Austin PD Addresses Lingering Trauma Officers Can Face

Involvement in traumatic events like shootings can lead to years of anxiety and worse for police officers. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, acting on an increase in alcohol-related incidents among officers this year, says he has made their mental health a priority.

Police officers often endure years of anguish after they are involved in shootings and other traumatic events. The stress, trauma and burnout from these life-or-death encounters have prompted the Austin Police Department to examine whether it provides the necessary resources to police and civilian staff, reports the city’s American-Statesman. Seeing an increase in alcohol-related incidents among officers this year, Chief Brian Manley has made mental health in the department a priority. He has commissioned a group of experts — including physicians, wellness specialists, peer-support officers and chaplains — to look at how to identify symptoms of post-traumatic stress and how to prevent and treat mental health crises.

“This is an issue that is problematic for police departments across this country,” Manley said. “We recognize that there is probably more that we can and should be doing…We care about them as people, and I think that we have a duty to do everything we can to enhance their health and well-being.” During their career, an officer experiences an average of 188 critical incidents, including being beaten, shot at or threatened with a gun, a 2018 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found. Law enforcement officers are five times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress in their lifetime than the general population, according to the report. First responders, including police and firefighters, also are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, it found. “This is a career where you can’t unsee things that you have seen,” Manley said. “Every officer walks around with visions of things that they have experienced during their career. That impacts you.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cop Who Killed CO Homeowner Was Being Probed

The Aurora, Co., police officer who shot and killed an armed homeowner Monday was involved in another deadly shooting in late June. The officer was returned to regular duty while the investigation of whether he was legally justified in using deadly force in the June incident was ongoing.

The Aurora, Co., police officer who shot and killed an armed homeowner early Monday was involved in another deadly shooting in late June, reports KOAA-TV. The officer was returned to regular duty while the investigation of whether he was legally justified in using deadly force in the June incident was still ongoing. In this week’s incident, police received 911 calls just before 1:30 a.m. Monday reporting a disturbance. Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz said officers encountered “a very chaotic and violent scene,” heard gunfire inside a home then “encountered an armed adult male.”

An officer opened fire, hitting and killing the man, who has been identified as Richard “Gary” Black, a 73-year old Army veteran who served in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. When police entered Black’s home, they discovered a “deceased adult male intruder” inside. An attorney for Black’s family says Black never should have been shot by a police officer. He says an intruder broke into the home and grabbed Black’s 11-year-old grandson, who was sleeping on a couch, and dragged him to a bathroom, where he attacked him. Black and the boy’s father tried to pull the attacker off the child, but after a struggle Black grabbed his gun and shot and killed the man. Moments later, the Aurora officer shot and killed Black.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Parents File Suit in E. Pittsburgh Police Shooting of Teen

The parents of Antwon Rose II, the 17-year-old killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer on June 19, prompting weeks of protests, filed a federal wrongful death suit against the officer, the borough, its chief of police and its mayor.

The parents of Antwon Rose II, the 17-year-old killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer on June 19, prompting weeks of protests, filed a federal wrongful death suit against the officer, the borough, its chief of police and its mayor, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Michelle Kenney and Antwon Rose Sr. say in the suit that officer Michael Rosfeld used “excessive and deadly force resulting in the unlawful shooting death of Antwon M. Rose.” The suit charges that Rosfeld pulled over the car in which Rose was a passenger and “without waiting for backup units to arrive…immediately drew his weapon and began to shout menacing and hostile orders at the occupants of the vehicle, including Rose.” The suit says Rosfeld’s tone and demeanor was so aggressive that it caused the occupants of the vehicle to fear for their lives.

The suit said Rose did not threaten Rosfeld “nor did he make any threatening gestures that would have given the appearance that he had a weapon or represented a danger to the public. Rose was not armed.” In addition to wrongful death and excessive force, the suit accuses Rosfeld of assault and battery. It alleges that borough officials “knew or should have known” about Rosfeld’s “pattern of escalating encounters with the public” and history of problems at other departments. The suit accuses the borough of failing to train officers and supervise them properly, among other allegations.

from https://thecrimereport.org

No Charges Against Minneapolis Cops in Fatal Shooting

Chief Hennepin County, Mn., prosecutor Mike Freeman is not charging two officers who killed Thurman Blevins, 31, last month. Blevins fled from the officers with a loaded handgun and turned toward them, Freeman said.

Hennepin County, Mn., prosecutor Mike Freeman will not file charges against the two Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot Thurman Blevins earlier this summer, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. He announced the decision after the release of police body-camera footage that appears to show Blevins, 31, held a gun as he was shot by Minneapolis officers on June 23. Family and friends of Blevins interrupted Freeman’s news conference Monday, saying they’re “devastated” and calling Blevins’ death “murder.” Freeman said that when Blevins “fled from the officers with a loaded handgun, refused to follow their commands for him to stop and show his hands, and then took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward the officers, [he] presented a danger to the lives of Officer Schmidt and Officer Kelly and members of the community.”

