The US saw 984 police killings in 2015, well over double the average number reported annually by the FBI over the past decade, reported WaPo.
In what is likely to be the final police shooting death of 2015, on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Las Vegas police cornered Keith Childress Jr, who was wanted for a number of violent felonies. They opened fire on the 23-year-old after he refused to drop the object in his hands, which turned out not to be a gun but a cellphone.
The shooting is the final one to be counted as part of The Washington Post‘s year-long project tracking on-duty police killings by firearm, an issue that has taken on new urgency in the wake of a number of high-profile killings of unarmed African-American men. The Post sought to document every shooting death at the hands of police in 2015, revealing troubling patterns in the circumstances that lead to such shootings and the characteristics of the victims.
The project will continue this year. Embarrassed federal officials have announced plans to improve their data collection, but the new initiative will not be in place until 2017. Already, the Post has tallied five fatal police shootings in 2016.
Over the past year, the Post found that the vast majority of those shot and killed by police were armed and half of them were white. Still, police killed blacks at three times the rate of whites when adjusted for the population where these shootings occurred. And although black men represent 6 percent of the US population, they made up nearly 40 percent of those who were killed while unarmed.
Regardless of race, about a quarter of those killed displayed signs of mental illness. December was the fourth-deadliest month in 2015 for police shootings, with 89 shootings. There was only one state without a fatal police shooting last year: Rhode Island.
The number of shooting deaths may yet rise for 2015: The Post is tracking a few cases where it’s unclear whether police gunfire killed someone or whether the person committed suicide. And new cases that have gone unreported could always emerge.