Why cops shoot

When her baby was born, Natasha Clemons hugged him and kissed him and promised to God she’d shield him from the imply world. She by no means laid him in a crib because she wanted him close. She drove him to school because she didn’t trust bus drivers. She took him to church, taught him to thoughts his manners, to respect the police and do what they say.

She consistently texted his coaches and lecturers when she shipped him off to varsity in New Mexico on a football scholarship. She wore a T-shirt that stated RODNEY’S MOM on senior day and held his hand as they walked across the field. Helicopter mother or father? She was a backpack.

And with her faculty graduate back dwelling in Sarasota, tooling round in his mother’s white Jeep Liberty with the five-star safety ranking and the gospel music in the CD player, she worried.

Rodney Mitchell, 23, who worked at Kohl’s department store, was on his way round 9:30 p.m. on June 11, 2012, when he saw police lights within the rearview mirror. He pulled off U.S. 301 and came to a cease on Washington Court docket, just north of Dr. Martin Luther King Way.

The deputy getting out of the Crown Victoria behind Mitchell was the same age and likewise had gone to varsity on a football scholarship. Beneath different circumstances, they’d’ve had a lot to speak about.

Adam Shaw had made mistakes in 2½ years with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. He’d been disciplined for stopping minority residents for seatbelt violations then illegally searching their cars. Now he was a part of Operation Armistice. Police have been saturating north Sarasota to reduce crime. The black group scornfully called it Operation Amistad, after the slave ship.

Mitchell, in the Jeep with Florida tag GODANGL, was the next target.

Shaw would later say he noticed Mitchell wasn’t wearing a seatbelt as the two passed on the road going opposite directions, even if it was nighttime and the Jeep had tinted windows. He would say the automobile didn’t cease quickly enough, and that after it stopped, the driving force was moving round quite a bit inside. He would say the driving force refused to place the car into park.

What Mitchell’s sixteen-year-old cousin remembers from the passenger’s seat is a white cop rushing to the motive force’s window and shouting: “Boy, why didn’t you stop the car?”

He remembers another officer walking to the entrance of the Jeep, the spotlight from his vehicle beaming by means of the windshield. He remembers Rodney Mitchell’s hands on the steering wheel, and Shaw ordering him to put the car into park. He remembers his unarmed cousin moving his proper hand from the wheel toward the gearshift, then the flash from a muzzle, then the sound of four shots.

n June 12, 2012, the day after Mitchell died, police shot a person in Boynton Beach. They shot one other days later in Sunrise, then days later in Melbourne, then four days later in Tallahassee. They shot 14 people that month and 136 folks that year statewide: bank robbers and rapists, but additionally vacationers and a security guard and a hospice nurse. You’d by no means know the tally. Some shootings don’t make the news. The Florida Division of Regulation Enforcement can say what number of purse snatchings there were in any given yr, however not what number of occasions officers fired on citizens. The FBI’s statistics on police shootings aren’t much better. Nobody retains accurate count.

“Embarrassing and ridiculous,” FBI director James B. Comey called the lack of data.

“Unacceptable,” former Lawyer Common Eric Holder called it.

For the past three years, shootings of unarmed black males caught on video have sparked outrage. However they are anecdotes. Without data, there’s no scope.

“How can we fix what we will’t measure?” asked Vanita Gupta, who headed the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division from 2014 to January of this year.

To help fill that void, the Tampa Bay Times in September 2014 requested the entire nearly 400 legislation enforcement companies in Florida for reports generated any time an officer cops shot the kid somebody between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2014. The Times analyzed more than 10,000 pages of police records and combed by way of hundreds of media reports and court docket files, and conducted dozens of recent interviews, to build Florida’s most complete database of police shootings.

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