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Where Police Killings Often Meet With Silence: Rural America
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=60488"><span class="small">Alysia Santo and R.G. Dunlop, Yahoo! News</span></a>   
Saturday, 14 August 2021 12:58

Excerpt: "The man known all his life as Doughboy had been running from the state police for months: scrambling down a creek bed, flooring it out of a gas station, visiting his children at 2 a.m. when he thought troopers would not be lurking."

A police officer. (photo: Adobe Stock)
A police officer. (photo: Adobe Stock)

Where Police Killings Often Meet With Silence: Rural America

By Alysia Santo and R.G. Dunlop, Yahoo! News

14 August 21


he man known all his life as Doughboy had been running from the state police for months: scrambling down a creek bed, flooring it out of a gas station, visiting his children at 2 a.m. when he thought troopers would not be lurking.

Christopher Jacobs, 28, had been charged with manufacturing methamphetamine. He could not bear to go back to jail, he told his family, but he also feared the police would shoot him — even though he had been childhood friends with officers now patrolling this remote stretch of eastern Kentucky.

So when a state trooper and a sheriff’s deputy — brothers — pulled into the Jacobs family driveway on Hemp Patch Road on Nov. 1, 2017, Jacobs’ first move was to crawl under a mobile home and hide, police records show.

His second was to start yelling, “Don’t kill me!” He jumped into his Chevrolet Impala and tried to flee. There was a scuffle, and the officers fired Tasers as he struggled to start the car. Then he rammed an empty police cruiser.

Leo Slone, a trooper who had grown up with Jacobs and once helped save his life after a drug overdose, shot him three times. Jacobs died at the scene.

As police shootings have become a flashpoint in U.S. cities, The Marshall Project and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year examining those urban killings’ little-publicized counterparts in rural America.

Officers in rural areas fatally shot about 1,200 people from 2015 through 2020, while in cities there were at least 2,100 such deaths, according to the news organizations’ analysis of data compiled by The Washington Post; no comprehensive government database exists.

The data analysis found that, although the rate of rural police shootings was about 30% lower than the urban rate when adjusted for population, the rural incidents mirrored many of the dynamics of police shootings that have come under scrutiny in cities.

And even as deadly police shootings declined in cities and rural communities during this time, according to the analysis, the rural decrease was more modest: about 9% versus 19%.

High-profile urban police shootings such as the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, have set off protests, prompted widespread calls for change and led to new policies in some law enforcement agencies. But rural deaths seldom attract attention from the public or the national press. Police shootings in isolated areas are rarely captured on video, and many rural officers do not wear body cameras.

Rural shootings by the Kentucky State Police, the agency with the largest number of such deaths in the six-year period, illustrate both what distinguishes these encounters from other police killings and how they fit within broader patterns nationwide.

Kentucky state troopers shot and killed at least 41 people during that period, including 33 in rural areas. To examine these deaths, reporters interviewed more than 100 people and reviewed dozens of court cases and thousands of pages of police investigative reports, in addition to conducting the data analysis.

One big difference was that most of the people killed in the rural shootings, in Kentucky and elsewhere, were white. White people make up the rural majority in nearly every state, and two-thirds of the people fatally shot by law enforcement in rural areas across the country were white, the data analysis shows; about 10% were Black. (In cities, 37% were Black and 31% white.)

Nevertheless, in some states, a disproportionately high number of Black people were shot and killed by the police relative to their share of the rural population. These include Alabama, Virginia and — the starkest example — Louisiana, where Black people accounted for about 20% of rural residents but almost 37% of rural police shootings.

Other characteristics of the rural Kentucky incidents were closely aligned with both rural and urban police shootings across the country. Most of the people shot in rural Kentucky were men, and two-thirds were armed with guns, according to police records. A majority had drug addiction or mental health problems, including some in the throes of crises that troopers did little to de-escalate, police records show. And many of the shootings occurred in the state’s poorer counties.

Like most other police shootings across the country, those in rural settings seldom lead to indictments or prosecutions of the officers involved, the data show. This holds in Kentucky, where the state police investigate their own shootings without an independent review.

The Kentucky State Police declined to be interviewed but provided a written statement. Without commenting on individual cases, the agency defended its record on public safety, training and the use of deadly force.

The agency takes “any use of force seriously, trains troopers in de-escalation and reviews the use of force to ensure the force is justified to protect the public and the trooper or officer,” its public affairs commander, Sgt. Billy Gregory, said in the statement.

More than half of the rural Kentucky shootings examined occurred at residences. About 55% of households in the state have guns, according to estimates from the Rand Corp. And in at least nine of the 33 rural Kentucky deaths during the period reviewed, troopers fatally shot someone who had fired at law enforcement.

During that time, one Kentucky trooper was shot to death while on duty. His killing offered a cautionary tale for other officers contending with a frequent reality of the job: working alone.

Sometimes, policing experts said, solo officers may be more inclined to shoot because they feel at risk knowing that backup could be many miles away. Working alone “affects the mindset of the officer on the scene,” said Ralph Weisheit, a professor of criminal justice at Illinois State University.

Working alone is one of several challenges the state police face, former agency officials said. Another factor is methamphetamine use, which was involved in about half of the 22 rural deaths for which toxicology reports were available.

Since 2019, the agency said, it has required training for cadets in “mental health first aid.” But it has not adopted practices that some big-city departments now use to try to prevent violence, including employing body cameras. In the absence of video, there have been conflicting accounts from troopers and witnesses about how fatal police encounters played out.

Of the 33 rural Kentucky shootings reviewed, at least 20 were presented to a grand jury. None of the officers involved were indicted.

When officers encountered Bradley Grant on May 20, 2018, he was struggling: After years of sobriety, he had relapsed and — like roughly one-quarter of the people shot by Kentucky troopers in rural areas, according to the data analysis — had recently threatened suicide, police records show.

Troopers were looking for a man accused of beating and molesting a child when they arrived at a house where they thought he might be staying. Instead, they found Grant, pressure-washing the porch. The child’s mother was riding with one of the officers and told him that Grant was not the abuser.

Still, when Grant went inside, the officers followed — even though they did not have a search warrant.

There, Detective Aaron Frederick broke down a locked door and found Grant pointing a shotgun at his own chin and saying, “Shoot me.” Frederick later said he had told the man more than once to drop the weapon before firing at him. Grant died soon after.

Frederick declined to comment.

A federal judge dismissed a claim of excessive force, agreeing with the officers that the circumstances justified the shooting. But the judge also ruled that the troopers had violated Grant’s constitutional rights by entering the house without consent or a warrant. The state police are appealing.

Deaths at the hands of troopers in rural Kentucky have not sparked protests or widespread distrust of the agency. But families including the Grants have raised concerns about the agency’s investigations into shootings by its own officers. The friends and family of Jacobs said they shared those doubts.

Less than three months after Jacobs’ death, a grand jury declined to indict the trooper.

Jacobs’ mother, Terrie Jacobs, said this spring that she was still mourning her son. “I’m going to have this hurt with me all my life,” she said. “Till they bury me.” your social media marketing partner