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‘I’m Not Surprised’: Sister of Botham Jean Reacts to New Study Finding Black Americans 3.5 Times More Likely Than Whites to Die at Hands of Police

A new study from the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation revealed Black Americans are 3.5 times more likely to die from interactions with police violence than white Americans.

“I am not surprised” said Allisa Findley, the sister of Botham Jean, the 26-year-old Dallas man who was killed on Sept. 6, 2018, by Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger when Guyger mistook his apartment for her own and entered it and opened fire on Jean. A jury later found Guyger guilty of murdering Botham Jean.

Samaria Rice is the mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was shot and killed by a Cleveland Police officer on Nov. 22, 2014, two seconds after pulling up to a park bench where Tamir was sitting.

The shooter, Timothy Loehmann, and his partner had been responding to a 911 call instigated by the boy playing with a realistic-looking toy gun in the park. Neither the local or federal authorities found sufficient evidence to press criminal charges against Loehmann.

“My life was turned upside down in a matter of seconds,” said Rice who is not surprised by the findings of the research study. She suggests local Cleveland law enforcement and city officials are corrupt and engage in “coverups.”

The study used open-source databases to review police-related deaths from 1980 to 2018 and found not only were Black Americans more likely to die from police Interactions compared to white Americans, but the racial disparity was consistent throughout the 40-year span.

Researchers also discovered 17,100 police-related deaths went under-reported, which can have major consequences when seeking police accountability says Fablina Sharara, a researcher for the study.

“Over half of police violence deaths are misreported in the death investigation system, and that phenomenon minimizes the problem of police violence but because death certificates are such an important part of court proceedings really limits accountability and limits the ability for people to get justice,” said Sharara.

Researchers also point out potential conflicts of interests when it comes to classifying police-related deaths, in part because of a close relationship between medical examiners and the coroner’s office with police departments.

“Medical examiners and coroner’s offices are often embedded in police departments which often leads to potential conflicts of interests. There’s also a lack of training in guidance and how to fill out death certificates specifically for police violence for doctors and medical examiners,” said Eve Wool, a researcher for the study.

The stalled George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Congress did not go unnoticed by both Findley and Rice as both women personally impacted by police violence feel police reform at the federal level could prevent future tragedies for Black Americans.

“It could save my children, and that’s important right now. I don’t want to see any more bloodshed, it is very difficult dealing with that trauma, it doesn’t go away. My brother was killed three years ago, and I still feel it every single day,” said Findley.

The researchers hope their findings can offer lawmakers more long-term data to create better policies around policing, make policing more equitable and increase police accountability.

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