US: Black teacher dies after six Taser discharges

A 31-year-old black American, cousin of one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movementdied hours after receiving a series of electric shocks from a Taser gun during his arrest, Los Angeles authorities said.

The facts date back to January 3, and since the beginning of the week they have sparked growing controversy, after the police released the videos recorded by the body cameras of the officers who arrested Keenan Anderson. The footage shows the teacher, disoriented, visibly agitated after being involved in a trivial traffic accident in the Venice district of Los Angeles. While he was pinned to the ground and struggling, the police inflicted six shocks on him with their electric pulse pistol.

“Police wrestled with Anderson for several minutes, using a Taser, body weight, hard grips and armbars to overcome his resistance,” Los Angeles police said in a statement.

The video shows Keenan Anderson calling for help, shouting, “they’re trying to kill me” or “they’re trying to make me like George Floyd”, as an officer presses his elbow to his chest and neck. Anderson was eventually handcuffed and shackled at the ankles and taken to hospital, where he died four hours after his arrest from cardiac arrest.

Anderson taught tenth grade English at the Digital Pioneers Academy in Washington DC, according to a statement from the school’s founder, Mashea Ashton. Anderson was visiting family in Los Angeles over winter break, Ashton said. “The details of his death are as disturbing as they are tragic,” he wrote in a statement, adding, “Keenan was a deeply committed educator and father of a six-year-old son. … He was loved by all”.

On May 25, 2020, the African American george floyd had died of asphyxiation by a Minneapolis police officer who had pressed his knee on his neck for nearly ten minutes. This police blunder had sparked a protest movement in the United States and in other countries of the world, with the central slogan “Black Lives Matter”. The movement, which has spread to numerous demonstrations and has become emblematic of the fight for equal rights, has been co-founded by Patrisse Cullors, the cousin of Keenan Anderson. On Instagram, she praised his memory. “We will fight for you and for all our loved ones who are victims of state violence,” she wrote.

“It is going to be difficult to convince a judge that these officers used reasonable force,” said the LA Times Ed Obayashi, California’s top state adviser on police tactics. “Visually, it looks like he’s not fighting back; he does not threaten the officers. He says I can’t resist…and what could be considered resistance is the body’s automatic reflex to the Taser’s application of pain”.

LA Police Chief, the notorious LAPD, Michel Moore, defended his men. “There is no set limit on the number of times a Taser can be used in a particular situation; however, officers should generally avoid repeated or simultaneous activations to avoid potential injury,” he said. He claimed Anderson was in an “altered” state and resisted the officers. He also claimed that Anderson’s blood tests showed the presence of cocaine and cannabis in his system.

At a meeting of the Los Angeles City Council on Friday evening, members of Black Lives Matter, including co-founder Mellina Abdullah, came to protest against these “exactions”. The African-American mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass, demanded the immediate suspension of the police officers involved pending the outcome of the investigations. “Regardless of the outcome of these investigations, the need for urgent change is clear. We need to reduce the use of force, first and foremost, and I have absolutely no tolerance for excessive (use of) force,” Ms Bass said on Wednesday.

Keenan Anderson’s death brings death toll to three involving LAPD officers since early January, according to US media.

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