US cops have killed 400 people during traffic stops in last five years 

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More than 400 unarmed Americans were killed during traffic stops in the last five years – a troubling statistic made worse by allegations that many of these police interactions occurred in municipalities that rely on ticket revenue and court fees to maintain their governmental operations.

Many of the traffic stops involved common – minor infractions such as having a broken taillight or running a red light – and none of the drivers or passengers who died were armed or under pursuit for violent crimes, New York Times investigators revealed. 

The investigation also found that, in most cases, the officers involved in the fatal traffic stops responded with aggression to disobedience, with a majority of the cops claiming they feared for their lives.

More than 400 Americans were killed during traffic stops in the last five years, a recent investigation has revealed (Picture: Bodycam footage from the June 2020 traffic stop that resulted in the death of Rayshard Brooks)

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More than 400 Americans were killed during traffic stops in the last five years, a recent investigation has revealed (Picture: Bodycam footage from the June 2020 traffic stop that resulted in the death of Rayshard Brooks) 

In most cases, the officers involved in the fatal traffic stops responded with aggression to disobedience. A majority of them said they feared for their lives (Pictured: Bodycam footage from the April 2021 traffic stop where Daunte Wright was killed)

In most cases, the officers involved in the fatal traffic stops responded with aggression to disobedience. A majority of them said they feared for their lives (Pictured: Bodycam footage from the April 2021 traffic stop where Daunte Wright was killed)

Traffic stops are the most common police encounters with civilians. Ten officers have been killed this year during these interactions (Pictured: The traffic stop in which Chicago Officer Ella Finch was shot and killed)

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Traffic stops are the most common police encounters with civilians. Ten officers have been killed this year during these interactions (Pictured: The traffic stop in which Chicago Officer Ella Finch was shot and killed) 

Prosecutors have also often failed to bring criminal charges for the killings of the unarmed motorists because they were ‘legally justifiable’. 

According to the newspaper, only five officers have been convicted in the 400 killings that were studied. However, local governments have paid at least $125million to resolve approximately 40 wrongful-death lawsuits. 

A majority of the cities that rely on revenue from traffic stops are located in the Midwest and South, which is also where the a large portion of the fatal incidents took place, the investigation revealed.

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The below mentioned cases are just a few of several detailed in the investigation into officer-involved killings during traffic stops of unarmed motoris. 

In one instance earlier this year, on April 11, Daunte Wright, 20, was shot after being stopped in Minnesota for an air freshener hanging in his rearview mirror and expired license tags. 

Former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter, who is on trial in Hennepin County on first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in Wright’s death, said she meant to use a Taser instead of a handgun when she fatally shot the black motorist.

Potter actually fired a gun at Wright and the bullet hit him in the chest. She has since claimed she grabbed the wrong weapon – her gun was holstered on her right side, while the taser was on her left.

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The officer, who is white, was initially charged with second-degree manslaughter, which requires a finding that she acted with ‘culpable negligence’ in Wright’s death. 

On April 11, Daunte Wright, 20, (pictured) was shot after being stopped in Minnesota for an air freshener hanging in his rearview mirror and expired license tags

Officer Kim Potter, (pictured) who is standing trial in Hennepin County on first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in Wright's death, said she meant to use a Taser instead of a handgun when she fatally shot the black motorist

On April 11, Daunte Wright, 20, (left) was shot after being stopped in Minnesota for an air freshener hanging in his rearview mirror and expired license tags. Officer Kim Potter (right), who is standing trial in Hennepin County on first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in Wright’s death, said she meant to use a Taser instead of a handgun when she fatally shot the black motorist

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Prosecutors later added a first-degree manslaughter count against Potter, alleging she recklessly handled a firearm and endangered Wright’s safety when death or great bodily harm was reasonably foreseeable. 

In allowing the first-degree manslaughter charge, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu said last Wednesday that she only had to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and make a finding of ‘probable cause,’ meaning it was more probable than not that a crime was committed.

She noted the state will have a much higher burden of proving the crime beyond a reasonable doubt during a trial.

First-degree manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years while second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, though Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for much less.

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Jenoah Donald (pictured), who had autism and battled drug addiction, was shot in his head during a traffic stop in February 2021

Jenoah Donald (pictured), who had autism and battled drug addiction, was shot in his head during a traffic stop in February 2021

In February, three sheriff’s deputies in Clark County, Washington stopped Jenoah Donald, a 30-year-old mechanic who had autism and battled drug addiction, for a broken taillight.

Donald reportedly had tools sprawled out on the front passenger seat, which worried the officers.  

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‘That right there can hurt someone,’ Deputy Holly Troupe told investigators.

She also claimed that Donald made several concerning remarks that prompted her to say: ‘You need to chill out!’ 

A fellow deputy, Sean Boyle, punched Donald in the face in an effort to force him out of the vehicle. 

Troupe grabbed the 30-year-old below the jaw in an act she referred to as ‘apin compliance’. 

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Donald, using one hand, managed to start his vehicle and clutched Deputy Boyle’s vest with his other.

Boyle, allegedly fearing for his life, then shot Donald in the head. 

‘I was convinced, ‘This is how you are going to die,’ he told investigators.

The prosecutors ruled that Boyle, who had served two decades on the force, fired his weapon ‘in good faith’. 