Sydnee Brown, a first cousin of Blevins, “I don’t want the media and the world to think that we are angry. … We’re more so disgusted. At the end of the day, we want the cops arrested.” The footage from body cameras on officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt shows they ordered Blevins to drop the gun and warned him that they would shoot before firing. What appears to be a handgun drops to the ground when Blevins falls. “The decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized,” said Freeman. The officers were responding to a 911 call of a man firing a gun into the air. The video shows them pulling up their cruiser and Blevins seated on a curb near a woman with a child in a stroller. As the officers pull up, one says, “He’s got a gun!” Blevins jumps up and runs, as the officers yell “Stop, stop! Put your hands up! I will (expletive) shoot you!”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Seattle Chief Fires 2 Cops Who Fired at Fleeing Car

Interim Police Chief Carmen Best said the two officers had violated policy when they recklessly fired at the stolen car. She told the officers, “Your actions and decisions…created a deadly force situation that unnecessarily threatened public safety.”

Two Seattle police officers who unleashed a barrage of gunshots at a fleeing car last year, wounding the driver and a passenger, have been fired after a lengthy internal investigation, reports the Seattle Times. In strongly worded disciplinary reports released Monday, Interim Police Chief Carmen Best found that officers Kenneth Martin and Tabitha Sexton recklessly fired at the stolen car after failing to follow department policies. “Police officers have immense responsibilities and wide-ranging potential to impact the lives of the public,” Best wrote to each officer. “It’s our central mission to keep the public safe. Your actions and decisions did the opposite: they created a deadly force situation that unnecessarily threatened public safety.”

Her decision comes less than a week after Mayor Jenny Durkan nominated Best for the permanent chief’s job. Best was appointed interim chief in January following the departure of Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. Although the driver and passenger weren’t seriously injured, the disciplinary reports and internal-investigation findings depict a chaotic scene in which the outcome could have led to unwarranted deaths or serious injuries and possible harm to bystanders who could have been struck by errant gunfire. Top department staff had recommended the firings of Martin, who joined the department in 2015, and Sexton, who joined in 2007. The two officers were notified of the chief’s decision in the last few days after separately meeting with Best to offer explanations for their actions.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Protests Of Fatal Police Shooting Block Pittsburgh Streets

It’s been almost one month since Antwon Rose, 17, was shot by East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld after he ran from a vehicle during a traffic stop on June 19. Demonstrators braved the sweltering heat during rush hour, determined to keep the case in the public consciousness.

About 50 protesters blocked downtown Pittsburgh streets during rush hour Monday afternoon and asked for justice in the wake of the police-shooting death of Antwon Rose II last month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. It’s been almost one month since Rose, 17, was shot by East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld after he ran from a vehicle during a traffic stop on June 19. The demonstrators braved the sweltering heat during rush hour, determined to keep the case in the public consciousness. Commuters trying to make their way home, as well as those who rely on public transportation, were delayed during the demonstration. Some drivers simply turned around as the protesters approached.

One motorist clashed with protesters, telling police he was assaulted by the protesters, while the demonstrators said he tried to drive through the crowd. The protesters, some of whom wore placards saying “Justice for Antwon Rose Jr.,” said they were prepared to remain on the streets all night, though the demonstration ended by 8 p.m., police said. at one point, the demonstrators implored anyone who was 17 years old — Antwon’s age when he was killed — to speak. One such young woman made an impassioned plea. “How would you feel if your child was killed?” she said. “My generation will keep fighting. We will stand up for each other. It is up to us to fight and get whatever we want.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Violent Chicago Clash After Fatal Police Shooting

The shooting occurred after patrol officers saw a man who was “exhibiting characteristics of an armed person,” a police spokesman said. “They go to question him, and at that point a confrontation ensues and he is shot.’’ The spokesman blamed “inaccurate information that the individual was unarmed” for inciting the crowd.

A fatal shooting by Chicago police Saturday afternoon fueled a violent clash between officers and a large crowd of onlookers who threw bottles and rocks as cops swung back with batons, the Chicago Tribune reports. After the fracas, a comparatively peaceful protest at a police station stretched into Sunday morning. The shooting happened around 5:30 p.m. and police took about five hours to bring things under control. Some people screamed “murderers” as officers lined up against them. Some in the crowd held cameras up to take video, while others behind them threw rocks and glass bottles, some filled with urine. As officers tried to contain the crowd, some of them dragged people to the ground or struck them with batons. Other officers held batons over their heads to ward off people yelling at them. “You violent mother——-,” one woman in the crowd screamed.

Around 10:30 p.m., Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said officers had “cleared the crime scene.” He said that four officers were injured from rocks and thrown bottles and four demonstrators were arrested. Two squad cars sustained minor damage. The shooting occurred after patrol officers on foot saw a man who was “exhibiting characteristics of an armed person,” Guglielmi said. “He looked like he may have something on him. They go to question him, and at that point a confrontation ensues and he is shot.’’ Guglielmi blamed “inaccurate information” for inciting the crowd. “There was some inaccurate information that the individual was unarmed,” he said. “We have cops out there, community affairs officers, trying to give them as much information as we can … There were some members of the community who were upset. This is a tragic situation where an individual lost his life.’’

from https://thecrimereport.org

Chicago Issues Police Shooting Video After Violence

Police in Chicago released video Sunday that showed a man who was shot to death by an officer a day earlier had a firearm and tussled with officers before the shooting. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson quickly disseminated the body camera video in the face of angry protests after the shooting.

