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“Suicide by cop” is murder by cop

By staff |
September 25, 2019
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Fight Back! is circulating statement by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar

Minneapolis, MN - Keaton James Larson, Travis Jordan, Billy Hughes, Archer Amorosi and Phil Quinn are a few of the many Minnesotans who were dealing with a mental health crisis when killed by those who are paid to “protect and serve,” leading some to ask the question “Were the victims suicidal?”

The question should not be “Was the victim suicidal?” but “Would the victim be alive if the police had handled the situation more appropriately?” In the case of Brian Quinones, killed on September 9 by police in Richfield, the answer is absolutely, “Yes, he should still be alive.”

“Suicide by cop” is never a justification for killings by police.

The phrase “suicide by cop” is exploitative of the struggles people with mental illness face. The phrase originated in the law enforcement community, and has been popularized by police to justify police shootings. People of color are routinely murdered by police when they are in need of a mental health intervention. On the other hand, supposedly mentally ill white mass shooters are more often taken into custody alive.

In Brian Quinones case, only a second passed from when the police shouted, “Drop the knife” until seven or eight shots were fired, killing Brian. There is absolutely no reason that a non-lethal alternative could not have been used or at least attempted. There was absolutely no reason for the police to fire a second wave of bullets after Quinones was shot and on the ground.

Police statements about victims of police killings are not reliable. To this day, many people think Jamar Clark was guilty of a domestic assault, because of the false statements by the police and County Attorney Mike Freeman. Police think they see weapons that were not there. Sometimes they lie. Sometimes they plant weapons. We should not assume the “he had a knife” narrative until evidence is released.

If Quinones did have a knife, that is not justification to pump him full of bullets. Police should be trained and expected to apprehend someone without having to kill them. A firearm should only be pulled as a last resort, in the case of an actual and immediate threat. Confronted with a knife, police should do what any of us would do step back and de-escalate the situation. Instead, officers have become more militarized and more complacent about taking a life in seconds.

Over half of the 1000-plus police killings each year nationwide involve a mental health issue, yet the police and politicians resist efforts for mental health intervention in police encounters.

The killing of people with a mental illness by police with no repercussions amounts to a state-sanctioned attack on those with mental health issues and should be treated as such.

The community must keep fighting and speaking out after these killings, no matter the excuses given by police representatives. If we stop fighting, the killings of those with mental health issues, notably people of color, will only continue to increase.