Black people are three times likelier to be killed in police chases
The 75-year-old Navy veteran had just taken four neighborhood boys for haircuts when an SUV whose driver was fleeing the police smashed into his car with such force that the impact ruptured his brain.
Four months later, two Michigan troopers chased a driver through Flint at more than 120 mph until he broadsided a car and killed a 42-year-old nursing assistant.
The next month, when a driver without a seatbelt wouldn’t pull over, a Michigan trooper chased him, ran a red light and killed a grandmother coming home from a beauty shop.
The month after that, a speeding motorcyclist fleeing a trooper hit an oncoming car and died.
All four chases happened in 2014, all within 4 miles of one another. And all shared one other characteristic: Everyone killed was black.
The spate of fatal pursuits in Flint is perhaps the most extraordinary illustration of a long-standing, deadly and, until now, overlooked inequality in U.S. policing.
A first-of-its-kind investigation by USA TODAY shows that black people across the nation – both innocent bystanders and those fleeing the police – have been killed in police chases at a rate nearly three times higher than everyone else.
USA TODAY examined federal records for 5,300 fatal pursuits since 1999, when the government started tracking the races of people killed in car crashes. USA TODAY also took a deeper look at 702 chases in 2013 and 2014, reviewing thousands of pages of police documents and hours of video of pursuits across the nation.
Among the findings:
- Blacks have been killed at a disproportionate rate in pursuits every year since 1999. On average, 90 black people were killed each year in police chases, nearly double what would be expected based on their percentage of the population.
- Deadly pursuits of black drivers were twice as likely to start over minor offenses or non-violent crimes. In 2013 and 2014, nearly every deadly pursuit triggered by an illegally tinted window, a seat-belt violation or the smell of marijuana involved a black driver.