Police in Chicago released video Sunday that showed a man who was shot to death by an officer a day earlier had a firearm and tussled with officers before the shooting, USA Today reports. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson quickly disseminated the body camera video in the face of angry protests after the shooting. Dozens of protesters took the streets Saturday, with some demonstrators calling the police “murderers” and a few slinging bottles and rocks at officers. The suspect was identified as Harith Augustus, 37, a barber in the South Shore neighborhood who was shot by police early Saturday evening not far from where he worked.

“We’re not trying to hide anything. We’re not trying to fluff anything,” Johnson said. “This video speaks for itself.” Officials met with the Augustus’s family and showed them the video before making it public. “The family wants to ensure there is a just investigation, but they also want to make sure this city doesn’t overreact,” Johnson said. Augustus had a valid firearms license but did not have a concealed-carry permit. The decision to make video public less than 24 hours after the incident was a notable departure from Chicago policy in officer-involved shootings. The department has faced scrutiny for disproportionately using deadly force in black and Latino neighborhoods. In 2016, the city said it would release video and audio recordings within 60 days of a use-of-force incident. Johnson said he released the video to dispel inaccurate information on the street that led to the violent protests. “We can’t have another night like that,” Johnson said. “If we don’t get in front of things, the narrative will spin out of control.” Police described the officer who fired the weapon as a “probationary officer” with the department for less than two years.

from https://thecrimereport.org

States Have Great Leeway In Police Shooting Cases

Each state fashions its own laws spelling out when officers can use deadly force. In 1985, the Supreme Court changed the legal landscape, ruling 6-3 that shooting fleeing suspects who were not an imminent threat violated the person’s constitutional rights. 

In decades past, police officers who shot suspects as they ran away were more likely to be praised then charged with a crime. While the legal landscape and public opinion have shifted, it’s never a certainty that such shootings will result in officer indictments, the Associated Press reports. Prosecutors charged a white officer with homicide in last week’s death of an unarmed black teen who was shot in the back while fleeing a traffic stop near Pittsburgh. In other fatal police shootings on Monday in Galveston, Tx., and on Saturday in Minneapolis it remains to be seen whether charges will come. Both cases involved people who were running away. “You do not shoot someone in the back if they are not a threat to you,” said Pittsburgh prosecutor Stephen Zappala.

In the 1970s, officers were often authorized under state law to shoot a person in the back to keep the suspect from evading arrest even if the individual posed no threat. The killing of Edward Garner in 1974 changed that. Memphis police officer Elton Hymon saw the 15-year-old sprint across the backyard of a home that had just been broken into. As the burglary suspect hopped a fence, the officer opened fire, striking Garner in the back of the head. In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that shooting fleeing suspects who were not an imminent threat violated the person’s constitutional rights. A key issue in police shootings is the officer’s sense of fear, which is rarely easy to assess. Each state fashions its own laws spelling out when officers can use deadly force. The Supreme Court has helped guide many states in development of their laws, but states still have tremendous leeway over what types of standards to adopt, or whether to adopt them at all.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Payouts in Police Shooting Cases Range Widely

In Chicago, of two fatal shootings by a police officer in the same incident, one led to a $16 million settlement; in the other, the victim’s family this week got nothing. Much depends on whether the officer is considered to have been reasonably afraid.

When a police officer fatally shoots a person, there are usually reasons offered, including that the officer was afraid for his life, the victim was reaching for his waistband or refused to show his hands, or a glint looked like a gun. When Robert Rialmo, a Chicago police officer, killed Bettie Jones, 55, there were no reasons to give. Officials acknowledged that Jones had not only been innocent, but had died while trying to help the police, the New York Times reports. During the same 2015 incident, Rialmo he fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier, a 19-year-old college student. Although a city review board found that Rialmo’s actions in both shootings were unjustified, Chicago could hardly have treated the two deaths more differently.

Jones’s family stands to receive one of the largest settlements ever in a fatal police shooting — $16 million, pending City Council approval. LeGrier’s family did not receive a settlement. The family sued, and on Wednesday a jury awarded them $1 million, but the judge reversed the decision, awarding nothing. The difference, say lawyers who have represented families of shooting victims, is that in Jones’s case the facts are unusually clear cut, while in LeGrier’s, they are more in line with typical police shootings: murky, complex and disputed. In such cases, much depends on the word of the officer, who is usually given the benefit of the doubt. Much depends on whether the officer is considered to have been reasonably afraid, whether or not there was an actual threat. The LeGrier lawsuit followed a pattern: The vast majority of families who lose someone in a questionable police shooting get nothing. The Times lists a wide range of settlement amounts in other high-profile police shootings. In all of these cases, the person who died was black.

from https://thecrimereport.org