Police officers in Florida shoot people an average of once every three days, according to a new investigation by the Daytona Beach News-Journal. After creating a database of shootings using media reports and public records, the paper found that over the course of 2013 and 2014, Florida police shot at least 249 people, and killed 162 of them.
A little over half of those cases involved a suspect who was armed with a gun. Approximately 15 percent involved a suspect who was unarmed.
The News-Journal investigation was motivated by the absence of any official data-collection on officer-involved shootings; though there is a national FBI database, law enforcement agencies submit information to it on a purely voluntary basis, making it essentially useless.
The vast majority of the people shot by police in Florida were men; about 40 percent were black.
The News-Journal identified a number of disturbing incidents that demonstrate the range of situations that can lead to people being shot by police.
In one case, an unarmed 24-year-old who had been refusing to take medication for a mental illness was killed after his mother called the police for help. In another case, police “fatally shot a mentally ill man who was waving a broom at officers.” The paper also identified several cases involving officers who were not wearing their uniforms, recalling the story of drummer Corey Jones, who was killed north of West Palm Beach by a plainclothes officer earlier this year while he waited for roadside assistance in the middle of the night.
In 25 cases, police identified the suspect’s vehicle as a deadly weapon, suggesting they shot at someone who was driving a car. As the News-Journal points out, most major police departments around the country have banned the practice of shooting at moving vehicles.
A survey of media reports by the News-Journal found that about ten months into 2015, police in Florida have so far killed 53 people.