Notes on Police Violence

Jersey Shore beachgoer beaten after refusing to give last name

As of the end of April, there have been at least 418 people killed by police in the US according to figures tracked by killedbypolice.net. The Trump administration, for its part, has deliberately promoted a fascistic culture in the country’s police departments, calling on police “not to be too nice” to those they arrest, and has greatly expanded the anti-immigrant activities of the Border Patrol and ICE. Rampant police brutality has become an everyday part of American life. Not a day goes by without someone in the US being killed by law enforcement or subjected to an egregious beating.

Jersey Shore beachgoer beaten for refusing to give her name

Police questioned 20-year-old Emily Weinman about a bottle of liquor she appeared to possess on May 26 at Wildwood beach in New Jersey. Despite passing a Breathalyzer test and claiming that the alcohol wasn’t hers, police persisted in questioning her. After refusing to give her last name and walking away, one of officers followed her, and said, “Alright, you’re about to get dropped.” He then pinned her to the ground, put her in a chokehold and repeatedly punched her in the face. As her nearby 18-month-old daughter cried, officers repeatedly shouted, “Stop resisting.”

The Wildwood Police Chief Robert Regalbuto claimed that he was “shocked” by the video, but justified the beating. “The use of force is never pretty,” he said. “All you have to do is comply with the officers’ request.”

Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano also spoke in support of the police officers. “We're not dealing with an angel here,” he said. “She chose to take on the police. The police did their job.” He echoed the line of the police that the body cam footage would show Weinman kicking an officer in the groin.

However, there is no visible kicking in either the police body cam video or in the video captured by others present. She has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction, and possession of alcohol as a minor. The involved officers have not been charged, but have been placed on administrative leave.

Naked man killed off Virginia highway

Marcus-David Peters, a twenty-four-year-old biology teacher in Essex County, Virginia, was tasered and shot several times on May 25 by officer Michael Nyantakyi after walking down I-95 nude. He died from his gunshot wounds at a local hospital later that night.

The reason for Peters’ behavior remains unclear, as his family states that the man had no history of mental health issues or substance abuse. He had no criminal record and was by all accounts well liked by students where he taught. Students posted sympathetic notes on his classroom door shortly after his death.

Whatever the reason for his behavior, he was unarmed and had recently been hit by oncoming traffic when Nyantakyi approached. With a second officer arriving almost immediately after the shooting, Peters could not have posed a significant threat to the officer.

Upon viewing police body cam video, Peters’ sister, Princess Blanding, commented, “Marcus needed help, not death. The body-camera footage released by Richmond Police Department today confirmed what I already knew. Marcus was unarmed, clearly in distress and in need of help. And instead of receiving help, he received two fatal bullets.”

Richmond, Virginia police chief Alfred Durham defended the officer’s actions. “I looked at what it would take to become a psychologist, psychiatrist, mental-health counselor. Five to eight years of training,” he said. “Our police department gives our officers 40 hours. Five to eight years, and we get 40 hours…. People expect us to go out there and get it right…. And when incidents come like this, and folks just want to beat us up without having all the facts, that hurts, ladies and gentlemen. It hurts the morale of the men and women on my department, and it hurts me.”

He went on to call for a “fair and thorough” investigation, which will almost certainly lead to Nyantakyi’s exoneration.

New body camera exposes lies in police account of 2015 Iowa shooting

Autumn Steele, a 34-year-old mother of two, was killed by officer Jesse Hill in front of her toddler in Burlington, Iowa in January 2015, when police responded to a domestic disturbance call. Police initially claimed that the officer was first bitten by a dog, which prompted him to discharge his weapon, and that Steele was hit on accident.

After the initial proceedings in 2015, Hill was taken off of administrative leave and was found innocent of the manslaughter charge, allowing him to return to police work.

However, part of a recently released body cam video shows no dog, and the police officer involved has changed his story and now denies ever being bitten and says instead that he slipped on the ice. Iowa and Burlington police are currently in a separate legal battle for refusing to release the full body cam video, in violation of open records laws.