Friday, September 30, 2011

Troy Davis executed for police killing, penalty when police kill?

*This article was originally published in the Viễn Đông Daily News on 30 September 2011, and reported by Vanessa White.

ESCONDIDO, CA—Last week’s execution of Mr.Troy Davis, found guilty of killing a police officer, raises a counter question regarding penalties for police officers who kill citizens.
Last week, the Viễn Đông reported Mr. Davis was executed for the 1989 killing of an off-duty Georgia police officer.
Supporters behind Mr. Davis claimed he was innocent, as there was no physical evidence attaching him to the crime scene and seven of the nine non-police witnesses had taken back their testimonies.
The Viễn Đông also reported about the Fullerton police murder of Mr. Kelly Price while remembering the separate police killings of San Jose residents Mr. Daniel Phạm and Ms. Bich Câu Thị Trần.
Each of the victims was reported mentally ill and both Ms. Trần and Mr. Daniel’s families filed lawsuits. Mr. Kelly’s family plans to do so.
This week, another family out of Escondido, the Lê family, is participating in a $30,000,000 lawsuit against the City of Escondido and Escondido Police Department Officer Matthew Nelson for allegedly using force when shooting and killing Mr. Van Dinh Lê.
The Lê family feels Officer Nelson acted without reason.
The Lê case
According to court documents, three officers arrived at the Lê home on 3 March 2011, responding to a call that Mr. Lê was in the bathroom with a pair of scissors.
Mr. Alex Galindo, the Lê family attorney, told the Viễn Đông that Mr. Lê was depressed, therefore considered mentally ill.  Mr. Lê had recently been laid off and was taking medication for his depression.
While the officers attempted to get Mr. Lê out of the bathroom, Officer Nelson shot and killed Mr. Lê.
According to Officer Nelson, Mr. Lê lunged at him with scissors, causing him to fire one shot in self-defense.
However, the official San Diego County Coroner reports and autopsy show Mr. Lê was not in a lunging position, rather standing straight up, when Officer Nelson shot and killed him.
Mr. Galindo told the Viễn Đông that based on the location of the bullet hole in the bathroom wall and a stippling in Mr. Lê's left eye, Mr. Lê was shot in the left eye at very close range.
Such police killing cases have been and could continue to be on the rise, Mr. Galindo told the Viễn Đông.
While officers are in the academy, they spend time with theoretical cases addressing mental illness, Mr. Galindo continued. However, during field training, officers do not have much, if any, practice regarding citizens with mental illness.
Fullerton, San Jose cases
Mr. Thomas was a schizophrenic, homeless man frequenting downtown Fullerton.
On 5 July 2011, Fullerton Police Department (FPD) attempted to arrest Mr. Thomas near the Fullerton Bus Depot, yet when unable to do so, they repeatedly kicked, beat, and used a Taser on him.
Following the incident, Mr. Thomas was hospitalized and placed on life support. After five days he was taken off life support and died.
As a result of Mr. Thomas’s death, Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckus filed felony murder, manslaughter, and excessive force charges against two Fullerton Police Department (FPD) officers. Both officers face a collective maximum of 19 years imprisonment.
Ms. Trần and Mr. Phạm's families have yet to see the justice Mr. Thomas’s family received.
In July 2003, a San Jose police officer shot and killed Ms. Trần in her own kitchen because she allegedly threatened them with a vegetable peeler which they believed looked like a cleaver.
An open grand jury investigation in October 2003, cleared the officer who shot Ms. Trần of wrong doing.
In 2009, San Jose police officers shot Mr. Phạm  to death.
The officers had received a report about a stabbing incident outside the Phạm residence. When the officers arrived, they found Mr. Phạm standing in his yard holding a knife.
When Mr. Phạm ignored the officers’ repeated orders at gun point to drop the knife and instead came toward the officers, still holding the knife, they opened fire.
Mr. Phạm was hit with 12 bullets and died at the scene.
Last week, Mr. Phạm's family attorney filed a lawsuit against the City of San Jose and the two officers who killed him.
Thought to consider
Should the police officers who killed Mr. Pham, Ms.Trần, Mr.Thomas, and Mr. Lê face the same penalty Mr. Davis received for his contested killing of a police officer?

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