In 15 High-Profile Cases Involving Deaths of Blacks, One Officer Faces Prison Time

What happened in 15 recent cases in which blacks
were killed by the police or died in police custody:

5 cases
Indicted or charged
8 cases
Settlement reached
11 cases
Officer convicted/pleaded guilty
2 cases

Over the past three years, cases in which blacks were killed by the police or died in police custody have risen to national prominence and increased racial tensions, often prompting demonstrations around the country.

We tracked the outcomes of 15 high-profile deaths. In some of the cases, the police offered an explanation for their actions, but many viewers of raw footage concluded that their actions were unjustified.

Officers were indicted or charged in eight of the cases. A trial is pending in one case. One case resulted in a conviction and another led to a guilty plea and a prison sentence.

Cases in which an officer was indicted or charged:

Status of trial
Terence Crutcher
Tulsa, Okla.
No conviction

Officer found not guilty of manslaughter

Philando Castile
Falcon Heights, Minn.
Samuel DuBose
No conviction

Charges dropped after two mistrials

Sandra Bland
Prairie View, Tex.
No conviction

Perjury charge dropped

Freddie Gray
No conviction

Three acquitted, charges against three others dropped

Walter L. Scott
North Charleston, S.C.
Pleaded guilty

Officer sentenced to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to civil rights charges

Akai Gurley

Officer convicted of manslaughter, judge later reduced to negligent homicide

Laquan McDonald
No trial yet
Note: The officer who arrested Ms. Bland was charged with perjury. None of the employees in the jail where she died were charged. In the DuBose case, the University of Cincinnati settlement also includes an on-campus memorial to Mr. DuBose, college educations for his 12 children and an apology from the university’s president.

After a mistrial for murder or voluntary manslaughter charges in December 2016, Michael T. Slager, the North Charleston, S.C., officer who fatally shot Walter L. Scott in the back as Mr. Scott was running away, pleaded guilty to civil rights charges in May. He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter after Akai Gurley was killed by a ricocheting bullet in a dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. The judge later reduced the conviction to criminally negligent homicide.

After two mistrials, Cincinnati’s top prosecutor said in July that he would drop charges against a former University of Cincinnati police officer, Ray Tensing, who fatally shot Samuel DuBose in 2015 during a traffic stop. A judge later dropped the charges.

In May, Officer Betty Jo Shelby was found not guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black driver, in Tulsa, Okla.

In seven cases, no officers were charged, and may never be. For example, in the case of Keith L. Scott, 43, who was shot during a confrontation with the police in the parking lot of his apartment complex in Charlotte, N.C., the prosecutor decided not to charge Officer Brentley Vinson, saying that the officer’s use of deadly force was justified.

In another case, Timothy Loehmann, the officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice in Cleveland, was never criminally charged in the death of the 12-year-old boy. But two and a half years after the shooting, Mr. Loehmann was fired for providing false information when he had applied for the job.

Cases in which officers have not been charged:

Keith Lamont Scott
Charlotte, N.C.
Paul O’Neal
Alton B. Sterling
Baton Rouge, La.
Christian Taylor
Arlington, Tex.
Tamir Rice
Michael Brown
Ferguson, Mo.
Eric Garner
Staten Island

“Most police shootings are found to be legally justified,” said Philip M. Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University and a former police officer who tracks police crime.

“Under the relevant Supreme Court case law,” Mr. Stinson said, “if an officer has a reasonable apprehension of an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or deadly force being imposed against the officer or somebody else, then they’re justified in using deadly force.”

While criminal convictions are uncommon, many families of those who died have agreed to settlements of $850,000 to $6.5 million.


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