Black activists such as Mariame Kaba and Angela Davis have long called on us to imagine alternatives to policing in the United States. Only recently have their visionary ideas erupted into the mainstream via the Black Lives Matter protests following the police killing of George Floyd.
Americans are increasingly supportive of the core tenets of the “defund the police” movement. According to FiveThirtyEight, 76 percent support diverting police funds to officer training, aid for the homeless, mental health assistance, and combating domestic violence. In New York—where $1 billion was shifted away from the NYPD—a majority of residents support reducing police funding, and nine in 10 believe that mental health professionals should accompany police on some types of calls, according to The New York Times.
We used data from Mapping Police Violence, The Washington Post’s police-shootings database, and local archival news reports to take a look at the 13 times in which Durham and Raleigh police have killed someone since 2013. All of them were men, all but four were Black, and half had documented mental health issues.
In light of the defund and divert movement, we ask—how might each of these men’s stories have played out differently had a social worker, a mental health expert, or a crisis counselor showed up instead?
*Indicates cases involving individuals with documented mental health issues.
DPD Police-Involved Killings (2013–20)
July 27, 2013—Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo
33, Hispanic, Armed (Knife)
Durham police responded to a reported stabbing and found Ocampo near the crime scene. He reportedly retrieved a knife from his back pocket. Some witnesses said police told him to put the knife down. Then an officer shot him four times. Other witnesses said Ocampo was trying to hand the police the knife. Ocampo, from Honduras, spoke little English.
September 17, 2013—Derek Deandre Walker*
26, Black, Armed
Walker, who was involved in an escalating custody dispute, posted suicidal messages on Facebook and skipped work. He took a handgun to the bull in CCB Plaza, pointing it at his head while crying and talking to himself. He then pointed it at an officer who had arrived on the scene and was shot and killed.
September 5, 2015—La’Vante Biggs*
21, Black, Armed (Airsoft)
Biggs was carrying an Airsoft toy gun when his mother called 911 in fear that he was suicidal. Biggs then called 911 to make a statement, saying “I love everybody” and “it’s not nobody’s fault.” Hostage negotiators worked for a half-hour to disarm Biggs, then began firing when he walked toward them. The police shot at him 12 times. 23 officers were on site.
November 22, 2016—Frank Clark
34, Black, Armed (Disputed)
Clark was shot and killed after a struggle with three officers who said he made a move for his waistband. They also said they found a gun by his body. Although the five-day report made no mention of it, the district attorney’s report said that Clark pointed a gun at an officer before he was shot. However, an autopsy revealed that both bullets struck Clark from behind, including the fatal shot to his head.
February 15, 2017—Kenneth Lee Bailey Jr.
24, Black, Armed (Disputed)
Visiting his cousins, Bailey missed his 7:00 PM pretrial release curfew while awaiting trial for armed robbery. He fled when three officers tried to arrest him. They shot him from behind in the street, saying he had a handgun. Several neighbors disputed that he was armed.
August 8, 2018—Shaun Jeffrey Christy*
37, White, Armed
A Chapel Hill nonprofit alerted police after Christy vocalized suicidal thoughts to the center. While Christy was driving around New Hope Commons armed and suicidal, police confronted him. Police shot him after he pointed his gun at them and yelled, “Shoot me! Shoot me!” Christy had a history of mental illness and domestic violence.
March 30, 2019—Ondrae Levado Hutchinson
30, Black, Unarmed
Police shot Hutchinson after the mother of his child called seeking help with a domestic argument. After three police officers failed to de-escalate the situation, a fourth officer arrived on scene. Hutchinson resisted getting handcuffed. Three shots were fired.
RPD Police-Involved Killings (2013–20)
April 10, 2013—Thomas Jeffrey Sadler*
45, White, Unarmed
Sadler, a retired marine who could not afford medicine to treat his bipolar disorder, had a mental health episode in which he attacked his son and screamed profanities while nude in a church parking lot. Police employed a taser on him, and he died.
February 29, 2016—Akiel Denkins
24, Black, Armed
When an officer tried to serve a felony drug warrant, Denkins fled. According to the official account, Officer Daniel Clay Twitty caught him, they wrestled, and Twitty fired when Denkins went for a gun in his waistband.
August 29, 2016—Jaqwan Julius Terry
24, Black, Armed
A woman who had just ended a contentious relationship with Terry reported that he had shown up at her home with a gun. Terry ran when the police showed up; an officer chased and caught up to him. They struggled, Terry pulled out a gun, there was a shootout, and a second officer fatally shot Terry.
April 20, 2019—Soheil Antonio Mojarrad*
30, Hispanic, Armed (Disputed)
Police shot Mojarrad eleven times after a report that he was trespassing outside a pub and had stolen a phone. The officer’s body camera was turned off. The five-day police report stated that Mojarrad had advanced towards the officer with a knife. However, no DNA or fingerprint evidence supported this claim, and he was shot 20 feet away from the officer. Morjarrad had a history of mental health issues and severe brain trauma.
January 30, 2020—Keith Dutree Collins*
52, Black, Armed (BB gun)
When police approached a man reported to be acting strange and in possession of a gun, Collins ran. While running, he turned to face the officer, holding a BB gun. An officer fired four times. As he lay bleeding on the ground, the officer fired seven more times. Collins had developmental disabilities and read at a third-grade level.
May 13, 2020—David Tylek Atkinson
24, Black, Armed
Atkinson robbed a BP gas station at gunpoint. Police confronted him, exchanged gunfire, and killed him. Dash and body cameras captured the killing.
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