year-old’s death.

  • Jerame Reid
    Jerame Reid, 36, was shot and killed by Bridgeton, New Jersey police during a traffic stop in 2014. Reid exited the passenger side of the car with his hands up. Cops told him not to move; they allege there was a gun in the glove compartment. On a dashcam recording, Reid is heard saying “I ain’t got no reason to reach for nothing” right before Officer Braheme Days shot him. Days was not indicted for the shooting.

  • Jason Harrison
    Famiily Photo
    In 2014, Jason Harrison, a 38-year-old man who was mentally ill, was shot five times in front of his mother by Dallas police only moments after they told him to drop a screwdriver he was holding. His mother had called the police initially to request their help in getting him to the hospital because he had stopped taking his meds. Harrison was dead seconds after answering the door. A Texas grand jury decided not to indict the officers involved.

  • Freddie Gray
    Mark Makela via Getty Images
    None of the six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who sustained a severe spinal injury and fell into a coma while being transported in a police van on April 12, 2015 in Baltimore, were found guilty. He died a week after his arrest. After the first three officers — including the driver and the highest-ranking officer — were acquitted in their individual cases, charges against the remaining officers were dropped.

  • Keith Lamont Scott
    Family Photo
    In September 2016, cops in pursuit of another man stopped Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old with a mental illness, while he sat in his SUV waiting on his son. Police said they spotted Scott in his SUV with weed and a gun. The situation escalated and Scott was fatally shot by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Brentley Vinson. In November, the county district attorney announced that no charges would be filed against Vinson.

  • Korryn Gaines
    Facebook
    Korryn Gaines, a mother of two, was killed in her home during a standoff with Baltimore County Police in August 2016. Cops, who were attempting to serve Gaines a warrant for failing to appear in court, said that the 23-year-old pointed a gun at the officer and threatened to kill them. When the cop fired at Gaines, he also struck her 5-year-old son. The child was taken to the hospital. A month later, the county’s chief prosecutor announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officer. 

  • Alton Sterling
    Family Photo
    Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, was outside of a Baton Rouge convenience store where he frequently sold CDs when two cops approached him in July 2016. The officers, who were investigating reports of a man with a gun, were caught on camera slamming Sterling to the ground. Sterling was shot in the chest and back.

    Following the shooting, one of the officers removed a gun from Sterling’s pocket, but the storeowner said that Sterling wasn’t holding a weapon during the altercation. The DOJ decided not to charge the two officers in May 2017. At the time, the state capital’s police chief said it would be premature to fire the cop who pulled the trigger.

    On March 27, the Louisiana attorney general declined to charge the two cops, citing that they acted in a “reasonable and justified manner.”

  • Philando Castile
    Family Photo
    Philando Castile was in the car with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter when former Minneapolis cop Jeronimo Yanez pulled him over because his “wide-set nose” fit the description of of a robbery suspect’s. Castile told Yanez that he had a licensed gun in the car. After the officer told him not to reach for it, Castile said that he was getting his identification papers, as instructed. Yanez then shot Castile seven times while his seatbelt was on. His girlfriend livestreamed the final moments of Castile’s life after the cop fired. In June, a jury found Yanez not guilty in the death of Castile. 

  • Terence Crutcher
    Family Photo
    Terence Crutcher, 40, was fatally shot by Tulsa, Oklahoma Officer Betty Shelby in September after his vehicle stalled on the side of the road. Shelby and her partner approached Crutcher while responding to an unrelated call. Shelby fired at Crutcher (because he reached into his car, she later said) and the second officer Tasered him. Not only was Shelby acquitted of Crutcher’s death, but she received $35,000 in back pay for the time she was suspended during the investigation.

  • Tyre King
    Family Photo
    Thirteen-year-old Tyre King was was gunned down by Columbus, Ohio police in September 2016. Cops were responding to reports of an armed robbery when they approached Tyre and two other teens. The three fled and the cops chased Tyre into an alley. According to police reports, Tyre appeared to pull a handgun from his waistband. A white officer shot him multiple times. Cops later determined that Tyre had a BB gun, not a real gun. A grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot him.

  • Sandra Bland
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    Sandra Bland, 28, had just moved to Texas to start a new job when a Waller County officer, Brian Encinia, stopped her for failing to signal when changing lanes in July 2015. Encinia forcibly arrested Bland after she refused to put out her cigarette. She was taken to jail and three days later, she was found dead in her jail cell. Investigators report that her autopsy findings were consistent with suicide. Though Waller County police received backlash after reports showed that guards were negligent, a grand jury declined to indict anyone in Bland’s death.

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