As of 8 August 2015, police officers in the US have shot and killed 585 people during 2015, according to reporters Sandhya Somashekhar, Wesley Lowery, Keith L. Alexander, Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post. In just over 90% of those cases, the police killed armed citizens, but in 24 of the 60 cases where they killed unarmed citizens, those citizens were black.
So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.
Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.
However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.
Writing under various headlines— “Black and unarmed: One year after Michael Brown’s shooting death” or “Police gunfire: Unarmed black men: 7 times more likely to die than whites ”—that point to the same story, Ms. Somashekhar and colleagues present a thorough examination of the data they have assembled (and made public). There are compelling personal accounts and thoughtful analyses.
I used their data to create the graph shown here. (Please note that my quick extraction has slightly different counts than those they report, likely because a combination of different counting rules and weaknesses in my technical skills.) The data set is available on GitHub, so others can analyze them; the data set will also change as more incidents are added to it.