The number of people killed by law enforcement in the US this year has reached 1,000 after officers in Oakland, California, shot dead a man who allegedly pointed a replica gun at them.Authorities said several officers opened fire on the man on Sunday evening when he walked toward them as they towed away cars that had been used to perform so-called “sideshow” stunts in east Oakland. Officers discovered later that the gun was a replica, police said.
“Officers working sideshow approached by subject who pointed firearm in their direction,” the Oakland police department said on Twitter. “Officers fatally shot subject.” A spokeswoman said the department would investigate the shooting itself. The man’s name was not released.
Hundreds of cars had been involved in hours of chaotic sideshow stunts that shut down several intersections in Oakland from late on Saturday into the early hours of Sunday, according to police. One man was arrested and several shots were fired.
The man shot in Oakland became the 1,000th database entry in The Counted, an ongoing investigation by the Guardian to record every fatality caused by police and other law enforcement officers in 2015, to monitor the demographics of the people who died and detail how and why they were killed.
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Sunday’s incident was the 883rd fatal shooting by a law enforcement officer so far in 2015, according to the Guardian’s records. Another 47 people died after being shocked with an officer’s Taser, 33 died after being struck by a law enforcement officer’s vehicle, and 36 were killed in custody. Another received a deadly blow to the head during a fight with an officer.
The shooting was also the 183rd death recorded in California, by far the greatest total of any state. Nine states, however, have recorded more deaths per capita, with Oklahoma having the highest rate.
The US government publishes no comprehensive record of people killed by law enforcement,
even after a series of controversial deaths unleashed a national protest movement and
demands from activists and lawmakers alike for better data on the subject.
An analysis of the statistics collected so far found the rate of deaths currently stands at 3.1 per day.
This rate has remained relatively steady throughout the year, peaking through the month of March
to a daily rate of almost four and dipping to an average of 2.6 through June.
The Counted was launched on 1 June, logging 464 deaths in the year to that point.
At that time 102 or 22% of those killed had been unarmed.
This proportion has since fallen slightly to 20% or
198 of the total 1,000.
In 59 deaths, however, it remains unclear whether the suspect was armed.
As of 1 June, black Americans were more than twice as likely to be unarmed as white Americans when killed by police. At that point 32% of the 135 black people killed by police had been unarmed, compared with 15% of the 234 white people. This disparity has since shrunk, with 26% of the 248 black people and 18% of 490 white people being recorded as unarmed.
Brittany Packnett, a member of Barack Obama’s taskforce on 21st century policing and a founder of the Campaign Zero movement that lobbies to curb the levels of police violence in America, said the milestone should be met with “sadness, but not deep shock”.
“Black folks like me have known for a long time that the police do not always represent safety for us
and that an encounter could be deadly,” said Packnett. “But having these statistics that add to our
personal stories should continue to move everyone towards wanting to having a part in correcting this.”
Obama’s taskforce, convened after unrest in Ferguson, followed the decision not to prosecute the
white officer who shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, and made the collection
of more reliable data on the number of police killings in the US one of its central recommendations.
FBI director James Comey said earlier this year that it was “ridiculous and embarrassing” that the Guardian and a separate project by the Washington Post had better information than the federal government about deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers.
The Department of Justice is trialling a new program, which resembles The Counted, to proactively collect data on killings by police. Currently, the FBI records the number of “justifiable homicides” reported to the bureau voluntarily by police departments that choose to participate.
Packnett said that while the government was “still in the beginning stages” of instigating that process, campaigners realised “it’s not enough just to talk about police involved shootings”.
“We have to talk about in custody deaths, we have to talk about non-lethal police violence, we need to talk about particularly vulnerable communities like children and the LGBTQ community,” Packnett said.
“We have to track it all, and we have to track it knowing that stronger, more comprehensive data can better lead us to the place of building solutions.”