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Police killing of Black Lives Matter co-founder’s cousin sparks outcry in US

The arrest of Keenan Anderson was captured on bodycam footage (Police handout)

The tragic death of Keenan Anderson, the cousin of a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, after he was repeatedly tasered by police officers in Los Angeles has sparked a massive outcry in the United States.

Anderson, 31, cousin of Patrisse Cullors, died at a hospital in Santa Monica, California, after suffering a cardiac arrest following the incident on the afternoon of January 3 in Los Angeles’ Venice neighborhood.

According to reports, the school teacher was repeatedly tasered by Los Angeles police officers and restrained following a traffic accident.

In a 13-minute body-cam footage released by LAPD on Wednesday, Anderson is seen begging for help as multiple officers hold him to the ground and one officer presses his elbow along with his body weight onto his neck.

“They’re trying to George Floyd me. They’re trying to George Floyd me,” Anderson can be heard saying in the footage, in reference to the US police killing of Floyd in May 2020 in  Minneapolis that sparked racial justice protests around the world.

In the footage, police tell Anderson to “stop resisting” as he lies on the pavement. One of the officers then is heard saying that he is going to tase Anderson.

“They’re trying to kill me. They’re trying to kill me,” Anderson shouts as the Taser deploys, asking police officers to “help me”. 

After the incident on January 3, paramedics arrived at the scene and took him to a hospital where, according to the police, he went into cardiac arrest which caused his death.

“My cousin was asking for help, and he didn’t receive it. He was killed,” Cullors was quoted as telling the Guardian after watching the footage.

“Nobody deserves to die in fear, panicking and scared for their life. My cousin was scared for his life. He spent the last 10 years witnessing a movement challenging the killing of Black people. He knew what was at stake, and he was trying to protect himself. Nobody was willing to protect him.”

It is the third such killing linked to the Los Angeles police in the first days of 2023. On January 2, police fatally shot 45-year-old Takar Smith and a day after police fired on 35-year-old Oscar Sanchez.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the incidents "deeply disturbing" while the police department said it was investigating the three men's deaths.

"We must reduce the use of force overall, and I have absolutely no tolerance for excessive force," Bass said in a statement.

Mashea Ashton, founder and CEO of Digital Pioneers Academy, a majority-Black school in Washington, DC and also where Anderson was an English teacher, confirmed Anderson's death in a statement, calling the circumstances of his death "as disturbing as they are tragic."

"Our community is grieving. But we’re also angry,” Ashton wrote. "Angry that, once again, a known, loved, and respected member of our community is no longer with us. Angry that another talented, beautiful Black soul is gone too soon.”

The police violence has assumed alarming proportions in the US in recent years, with people of color being the main targets.

A 2021 study in the medical journal The Lancet recorded 30,800 deaths from police violence across the country between 1980 and 2018, far higher than estimates offered by the US National Vital Statistics System. 

It said more than 55 deaths of deaths from police violence in the US from 1980 to 2018 were misclassified or unreported in official vital statistics reports.

Meanwhile, according to new data released earlier this month, US police killed at least 1,176 people in 2022, making it the deadliest year on record for police violence in the country since experts first started tracking the killings.

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