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US police kill at least 135 unarmed black people in just 5 years, National Public Radio report finds

POLICE officers have shot dead at least 135 unarmed black men and women in the past five years in the United Sates, according to a shocking new report by National Public Radio (NPR).

It found that at least 75 per cent of the officers responsible for the killings were white, many of whom acted with impunity.

For at least 15 of those officers, the deadly shootings were not their first, the NPR investigations found, a situation described as “unusual” by criminologist and Louisiana State University professor Peter Scharf.

“Many officers will go their entire career without shooting — sometimes without pulling their gun out at all. It’s rare,” he told NPR investigators.

Many law enforcement departments do not release detailed information about shootings.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Kansas City Police Department refused to give vital pieces of information, including the names of officers or their ethnicity. 

But NPR scoured thousands of pages of court records, lawsuits, news and press releases, witness statements and police report to gather the information for it report.

They interviewed a range of people including police, lawyers, prosecutors and the relatives of victims to help build a comprehensive overview.

According to the report, some 30 judgements have led to settlements totalling more than $142 million (£125m).

Dozens of lawsuits are still pending.

It reveals how law-enforcement agencies close ranks and fail to hold those responsible to account. 

In many instances, the criminal-justice system simply refuses to prosecute, the report states. It says that this often results in departments putting officers back on the street instead of desk jobs where they have little contact with the public. 

Police unions also play a role in protecting officers from accountability, NPR claimed, adding that departments are so short-staffed they often overlook warning signs and evidence of historical problems.

The NPR report focused on a number of specific cases, including two involving former Vallejo police officer Ryan McMahon.

He shot dead 33-year-old Ronell Foster in 2018 after a routine stop. Mr Foster fled after being caught riding his bike with no lights. He was tasered and hit with a torch before having seven bullets pumped into him. He was unarmed.

But the Solano County district attorney did not bring charges against Mr McMahon insisting the shooting was justified because Mr Foster “posed an immediate and extreme threat.”

One year later Mr McMahon was involved in another incident when six officers shot dead a black man who had fallen asleep at the wheel blocking a fast-food drive through. Police shot Willie McCoy 55 times in just 3.5 seconds. 

Police claimed they thought he was reaching for a gun. But experts concluded he was scratching his chest.

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