Police in Southern California are facing backlash after officers fatally shot a double amputee who used a wheelchair.
Anthony Lowe Jr., 36, was shot and killed by officers last Thursday in the city of Huntington Park. Video shared online shows Lowe trying to hobble away on his amputated legs as police approach Lowe with their guns drawn and pointed at him.
Although the video does not capture the shooting, more police cars can be seen appearing as the officers follow Lowe, who had dismounted his wheelchair and was limping along the sidewalk.
The Huntington Park Police Department (HPPD) said in a statement Monday that officers were responding to reports of a stabbing where a victim was found suffering from “a life-threatening stab wound resulting in a collapsed lung and internal bleeding.”
According to police, the victim described the attacker as a Black man in a wheelchair who “dismounted the wheelchair, ran to the victim without provocation, and stabbed him in the side of the chest with a 12-inch butcher knife,” and then fled the scene in his wheelchair.
The department said they located the suspect a few blocks away, holding a knife. Police allege the suspect ignored the commands of officers and “threatened to advance or throw the knife at the officers.”
A spokesperson for the police later told the Los Angeles Times that Lowe “did not throw the knife ultimately, but he made the motion multiple times over his head like he was going to throw the knife.”
“Officers deployed two separate Tasers in an attempt to subdue the suspect, but the Tasers were ineffective. The suspect continued to threaten officers with the butcher knife, resulting in an officer-involved shooting,” the HPPD continued in its statement.
Lowe died on scene.
Lowe’s family and activists gathered at HPPD headquarters earlier this week to condemn the killing — one of several protests across the U.S. this week that accuse law enforcement of excessive and lethal violence.
“They murdered my son in a wheelchair — with no legs,” Lowe’s mother Dorothy said at Monday’s protest, reports Time magazine.
“So they do need to do something about it, because I do, I want justice for my son.”
Lowe’s sister, Yatoya Toy, told the Los Angeles Times her brother lost his lower legs after an altercation with law enforcement in Texas last year, but did not elaborate on the incident.
Ebonique Simon, the mother of one of Lowe’s two teenage children, told CNN he had been “dealing with a lot of depression” since the amputation.
“He was running away from them as if he was scared for his life,” Simon told The Guardian, adding that Lowe may have had a knife on him for protection. “This could have been handled in any other way. But they chose gunfire as the resolution to the problem. That is insane…. The police are supposed to be upholding the law, and we’re supposed to trust them with our lives, but how can we, if they do something like this?”
She also told the outlet she feels as though the police were attempting to paint Lowe as a dangerous person to justify their actions and prevent outrage.
“They thought this man had no family and that they could sweep this story under the rug. But I’m not going to let it go until there is justice for my son.”
Lowe’s shooting comes at a time when Americans, once again, are protesting police brutality against Black citizens.
The killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis early last month has sparked protests in multiple cities, after footage was released late last week showing a violent beating death at the hands of multiple police officers.
Nichols died three days after a Jan. 7 confrontation with five police officers in Memphis, Tenn. The footage shows police officers brutally beating the 29-year-old for three minutes.
Memphis Police Department officers used a stun gun, a baton and their fists as they pummelled Nichols during the nighttime arrest. Video shows Nichols running away from officers toward his house after he was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. Nichols was heard calling for his mother and seen struggling with his injuries as he sat helpless on the pavement, video footage released Friday showed.
The five officers chatted and milled about for several minutes as Nichols remained on the ground, but there were other authorities on the scene.
The circle of punishment continues to widen around Nichol’s death. Five Black officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other offences, two other Memphis police officers have been relieved of duty and three emergency responders have been terminated from their roles.
Calls for more officers to be fired or charged have been loud and persistent from the Nichols family, their lawyers and community activists who have peacefully protested in Memphis since the video was released. The video was evocative of the arrest of George Floyd in 2020 and officers’ failure to intervene.
Many of Canada’s police chiefs have condemned the violent beating death, offering words of condolence to Nichols’ family and reassuring Canadians that their departments will protect Black people.
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Natalie Delia Deckard, director of the Black Studies Institute at the University of Windsor, said that although she appreciates the police’s “intentionality” to offer their thoughts and prayers, statements are not enough to bring about changes.
“Are statements sufficient to affect change? I would argue that they do not,” Deckard told Global News. “And I don’t make that argument from a position of my opinions or my beliefs, but rather from my research and from what is known to be empirical evidence.”
According to Tari Ajadi, an assistant professor at McGill University who specializes in Black social movements in Canada, such statements give Canadians the illusion that this “brutalizing violence isn’t an everyday occurrence.”
“Police forces across the country echo the same kinds of ideas, the same kinds of statements, the same kinds of discourses (that) help them to preserve the status quo,” Ajadi told Global News.
— With files from Global News’ Heidi Lee and The Associated Press