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Death by Cop

Police-officer-involved shootings spike in 2013.



Two is better than one in many scenarios, but fatal shootings of civilians by police officers isn't one. Six people have been killed by Memphis police officers so far this year. That's two people every month with the exception of February.

The 2013 number of officer-involved shootings to date equates to the total number of people shot and killed by city police in all of 2012, according to Memphis Police Department (MPD) homicide statistics. It's four more shootings than the two officer-involved homicides that took place a decade ago in 2003.

The most recent victim was 28-year-old Anjustine Hunter, who was killed by an officer on April 23rd. According to an MPD report, officers "were at 1414 Jackson Avenue when they located a vehicle and suspect that officers were familiar with due to previously seeing the driver operating the same vehicle with improper vehicle registration."

The report stated that Hunter was pumping gas into his 1993 Chevrolet Caprice Classic when two on-duty MPD officers approached the suspect's vehicle. The suspect then got into his vehicle and accelerated forward, striking both officers. After being struck by the suspect, officers responded by shooting into the suspect's vehicle, fatally wounding him.

Both officers involved in the shooting received noncritical injuries. They discovered more than three grams of heroin upon searching Hunter's car.

Despite Hunter's shooting putting the number of police-involved homicides at six this year so far, MPD spokesperson Karen Rudolph said there have only been five deaths confirmed to be at the hand of officers. She said the March shooting of 42-year-old shoplifting suspect George Golden at the Walmart on Austin Peay in Raleigh has not been ruled as the cause of death. That remains under investigation.

"There were a lot of other factors involved with [Golden] that his cause of death may have not been because of the shooting," Rudolph said. "There have only been five [deaths] that we can confirm as officer-involved shootings. Out of those five, we still have three that are pending that haven't been ruled [to be] justified or not justified."

January victims from police shootings are 67-year-old Don Moore and 24-year-old Steven Askew. March victims are 62-year-old Horace Whiting and Golden. April victims are 47-year-old Daniel Brock and Hunter.

MPD director Toney Armstrong said it's common for police officers to receive public scrutiny for their involvement in shootings.

"Officers' actions will always be second-guessed, but what people tend to forget is that we have had 11 officers shot in just two years. Of those 11 officers, two were murdered," Armstrong said. "We continuously put our lives on the line to keep the citizens of Memphis safe. We have taken an oath to protect and serve, and we will continue to do so."

In July 2011, Officer Tim Warren was shot and killed after responding to a domestic dispute and shooting at downtown's DoubleTree Hotel. Last December, Officer Martoiya Lang was shot and killed while serving a drug-related search warrant in East Memphis.

According to MPD statistics, in 2012, there were six justified officer-involved shootings. One of those shootings involved off-duty Officer Terrance Shaw, who fatally shot 15-year-old Justin Thompson last September after Thompson allegedly tried to rob him. Shaw resigned from the MPD in April.

In 2011, there were four police-involved homicides. In 2010, there were three, but one of those shootings involved detective Patrick Cici of the Bartlett Police Department. CiCi shot and killed 43-year-old Malcolm Shaw while serving a drug-related search warrant at his North Memphis home.

The MPD could not provide information on whether or not any previous year had more than six officer-involved shootings.

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