The Washington Post released a groundbreaking study of police shootings since 2015, finding that nearly 250 women have been shot and killed by officers over the five-year time span.
Of the 247 women who have been shot fatally by police since 2015, 89 of them were killed in their homes like Breonna Taylor, whose killing has sparked ongoing global protests and outrage.
While the 247 women killed by police represent a small portion of the more than 5,600 people killed by police since 2015, Black women are severely overrepresented in the total.
According to The Washington Post's count, 48 Black women have been shot and killed by police. Black women are 13% of the female population in the United States but represent 20% of the women shot fatally by police and 28% of the killings deemed by police to be unarmed.
The focus of police shootings has been exclusively on Black men, but Black women are shot fatally at rates significantly higher than women of other races.
While 1,274 Black men have been shot and killed by police since January 2015, the numbers are proportionately high for Black women when compared to white women.
The data shows that of the 247 police shootings of women, 147 were white, 48 Black, 29 Hispanic, five were Native American, four were Asian and three were other races. Eleven other cases involved people whose race could not be determined. However, based on percentages, Black women are killed at a rate of 2.3 per million while white women are killed by police at a rate of 1.5 per million and Hispanic women are killed at 1 per million.
One of the key tragedies noted by The Washington Post is that some of the reported cases involved Black women who were not the primary target or they are killed accidentally from being caught in the crossfire of a gun battle.
Andrea Ritchie, researcher-in-residence at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, told The Washington Post that police will use deadly force on Black women because they perceive them as not being as deferential or submissive as white women.
“There’s definitely a long history of framing women who aren’t compliant as insane. I think that’s particularly true for Black women,” Ritchie said.
Here are some of the cases highlighted by The Washington Post:
The case of Alteria Woods is very similar to that of Taylor considering the circumstances of her killing. The 21-year-old was killed by the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team on March 19, 2017.
The SWAT team went to Woods' boyfriend's house in Florida looking for drugs and began breaking windows at the home when they arrived. Startled, Woods' boyfriend Andrew Jeff Coffee IV began shooting and officers shot back, killing Woods.
Coffee is currently facing attempted murder charges but has pleaded not guilty, and police refused to comment on the case due to the ongoing case. But Woods' mother, Yolanda, said Taylor's case has resurfaced the pain of her daughter's death.
"It brought back a lot of memories of our daughter’s murder,” Yolanda said.
Multiple cases highlighted by The Washington Post involved Black women killed while their partners battled police.
India Kager, 28, was killed by police on Sept. 5, 2015. Kager was in the car with the father of her child, 35-year-old Angelo Perry when Virginia Beach officers started firing 30 rounds toward the couple.
Kager and Perry were both killed during the shooting but their infant child managed to survive. Kager's family was incensed over the outrageous use of violence during the assault.
Her family sued the city in 2018 and a jury awarded them $800,000 for gross negligence by the two officers who shot Kager.
“They’re still saying Breonna’s name, but they’ve forgotten India. They’re still not saying her name,” said Gina Best, Kager’s mother, in an interview with The Washington Post.
Like many of the other cases highlighted in the report, Geraldine Townsend, 72, was caught in the middle of a situation involving her 50-year-old son when she was shot and killed.
Police in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, shot Townsend to death on Jan. 17, 2018, after raiding the house in search of marijuana, according to Tulsa World.
On the video, police can be heard yelling for someone not seen on camera to put a weapon down. It was later revealed that Townsend had a BB gun and did not know it was police in her home.
“That’s my mother! It’s a BB gun! You killed my mother!” Livingston yelled on the video.
District Attorney Kevin Buchanan later said the officers were justified in killing Townsend and refused to charge the officers who shot her to death.
In the end, police only found one jar and two sandwich bags of marijuana. Townsend's son received just a seven month suspended sentence in the case.
A court threw out a wrongful-death lawsuit he filed against the city in October 2019.
Another common trend among the police shootings of women were those involving mental health. According to The Washington Post, more than 30% of the women who were shot and killed by police since 2015 had a reported mental health issue.
The newspaper highlighted the case of DeCynthia Clements, a Black woman who was killed by police in Elgin, Illinois, on March 12, 2018, during a schizophrenia or bipolar episode, according to the Chicago Tribune.
According to Clements' family, the 34-year-old suffered from both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and had had frequent interactions with police who they said were familiar with her mental illnesses.
The family criticized officers for not being aware that she was in the middle of a mental health episode that required de-escalation rather than guns.
Officer Matthew Joniak pulled Clements over that day for what he said was a "suspicious vehicle." She drove away during the police stop but eventually pulled over on the side of a highway.
Multiple officers arrived and tried to get Clements out of the vehicle but they said she had two knives. For more than an hour, they tried to convince her to leave the car but she refused. According to bodycam footage from the scene, Clements then lit two items on fire and threw them in the back seat of her car, still refusing to get out.
Clements eventually left the car, and Lt. Christian Jensen told investigators that she "charged" at the four officers before he shot her three times, killing her.
Clements' family criticized the officers for not calling a mental health professional and instead resorting to violence to resolve the crisis.
The case has highlighted the need for other options besides police in cases involving mental health. A study from the Treatment Advocacy Center showed that about one-fifth of all police time is spent responding to mental health cases.
Her family sued the city because it was later revealed that a dispatcher told Jensen that other officers had dealt with Clements multiple times and knew she struggled with mental health.
Holly Clements, her sister-in-law, told The Washington Post that the national conversation about police violence against women was necessary but painful for the family.
“It’s not going to ever bring back my sister-in-law. But at least they’re trying to fix what was wrong,” she said.
Unfortunately, most of the cases mentioned by The Washington Post were never closed by police or flat out ignored, leaving families to pick up the pieces after their loss.
It’s the 100th day of protests in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the center of it all, the memorial for Breonna Taylor, who police shot and killed during a raid in March. pic.twitter.com/GAFgPLaLvF
— Ryan Van Velzer (@RyanVanVelzer) September 4, 2020
But Taylor's family continues to press the issue and an unprecedented campaign from activists, sports players and celebrities has put pressure on authorities.