By Kean Huy Alado
Black history has become as synonymous with the injustices toward Keenan Anderson, George Floyd, Tyre Nichols as it has with the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.
At the start of 2023, in the city of Los Angeles, an African-American man, Keenan Anderson, was tased six times in for over a minute and a half and ultimately died from cardiac arrest later in the day. On Jan. 3, officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) responded to a crash in the middle of the road. The perpetrator of the crash was known to be Anderson, the 31-year-old father and teacher from Washington D.C. was in town for the holidays with family.
One of his notable family is cousin Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.
On that fateful day, officers speculated Anderson to be under the influence and when Anderson stood up and attempted to flee, officers intercepted and started to restrain him. The police used more force, restraining with an elbow to the neck, and directly applied the taser to Anderson after two ranged attempts proved ineffective.
He was reportedly tased six times in 90 seconds while being held down, and with a direct taser against his back for 30 seconds straight at one point. The police then bound his legs and hand-cuffed him. Anderson was then transported to a local hospital where he died from cardiac arrest later that night.
A toxicology report later determined marijuana and cocaine were in Anderson’s system at the time, which led the LAPD to blame the cause of his death on the drugs rather than the violent tasing caught on the body cam.
George Floyd’s murder almost three years ago was also blamed on intoxication rather than officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on the neck of Floyd for more than nine minutes, asphyxiating him. Chauvin was later convicted of murder for his actions.
Also in L.A., 35-year-old Oscar Leon Sanchez and 45-year-old Takar Smith both experienced mental health crises and were fatally shot by police that first week of the year. The LAPD is beginning to quickly exhibit a new pattern of using unreasonable excessive force and unnecessarily killing members of the Los Angeles community.
The brutal pattern caused a wave of protests from the public and a vigil on Jan. 14 at the same intersection the incident occurred.
“Why do we continue to have to endure white supremacy and evil in those who are supposed to serve and protect us?” said Reverend James Thomas.
The officers involved in Anderson’s death were put on immediate leave after the incident. Anderson’s immediate family responded on January 20 by suing the city of Los Angeles for $50 million in damages for his 5-year-old son and Anderson’s estate.
“We must reduce the use of force overall, and I have absolutely no tolerance for excessive force,” said mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass.
Cullors drew attention to the state of racial police brutality, mournfully expressing she noticed a face of fear on Anderson after watching the body cam footage.
This death draws parallels another recent police failure and death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee on January 7. He was a black man beaten by multiple police officers for what they saw as reckless driving. He was in the hospital for three days under critical condition until he died.
“Yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day,” said President Joe Biden in reaction.
It is important to stay informed of injustices like these and those of countless others in order to identify what needs to change to establish protections for all people.
“There should be stricter policies, stricter ways to becoming a police officer,” said Ernest Charles, a freshman marine biology major. “If we can find an even balance between what is entailed in a police officer’s job and when they have gone overboard, then I think there can be a compromise.”