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Bodycam footage (above) showed the moments leading up to Rayshard Brooks' death. Brooks ran away and was shot twice by Rolfe when he turned to fire the Taser in Rolfe's direction

Bodycam footage (above) showed the moments leading up to Rayshard Brooks’ death. Brooks ran away and was shot twice by Rolfe when he turned to fire the Taser in Rolfe’s direction

Brooks was pronounced dead in a nearby hospital soon after. An autopsy found he was shot twice in the back

Brooks was pronounced dead in a nearby hospital soon after. An autopsy found he was shot twice in the back

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Officer Garrett Rolfe, a six-year police veteran, was hit with 11 charges in connection with Brooks' death, including murder. The Atlanta Civil Service Board has since announced its decision to reverse the termination of Rofle's employment

Officer Garrett Rolfe, a six-year police veteran, was hit with 11 charges in connection with Brooks’ death, including murder. The Atlanta Civil Service Board has since announced its decision to reverse the termination of Rofle’s employment

Atlanta Officer Garrett Rolfe, 27, shot Rayshard Brooks, also 27, fatally twice in the back as he ran from cops outside a Wendy’s in June 2020.

Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan, 26, were called to a Wendy’s drive-thru by customers who said Brooks was asleep at the wheel of his car. 

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When Brooks failed a sobriety test and the officers tried to arrest him, a scuffle broke out and Brooks grabbed one of the officer’s Tasers and ran off.

He was shot twice by Rolfe, with the officer claiming Brooks turned to fire the Taser in his direction.

Brooks was pronounced dead in a nearby hospital soon after. An autopsy found he was shot twice in the back.  

Rolfe, a six-year police veteran, was hit with 11 charges in connection with Brooks' (pictured) death, including murder

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No date has yet been given for Rolfe's (pictured) murder trial, as the case is currently embroiled in a legal limbo

Rolfe (right), a six-year police veteran, was hit with 11 charges in connection with Brooks’ (left) death, including murder. No date has yet been given for Rolfe’s murder trial, as the case is currently embroiled in a legal limbo

Rolfe was fired five days later, but The Atlanta Civil Service Board reversed the decision in May, saying the Atlanta cop was ‘not afforded his right to due process’.

Instead, Rolfe was put on administrative leave because the terms of his bond mean he is banned from possessing a firearm or being around other police officers.

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Rolfe, a six-year police veteran, was hit with 11 charges in connection with Brooks’ death, including murder.

Rolfe and his legal team have repeatedly challenged the investigation into Brooks’ death, including lodging the appeal over his firing, filing a lawsuit against the mayor and police chief and calling for the first district attorney who was prosecuting his case to be removed.

No date has yet been given for Rolfe’s murder trial, as the case is currently embroiled in a legal limbo. 

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In May 2019, a sheriff’s deputy in Hamilton County, Tennessee stopped Tyler Hays, 29, for having tinted windows

Hays (pictured), reportedly had drugs in the car at the time of the stop. He attempted to run away and was fatally shot in the back

Hays (pictured), reportedly had drugs in the car at the time of the stop. He attempted to run away and was fatally shot in the back

In May 2019, a sheriff’s deputy in Hamilton County, Tennessee stopped Tyler Hays, 29, for having tinted windows.

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Hays, who reportedly had drugs in the car, attempted to run away when he was fatally shot in the back. 

His mother, Deborah Lilly, acknowledge her son’s criminal actions, but argues he didn’t deserve to die.

‘I don’t have my head buried in the sand,’ she told the newspaper. 

‘I am just saying he did not deserve to get shot in the back.’

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In the three months following Hays’ death, the deputy involved in the incident allegedly shot at two other unarmed drivers, injuring one. 

The Hays family has since filed a wrongful death suit against the officer, FOX 17 reported. 

Meanwhile, some experts argue that police need to be wary when approaching civilians during traffic stops because they don’t know who or what is inside a vehicle. 

Officer Ella Finch was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Chicago's south side in August 2021 (Pictured: Bodycam footage from the stop)

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Officer Ella Finch was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Chicago’s south side in August 2021 (Pictured: Bodycam footage from the stop)

Officer Finch (pictured) had pulled over a vehicle for an expired registration. A passenger in the car reportedly shot her

Officer Finch (pictured) had pulled over a vehicle for an expired registration. A passenger in the car reportedly shot her

One example, as outlined in the newspaper’s investigation, is the fatal shooting of Chicago Officer Ella Finch, 29.

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Finch was shot and killed during a traffic stop on the city’s south side in August 2021. 

She had pulled over a vehicle for an expired registration. A passenger in the car reportedly shot her.

Finch’s partner, Carlos Yanez, 39, sustained three gunshot wounds during the encounter: One went through his eye, one lodged in the back of the head and one struck his shoulder. He faces a ‘potentially lifelong disability’ from the shootout. 

Emonte Morgan, 21, and his brother Eric, 22, were arrested and charged for French’s death.

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Emonte was charged with first-degree murder of a police officer, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.

Eric was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and obstruction of justice. 

Emonte Morgan (pictured), 21, and his brother Eric, 22, were arrested and charged for French's death. Emonte was charged with first-degree murder of a police officer, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon

Eric (pictured) was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and obstruction of justice

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Emonte Morgan (left), 21, and his brother Eric (right), 22, were arrested and charged for French’s death. Emonte was charged with first-degree murder of a police officer, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. Eric was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and obstruction of justice.

Traffic stops are the most common police encounters with civilians. Ten officers have been killed this year during these interactions.  

Of the roughly 280 officers killed while on duty since late 2016, approximately 60 were killed by motorists who had been pulled over. 170 others were said to have died in accidents that took place on the job.

In response, police departments have increasingly started instructing cops to let suspected lawbreakers flee to avoid the risks associated with potential confrontation or high-speed chases,

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‘You have the guy’s car license plate and you know where he lives,’ Scott Bieber, the chief of police in Walla Walla, Washington, explained. 

‘You go get him in 45 minutes at his house and add a charge of eluding.’  

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