List of Americans killed by cops, in chronological order
“Say their names.” You hear it repeated, you try to remember them all, but there are too many names. The onslaught of violence moves faster than we can even document it. I made this timeline of police killings as a mantra, in creating it for you it was a way for me to sit with these names. To honor them, by spending time in creating this list. I may update the timeline with further details, but just to get started I wanted to list as many names as I could find. Black victims, primarily. Black lives that mattered. Say their names. Read their stories.
Note how long it takes you just to scroll from one year to the next.
To search for your state, use CTRL +F and search for the two-letter abbreviation for your state.
The list below is in no way exhaustive. Police murders weren’t even kept track of in America until shamed into doing so by The Guardian’s The Counted Project. They documented over 2,000 Americans killed by police in 2015 and 2016. It took a UK newspaper covering police murders to get America to even start keeping count. The list of people killed by police below is simply the ones who ended up in the news. Cases that seem less like self-defense, and more like murder. It doesn’t include those who were shot or injured by police but managed to survive. It only covers American police. It doesn’t include the countless acts of police brutality that go unreported. There are many more reported murders in recent years, as cell phone cameras have become commonplace. No doubt, there are just as many murders in the years previous, that have been lost to history. And yet, you scroll, and scroll, and on the list goes on.
Note: The sections highlighted in this yellow are outcomes: whether the officers involved were fired, faced charges, or if there were any consequences for their actions.
If the list below makes you angry, here’s a guide on how to organize.
Chronological List of (Reported) Police Homicides from 1968-2020
There Are About 1,000 *Documented Police Killings Every Year. Here Are Some We Know About
McClain wore a ski mask because his anemia made him cold. For this, police put him in a choke hold. They called the first responders “Due to the level of physical force applied while restraining the subject and his agitated mental state.” At the urging of police, they gave him an anesthetic, Ketamine. He arrived at the hospital bruised and brain dead.
Body Cam Footage of the Murder of Elijah McClain (WARNING: GRAPHIC)
This footage wasn’t released until months after his death. All three officers had “dropped” their body cams, but you can hear audio, including one cop telling them to hide the camera.
The officers were placed on administrative leave and have returned to duty. However, protest of George Floyd has brought back interest in the case. There has been a ban on carotid holds, the neck grip that killed McClain.
Gaines pointed a shotgun at police, so it is within the legal use of force matrix for police to shoot her. However, it seems clear that her only interest was for them to go away, and that police needlessly escalated the situation. Her mother was present, and begged to be allowed to talk to her, but was not. Moreover, Maryland PD is supposed to bring a mental health counselor for those in crisis, and police didn’t bother with this either. Gaines suffered from lead poisoning, so she had a disadvantage in comprehending and reacting to the situation.
In a video Gaines took during the event, she asked her son what the police wanted. He replied “They trying to kill us.” She then asked: “Do you want to go out there?” “No,” he said. She then asked “What’d you wanna do?” In response to his confusion and silence Gaines said, “there is no wrong answer.”
In the shootout, Gaines’ five-year-old son, Kodi, was shot by police. Gaines’ family later reported police did not allow them to visit him in the hospital.
All of this tragedy because she was driving without a proper license plate.
No charges were filed. Gaines’ family won a civil lawsuit, but lost it on appeal.
Reid was unarmed with his hands up. The cop who shot him, also African-American, has been accused of criminal activity before, including pepper spraying someone in handcuffs and extorting sex from a suspect.
After two investigations, a grand jury elected to bring no charges.
Police allege White shot himself in the back with his own gun while handcuffed in the rear of a squad car. When White’s father viewed the body, he saw the marks of a beating. His family denies he committed suicide.
Police arrived to the scene of a disturbance at the same time Harris was trying to get away from the fight. In her panic, her car hit a police car, a parked car and then a bystander. Police shot into her car. Witnesses say she was shot with her hands in the air. She was 16.
Guillot, the shooting officer had numerous prior accusations of misconduct, including shooting a dog while on patrol, fondling female inmates and alleged improper treatment of an inmate who died in custody.
A grand jury declined to indict Guillot.
The police report claims that Robinson ran at their cars and fell and hit his head, despite two witnesses saying that the police car ran into him.
