Thursday, October 1, 2020

13 Names: Sureshbhai Patel, Wangsheng Leng + 11

Content warning: mention of injury or death by violence.
composite portrait with Indian man's face on left and Chinese man's face on right, framed by list of 11 names

In 2015, Sureshbhai Patel was detained by police while on a walk around his neighborhood. A neighbor called the police on him, describing him as a "black man". Video footage showed that the 57-year-old grandfather from India was NOT resisting police. An officer seriously injured Patel's neck in a needless takedown. Patel was partially paralyzed and had to learn to walk again. In 2017, police broke the neck of Wangsheng Leng, a 66-year-old with Alzheimer's, while restraining him in his own home. Leng was taken to the hospital and died a month later. Both Leng and Patel did not speak English; their unfortunate encounters had been attributed in part to their inability to communicate with police officers. But many other unarmed individuals with no language barrier with police officers have died in similar encounters:

Like Sureshbhai Patel, Elijah McClain was walking near his home. Police detained the 22-year-old who was returning home after picking up an iced tea for his brother. He told the police that he couldn't breathe before he went into cardiac arrest. Like Wangsheng Leng, Elijah McClain died in hospital following his encounter with police.

Manuel Ellis too had said "I can't breathe" before he died. These were also the last words of Cecil Lacy Jr., who encountered police while he was apparently having a mental health episode. Cecil Lacy's cause of death was asphyxiation, as was Daniel Prude's. Like Elijah McClain, Daniel Prude suffered brain damage and passed away some days later in hospital.

Javier Ambler tried telling police that he was not resisting and that he couldn't breathe. He was tased 3-4 times and died of heart failure. Natasha McKenna was tased 4 times and died of cardiac arrest a few days later. Adam Trammell was tased 18 times. He died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Zachary Bearheels and Natasha McKenna suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Tanisha Anderson had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Kayla Moore, Shereese Francis and Adam Trammell had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Police killed Moore, Francis and Trammell in their own homes after a roommate, neighbor or family member summoned police to assist with a mental health situation.

Kayla Moore was pinned down by five officers, Shereese Francis by four. Kayla stopped breathing a few minutes later. Shereese went into cardiac arrest.

Adam Trammell was naked, in the shower, when police broke his door down. The frightened and confused young man remained in the shower, where they tased him repeatedly for not complying with commands. He was no longer breathing by the time the ambulance arrived.

Daniel Prude's brother, Zachary Bearheels' mother and Tanisha Anderson's brother had called police to help their family member during a mental health crisis. The police were taking Tanisha to a mental health evaluation when she tried to leave their custody. An officer took her down and kneeled on her back. Zachary tried to leave police custody when they were escorting him to a bus station. They punched and tased him. He was dead by the time he arrived at the hospital.

Cecil Lacy too, had initially accepted the police officers' offer of a ride home. But when he changed his mind and tried to leave their custody, the encounter turned deadly. His death was ruled an accident and no charges were filed against the officers involved.

No criminal charges were filed against the 6 officers who restrained Natasha McKenna. There were no charges in the deaths of Tanisha Anderson and Adam Trammell either. The misdemeanor assault charge against the officer who paralyzed Sureshbhai Patel was dismissed. 3 of the officers involved in the Zachary Bearheels case were reinstated while one remained terminated.

In the first federal civil rights trial against the white officer who paralyzed Mr Patel, ten white male jurors voted to acquit him while two Black female jurors voted to convict him. A white judge ended the federal civil rights case of Mr Patel permanently, using the reasoning that Mr Patel was guilty of the misdemeanor of leaving his house without an ID, which, for a brown man, is apparently a more serious crime than a police officer breaking someone's neck.

This list is not intended to either blame those who died or to demonize the police officers involved. The circumstances of each case are unique. In some cases, the victim's death under restraint was blamed on their substance use or pre-existing health issues. But in many other cases, the victim was in good health and had no drugs in their system. The reader can make up their own mind as to whether individual deaths were justified.

That said, these 13 names belong to grandkids, grandpas and parents of minor children. These folks are cisgender people and transgender people. These folks include Asian, Black and Native people. For those who still buy into the model minority myth and think that the wellbeing of Black folk is irrelevant to their non-Black community's wellbeing, what happened to Leng and Patel should be a wake up call. Everyone would be safer in a society that respects Black lives.

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