It’s not ‘a few bad apples’: It’s systemic police brutality as these 20 infamous cases prove

Screenshot / CNN

Minorities in America have every reason to fear the institution that pledged to protect them. Over the years, the system designed to enforce the law and protect people has, again and again, failed to do so.

On Sunday, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien went on CNN with the tired “a few bad apples” excuse, claiming “But we got a few bad apples that have given law enforcement a bad name.”

The reality is that as HuffPost has noted, black males between the ages of 18 and 34 are 9 times more likely to be killed by the police than any other age demographic.

The protests in Minneapolis and around the country are a direct result of this systematic brutality against blacks. The death of George Floyd, who was suffocated by a police officer as he was being arrested, triggered the protests. But these have been a long time coming.

Color of Change is running a campaign to “End the War on Black People!”

Here are 20 infamous cases of police brutality against minorities that make clear this is a systematic war, not the work of a few bad apples.

Breonna Taylor

Screenshot / YouTube

Taylor, an EMT, was shot eight times and killed in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020. Officials claimed they were executing a drug warrant. They were looking for a man who did not live in the apartment complex and had already been detained by the time they came to Taylor’s apartment.

Tamir Rice

A twelve-year-old African-American boy, carrying an AirSoft rifle, was gunned down by police officers in 2014. A phone call reported that a “black male” “keeps pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people,” according to the Washington Post. Officer Timothy Loehmann was dismissed from the Police Department. There were no charges against him.

Josh Bills

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Josh Bills, a Black man who lived in Kansas City, was arrested and beaten by a police officer in 2013.  Officer Jordan Nelson smashed Bills’ face in the concrete. Four other officers did nothing to stop him.

Nelson left the police force and was sued by the ACLU in 2018.

Ryan Twyman

A 24-year-old father of three was gunned down and shot 34 times by Los Angeles sheriff deputies in 2019. According to the Guardian, between 2013 and 2019 more than 500 people died at the hands of on-duty officers in Los Angeles. The sheriff’s office claimed that the car was being used as a weapon, but film footage from the parking lot where it happened shows no weaponization of the vehicle.

Cameron Tillman

A fourteen-year-old was shot by Deputy Preston Norman in Louisiana, in 2014, in an abandoned house. Norman claimed that Cameron Tillman had pointed a BB-gun that looked like a pistol at him. Tillman was alive for 45 minutes after he was shot, according to Al Jazeera. The police did nothing to help him. Norman was not indicted by a grand jury as guilty in 2018.

Tillman had been hanging out with his friends in an empty house after school. The house’s owner knew about the situation.

Laquan McDonald

A seventeen-year-old was shot by then Officer Jason Van Dyke 16 times in 2014. Laquan McDonald died of his wounds. According to the Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke was charged with murder three years later. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, but will only serve three and a half.

Dontre Hamilton

Dontre Hamilton was shot 14 times in a Milwaukee park, after an officer alleged that he was “disturbing the peace.” A Starbucks employee had called the police after seeing Hamilton asleep on a park bench. Hamilton suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

The officer was fired, but not for shooting Hamilton. Instead, he was fired for his actions that led up to the shooting. He also was not criminally charged.

Eric Garner

Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer after he was arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Garner kept saying “I can’t breath” as several officers brought him down. The officer who put him in a chokehold was not charged.

Michael Brown

Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was unarmed when a confrontation with a police officer in 2014 led to the officer shooting him. His bloodied body remained in the street for hours after the confrontation was over. The Department of Justice announced that it would not prosecute the officer.

Akai Gurley

In 2014, Akai Gurley was shot after walking into a dimly lit hallway in a public housing facility. He was unarmed, and died almost immediately. The officer who shot him was charged with second-degree-manslaughter. A police department commissioner said the gun was “accidentally discharged.”

Philando Castile

Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light. He informed the officer that he had a license to carry a weapon and that the weapon was in the car, in response to the officer’s questions. When he reached for his license, the officer shot him. The aftermath was streamed on Facebook Live by his girlfriend.

Both police officers involved were put on administrative leave, but not charged.

George Floyd


Four police officers in Minneapolis arrested George Floyd and pushed him to the ground. One officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, as Floyd said that he couldn’t breathe. He tried to cough and begged the officer to remove the knee from his neck. Instead of noticing that the position was causing Floyd distress, the officer told him to “relax.”   Floyd slowly suffocated to death after eight agonizing minutes.

Atatiana Jefferson

Jefferson was shot by police officers through her bedroom window in her Fort Worth apartment in Texas. Someone had called 911 because Jefferson’s door was open and had been open for some time. As soon as an officer saw Jefferson in the window, he fired a shot.

Sean Reed

Sean Reed was gunned down by officers and the slaying was live-streamed on Facebook Live. .The police claimed that Reed had fired first, yet the video did not show Reed firing at all. Officers also stated that Reed had been pulled over for driving recklessly. The officer who fired the shot was put on administrative leave.

Greg Gunn

An unarmed black man in Montgomery, Alabama, was shot on his way home from a card game in 2016. In what was originally a “stop and frisk,” Gunn fled halfway through the procedure. Officer Aaron Cody Smith fired seven bullets at him. Five of them hit Gunn. He died that night, just a short way from his home.

De’von Bailey

De’von Bailey was shot in the back as he ran away from the police when they tried to stop him for an alleged robbery that had happened in the area. Initially, officers stopped Bailey to ask him about a robbery that happened in the area. Body camera footage shows the interaction. Shortly thereafter, Bailey takes off running and the officer shoots him.  Bailey died.

Jemel Roberson

According to the ACLU, Roberson was a security guard who was shot by a member of the Illinois State Police. Roberson had detained a shooting suspect, in the line of duty and held the suspect until the police arrived. When an officer arrived, they shot Roberson instead.  Another black man killed.

Botham Jean

In a rare case where a police officer was arrested and charged with manslaughter, Officer Amber Guyger had walked into the wrong apartment thinking it was hers. She saw Botham Jean and immediately fired, assuming that he was an intruder. Jean was sitting and watching a football game when this happened.  He was killed instantly.

Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin

Two stepbrothers who were accused of stealing beer from a grocery store were shot by a white police officer in Olympia, Washington. They were unarmed. Neither Thompson nor Chaplin were killed, but they were wounded nevertheless. The police officer was put on administrative leave.

Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr.

A young man who was misidentified by the Alabama police was fatally shot in a Birmingham mall in 2018. The officer who shot him was lauded as a “hero” initially. Once the department realized that Emantic Fitzgerald Bradfor Jr. was not the shooter they were looking for, that officer was put on administrative leave.

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