The recent high-profile shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling are just the latest in a growing list of black men (and boys) who have died at the hands of police under questionable justification. They’re joined by Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and too many others to count.
But in the wake of these shootings, the question needs to be asked: Do cops kill white people, too? As a matter of fact, they do. It’s just that blacks are disproportionately killed by police versus whites, according to January 6 Washington Post report, and when police kill white people, you don’t hear as much about it.
Here are the stories of three white people who were killed by police with questionable justification.
Kelly Thomas was a mentally ill homeless man who had lived on the streets of Fullerton, California, for as long as anybody could remember. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and improperly treated, Kelly had a long rap sheet, with crimes ranging from simple trespassing to assault with a deadly weapon.
On July 5, 2011, at about 8:30 p.m., cops responding to a call about someone vandalizing cars found Thomas and attempted to search him. Thomas was uncooperative with the search, and at least one officer, Manuel Ramos, was heard threatening him.
“[These fists] are getting ready to f**k you up!”
Thomas was tased at least five times, and while screaming for his father, cops attempted to subdue him, breaking several bones in his face and body in the process.
Thomas died in a hospital five days after his fatal beating. None of the officers involved in the incident were ever convicted of any crimes.
Zachary Hammond was a 19-year-old recent high school graduate on a date with a 23-year-old woman on July 26, 2015. Hammond’s date, Tori Morton, used Hammond’s cell phone to send a text about a possible pot deal, but unbeknownst to Morton, she had accidentally texted a South Carolina state trooper. The trooper notified the Seneca, South Carolina, police and arranged for a sting in the parking lot of a Hardee’s.
When cops arrived, Hammond panicked and tried to flee. As he backed up, Lieutenant Mark Tiller fired two rounds into Hammond’s car, according to the Guardian, killing him instantly. Tiller would later claim that he “feared for his life” because he thought Hammond was going to run him over; however, dashcam footage clearly showed that Tiller was standing to the side of Hammond’s vehicle when he fired.
Police Officer Mark Tiller, killed unarmed Zachary Hammond. It was on Police Dash Cam! pic.twitter.com/ZvXAl2KK65
— Sweet Spirit (@asweetspirit) April 1, 2016
Lieutenant Tiller was not convicted of any crimes in relation to Hammond’s shooting.
Unlike Kelly Thomas, who was mentally ill, or Zachary Hammond, who was (however obliquely) connected to a drug deal, Dylan Noble was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
— Fresno Bee (@FresnoBee) July 7, 2016
According to the New York Daily News, on June 25, 2016, Fresno police were called on a report of a man with a rifle. Arriving at the scene, they saw a vehicle, driven by Noble, driving through a field. Police attempted to pull him over, but according to their account of the story, Noble drove for half a mile — to a Chevron station in the nearby town of Clovis — before pulling over.
What happened next is a matter of intense dispute. Police say that Noble exited his truck and began reaching into his waistband, which is often a sign that the perp is reaching for a gun. Noble, however, was unarmed, and friends and family say that if he was reaching for anything at all, he was reaching for his wallet.
Police shot and killed him on the spot. As of this writing, the incident is under investigation by the FBI, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This post is not intended to marginalize the problem of police in the U.S. shooting black people with questionable justification. Rather, it’s intended to make the point that the police brutality epidemic in this country, while it indisputably affects blacks disproportionately, is not limited to one race. Trigger-happy cops may kill blacks far more often than they kill whites, but the color of your skin is no guarantee of safety when it comes to police killings.
[Image via RUCHUDA BOONPLIEN/Shutterstock]