Blood Orange: Five Most Controversial Police Shootings, 2006-2016
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
When a police officer pulls the trigger, injuring or killing someone, the Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) sends in its team of investigators. The OCDA is tasked with probing police shootings for nearly all local law-enforcement agencies, except Huntington Beach, which has the Orange County Sheriff's Department investigate its cases. (A transparency black hole, but that's another story!) For decades, the OCDA has declined to prosecute any police shootings. Why?
Two U.S. Supreme Court cases in the 1980s—Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor—certainly made it difficult to deem police shootings criminal by considering an officer’s probable cause in believing deadly force to be necessary and if it were “objectively reasonable” given the circumstances at the time—not in hindsight. Both are often cited in OCDA reports that justify police shootings in OC. (The agency doesn't consider matters of policy, training or liability—just criminal culpability.)
But that hasn't stopped people from getting angry and protesting when bitterly disputed police shootings happen. In the years surveyed by our special report, the Weekly came across the five most egregious cases that led to big protests in the streets or sizable settlements out of court. Rest in peace to all the deceased.