Police Who Have Killed Black Americans: Where Are They Now?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because life goes on for infamous officers.
By Nick Fouriezos
The killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020 drew attention once more to the deaths of unarmed Black men in police custody and prompted a debate on how authorities who are involved in such cases should be treated by the law. As Chauvin now faces trial for murder, here is a look at where the cops who were involved in some of the most egregious examples of police violence against Black men are today, and how the legal system treated them.
On March 11, Ohio’s 8th District Court of Appeals upheld an earlier Cuyahoga County court’s decision that the city of Cleveland was justified in firing Loehmann. The former Cleveland police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice in 2014 after mistaking the 12-year-old’s Airsoft gun for a real one. Loehmann was almost rehired as a police officer in another Ohio district, the village of Bellaire, in 2018. The Bellaire police chief had chosen to ignore Loehmann’s history, noting that the rookie cop wasn’t fired by the Cleveland Police Department for killing Rice — the department ruled the shooting was “justified” — but because he had lied on his application to join the force. Public outrage caused Loehmann to withdraw his Bellaire application five days later. As of January, the former officer, who is in his early 30s, was working to get back on the job while also playing amateur football for the Cleveland Warriors, a team of first responders.
Betty Jo Shelby
When Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer Shelby was relegated to desk duty by the department after she was charged with — and later acquitted of — first-degree murder in the September 2016 shooting of Terence Crutcher, she resigned instead, saying in a statement that “sitting behind a desk is not for me.” Two years later, Shelby was working as a deputy sheriff in the Tulsa suburb of Rogers County. And her job had a new responsibility: teaching cops a state-sanctioned course on how to respond “when a police officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion,” as she told a local ABC affiliate at the time. Shelby avoided federal charges last year. Her most recent reported assignment has been in the Rogers County Courthouse operations department.
The former North Charleston, South Carolina, policeman who fatally shot a fleeing Walter Scott in the back, in a video seen around the world in April 2015, is the rare officer to have been convicted. Slager is serving a 20-year sentence, which began in 2017, in a federal prison in Colorado. He hopes to have his case retried and filed court motions in May of last year, arguing that his attorneys were “constitutionally ineffective.”
Howie Lake II
In September 2019, Lake said he would no longer appeal the three-day suspension he received for his role in the 2016 death of Alton Sterling outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store. Yes, his appeal process over what he believed was a wrongful three-day suspension lasted three years after the incident in which Lake’s partner, Blane Salamoni, fired six rounds into Sterling, who was selling CDs outside the store. (Sterling had been accused of waving a handgun, although the gun remained in his pocket for the entirety of his encounter with the police.) While Salamoni was fired, the department retained Lake, arguing that he tried de-escalation tactics, which Salamoni did not. Lake’s lawyer was able to successfully get Lake removed as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit launched by the Sterling family in September 2020, after arguing there was “absolutely nothing” Lake could have done to keep Salamoni from shooting.
Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze
The George Floyd killing is not the first time that Minneapolis police have been involved in a high-profile killing. In November 2015, Schwarze fatally shot Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old Black man, with a handgun pressed against his mouth. According to the testimony of Schwarze and his partner, Ringgenberg, Clark was reaching for Ringgenberg’s gun. Several eyewitnesses claimed that Clark was handcuffed at the time, although forensic evidence in the department’s internal investigation suggested that the handcuffs were actually on the ground, not on Clark. Both officers remain with the Minneapolis Police Department. In 2019, Ringgenberg was testifying in court again — this time as a witness supporting his colleague Mohamed Noor, who would eventually be convicted of murder after shooting 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk in July 2017. And in November, the city of Minneapolis paid out $170,000 to an innocent bystander who suffered severe burns after a flash-bang grenade was thrown at his car in March 2020. The offending officer? Schwarze.