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Wrongful Death Police Shootings and Brutality

February 19, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A black security guard was recently shot down by police during an active shooter situation in a bar outside of Chicago. The security guard had successfully detained the shooting suspect, but when police arrived, they shot and killed the security guard, who was dressed in his security uniform. Sadly, this type of story makes the new virtually every other day, as black people, particularly men, face police violence and brutality at much higher rates than white people. A 2018 study found that black men are over 300 percent more likely to be killed by law enforcement than white men, as reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The young security guard, who had aspirations of becoming a police officer himself one day, left behind a nine-month-old son and a pregnant wife. The police chief of Midlothian, the city in which the shooting occurred, has not yet apologized for his officers’ decision to open fire on the security guard.

Why Do These Shootings Happen to Black People?

One of the main problems that leads to unlawful or mistaken shootings by the police is that law enforcement throughout the country spends much more time at the shooting range than practicing and learning conflict resolution methods. According to Vox, some of the time the average cadets spends their time at the police academy is divided out as such:

  • 60 hours at the shooting range; and
  • 51 hours of self defense.

Cadets spend just:

  • Eight hours of community policing strategies; and
  • Eight hours of mediation and conflict resolution.

While practicing at the shooting range continues throughout an officer’s career, comparatively little time is spent on peaceful conflict resolution under stressful situations. Racism plays a large role in why minorities, particularly black people, face much higher death rates from police than non-minorities. Black communities are not only over-policed in many areas, but the ingrained racism in American culture means that blacks are often thought of as violent, dangerous, and guilty of whatever the officer believes them to be. While this is by no means always the case with law enforcement, it is statistically relevant as to why innocent minorities so often die at the hands of police.

Recent Police Shootings in Pennsylvania and Across the Country

  • Pittsburgh police shot a black, unarmed teenage boy as he fled from his car that police said was just recently used in a non-fatal shooting 15 minutes prior, according to USA Today;
  • A 21-year-old black man was gunned down by police in Alabama, who mistook him for another active shooter, according to The Philadelphia Tribune; and
  • An off duty officer in Dallas killed a black man who was in his own apartment. The officer, a neighbor of the victim, entered the apartment thinking it was hers, and shot him dead believing he was an intruder, according to the New York Times.

What an Attorney Can Do For Your

Of course no financial settlement can bring back the death of a loved one, or erase the physical and emotional scars that police brutality causes. However, it is a step to take to bring financial stability and some sense of justice. While the officer may not be found guilty of homicide, or even fired, settlements often range from $6.5 million to $2 million in wrongful death cases. To speak with a Philadelphia wrongful death or personal injury attorney today, call the Philadelphia firm of van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim at (215) 486-0123.



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