Criminal Justice

New prosecutors reopen investigations into deadly police shootings

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Progressive prosecutors are reopening investigations of deadly police shootings that resulted in no charges under their predecessors, spurring pushback from police unions.

The New York Times has a story on the prosecutors’ actions, which has led unions in Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia to back campaigns to boot the prosecutors from office.

José Garza is the new district attorney of Travis County, Texas, which includes Austin. Prosecutors in his office have obtained 11 indictments against officers, including in at least six use-of-force incidents that happened in 2019 and 2020, when his predecessor was in office.

Other police shootings that are under new investigations include:

• The 2007 shooting death of Gregori Jackson, 18, a car passenger who ran during a routine traffic stop in Waldoboro, Maine. The Maine attorney general determined that the shooting was legally justified.

• The 2010 shooting death of Danroy Henry Jr., 20, who struck an officer with his car outside a bar in Westchester County, New York. Grand jurors declined to indict the officer.

• The 2018 shooting death of Christopher De’Andre Mitchell, 23, who was in the driver’s seat of a stolen car in Torrance, California, holding an air rifle between his knees. The Los Angeles County district attorney found that the officers acted lawfully in self-defense.

The New York Times said charging police officers in old use-of-force cases “is among the boldest of a range of changes many are seeking.” Prosecutors are also making lists of officers who have been discredited as witnesses, reexamining past convictions for injustices, and requiring corroboration for charges of resisting arrest.

Traffic stops are the most common encounters between police and the public, and police are taught to be alert for danger. Some think that an overemphasis on danger results in too many shootings, according to prior coverage by the New York Times.

The New York Times cited findings from its investigation. It found that, since 2016, police officers in the United States killed more than 400 drivers or passengers who were unarmed or being pursued for a violent crime.

“Most of the officers did so with impunity,” the New York Times reported in its Oct. 31 article.

Only five officers have been convicted in the killings. In about 250 cases, officers had said the drivers used their cars as weapons.

Updated on Dec. to change the description of the shooting death of Danroy Henry Jr.

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