Wichita Cops Take Aim at Black Men
(CN) - Wichita police think they're still in the Wild West, shooting people, particularly black people, nine times more often than Detroit officers do, and 12 times more often than in Chicago, the family of a police shooting victim claims in court.
Wichita police Officer Randy Williamson shot to death 24-year-old Troy Lanning II on April 1, 2012, his mother and baby girl claim in Wichita Federal Court.
Lanning's mother, Dawn Herington, claims Williamson "has been the active shooter in at least three shootings," and "has been involved in other excessive force cases."
Herington adopted her granddaughter after police shot her son to death, she says in the lawsuit.
The complaint lists some disturbing statistics about police shootings in Wichita.
According to the lawsuit, 15 percent of the homicides in Wichita between November 2012 and July 2012 were committed by police.
Five of the nine police shooting deaths were African American and one was Native American, according to the complaint. Four of the six people police wounded in Wichita that year were African American, though just 10.2 percent of its population is African American, according to city-data.com.
Hence, two-thirds, or 66.6 percent of the 15 victims of police shootings were minorities, though white people make up more than 64 percent of Wichita's population.
Williamson's baby girl was born 7 months after her father was shot to death.
Herington claims that Wichita police kill 13.7 times more people per capita (officer per citizen) than the national average: one police shooting per 129 officers, compared to a national rate of one police shooting per 1,764 officers.
She claims Wichita police shot more people than that, but "the facts of those shootings remain a mystery because of the defendant City of Wichita's code of silence."
Detroit had more than 14 times the homicide rate of Wichita from 2010-2012, and more than three times the number of police officers, yet there were only three officer-involved shooting deaths in 2012, according to the complaint.
Herington claims Williamson shot her son to death merely because he was in a white car, and the officer had heard a report of a drive-by shooting coming from a white car. The white car fled from a police stop and Lanning fled from the car with a black bag in his hand. Herington claims her son was complying with Williamson's order to stop and turn around, raising his hands into the air, when William shot at him five or six times, then shot him three more times in the back as he lay on the ground. The black bag contained only a few personal items; her son was unarmed, Herington says.
She claims Williamson had shot his gun while on duty in two previous incidents, claiming that people had shot at him, but that "The WPD could not substantiate Officer Williamson's stories from any of the shootings."
The Police Department took him off street duty after he killed her son, Herington says in the lawsuit.
She claims Williamson violated the Police Department's use of force policy, a "plus one policy," which states that police should elevate the violence by just one level at a time, i.e., "if the person uses fists, the officer uses a stick, if the person uses a knife, the officer uses a gun." Her son had no weapon at all, and Williamson used unjustifiable, lethal force on him, the mother says.
Nearly one-quarter of the 23-page lawsuit is taken up with descriptions of other officer-involved shootings, most of them against minorities.
Herington seeks punitive damages for excessive force, constitutional violations, failure to train, and failure to supervise. She is represented by James Thompson with Klanda & Austerman, of Wichita.
Wichita, pop. 372,000, has a median household income of $44,184, about 10 percent below the statewide median of $48,964, according to city-data.