Police Shootings: What Families Go Through
Approximately 1,000 people are shot and killed by police in the United States of America every year, including about 24 people here in Washington. National estimates of the staggering financial costs of gun violence do not even attempt to account for the emotional toll these deaths have on the families of these victims. As police accountability attorneys, MHB lawyers bear daily witness to the confusion, frustration, and alienation families commonly endure in the wake of police shootings.
Consider just a few examples from the investigations reviewed by this writer, in which investigators:
- Interviewed a victim’s wife to get prejudicial information on her husband while deceiving her about whether a shooting had even occurred and that her husband was deceased;
- Leaked unreliable information to the press in the hours after a shooting describing the teenage victim as the monster from the horror movie “The Ring”; and
- Provided inconsistent information to mother about son’s death: first that the victim was holding a knife, but when the knife turned out to have been dropped at the scene by another officer hours after the shooting, that the victim was holding a pair of sunglasses.
Although reforms passed in 2019 promised families fairer and more transparent investigations, our experience suggests the system continues to suffer from profound flaws. For example, it took nearly two years for a Bothell family to get answers about a 2020 shooting that investigators described as “very straightforward.” The family pleaded with investigators for five months for a private opportunity to watch the surveillance video of their son and brother’s death before it was released to the public. Instead, investigators simply dumped it onto YouTube.
But no matter what the system throws at these families, they have demonstrated a degree strength and grace that is awe inspiring. Whether an officer-involved shooting results in a suit for damages or not, the lawyers of MHB are available to help families answer questions, find the truth, and seek justice.