Two years later, the City of New York paid a $2 million settlement to the Robinson family in a wrongful death lawsuit. The police who drove the patrol car were declared not responsible for Robinson’s death.
The detective fired over his shoulder into their group of friends. Boyd was killed instantly but despite doing nothing wrong, police arrested Boyd’s friend, whom the detective had also shot in the hand with his reckless fire.
Within seconds of entering his home, in the presence of children, Wendell Allen was shot in the chest and killed. Later police claimed Allen had attacked them, but a secret video recording proved otherwise.
A man was sitting on the front porch of Walker’s elderly mother’s house and refused to move. Walker attempted to move the man by force, throwing a punch. The strange man was a police officer, and he felt entitled to end Walker’s life rather than identify himself. The police claimed Walker reached for his gun, but witnesses dispute this, saying the incident only lasted a “few seconds” before the cop fired three bullets.
Tyisha Miller had been drinking with friends when she got a flat tire. She passed out with a gun in her lap, and when her friends arrived to assist, they were unable to wake her so they called 911. Because she had a gun, the police came as well. Since the medics couldn’t get into her car, the police broke the glass of her window, startling her awake. Fearing Miller’s reaction meant she intended to shoot them, they riddled her barely conscious body with bullets.
In January 2002, the Culver City arbitrator found that the officers had been wrongly fired and that the decision to terminate their employment constituted an “abuse of administrative discretion”. He awarded them full back-pay, but did not order them to be reinstated.
Police claimed she was stopped for drugs, but no drugs were ever found on the scene. Witnesses in the neighborhood were harassed to keep them from testifying against the police.
The police Office of Professional Standards found “no criminal wrongdoing” by the officers. The City of Chicago settled a lawsuit with the family for $637,000.
After the recent loss of her husband, Love was unable to support her family. Police came because Love was late on her gas bill, and chased off the gas man. On her way to pay the bill, the police arrived. She did not want to let them in, and brandished a knife. When she tossed the knife at them, they filled her with lead.
The two police officers involved in the shooting were exonerated on April 17, 1979
On Thanksgiving, Officer Torsney confronted a group of youths, in response to a report of a gun in the area. After a brief conversation, Torsney shot high school freshman Randy Evans, point-blank in the head.
After shooting Evans, Torsney made no effort to check on the boy’s condition but instead walked to his patrol car, got in, removed the spent cartridge from his weapon, and calmly replaced it with another bullet. Torsney’s partner, asked, “What did you do?” Torsney responded, “I don’t know, Matty. What did I do?”
Torsney was indicted by a grand jury on charges of second-degree murder. His defense maintained that the killing resulted from a psychotic episode due to “automatism of Penfield.” Torsney was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Torsney was remanded to Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.
On December 20, 1978, a Brooklyn State Supreme Court ordered Torsney’s release, stating he no longer posed a threat to society.
I’m indebted to scholar Renee Ater for seeding the content for this list.
* The Above List of Police Killings Is Only a Sample!
Police aren’t required to gather data on officer killings, so less than a third of them are reported. Below are some resources, but most of these are civilian efforts tracking news stories, not internal data from law enforcement.
For an academic analysis of the limits of gathering information on people killed by police, see this critical analysis of police officers initiated homicide data [PDF] to understand how the events and evidence surrounding a life taken become represented as a metric imbued with rhetorical power.
Learn More About Police Homicides
- killedbypolice.net a civilian effort to track police homicides.
- fatalencounters.org impartial, searchable database of police killings.
- operationghettostorm.org A project of the Malcolm X grassroots committee, a 2012 report using statistical information from local police departments on police killings of African Americans.
- policingequity.org gathers data to measure bias in policing.
Map Provided by killedbypolice.net
Say Their Names art adapted from a design by GloryGiftsBoutique
Karma has a degree in writing and sociology. She’s an Americorps grad and a board member of the California Writers Club. Her first foray into human rights work was with the Westcott 12 activists who launched a 100+ day camp out in protest of sweatshop labor. Since then she’s organized with IndyMedia, Occupy Oakland, and most recently with Solidaridad Con Los Ninos, a group that organizes caravans to visit detainment centers. She loves street art, poetry, and dancing with wild abandon.