Say Their Names

A list of 8 men and 1 woman of color who have died in 2020 as a result of action or fatal inaction by police officers, in all but Ahmaud Arbery’s death at the hand of white civilians. The known details about the circumstances in each of the other deaths make clear how unnecessary it was, had the police acted within the law, de-escalated the situation, or otherwise avoided an unwarranted use of lethal force. Summaries are based on details from national news and from local newspapers where the deaths occurred. Also based on the article “Three Words. 70 Cases. The tragic history of ‘I Can’t Breathe,’” published 8/29/20 by the New York Times.

Hakim Littleton, 20, died on July 10 in Detroit, Michigan

When a group of Detroit police officers arrested Littleton’s friend on an outstanding warrant, Littleton drew a gun and shot directly at a police officer, but missed. Details are disputed and are not all clearly observable in police video footage released after community demands a week after the shooting. Littleton seems to have been quickly tackled by the police, disarmed when an officer kicked his gun away, and was lying face down when at least some of the 8 (some say 10) shots were fired at him. He was shot in the back of the head at least once. Police Chief James Craig said immediately after the shooting that officers returned Littleton’s gunfire. Protests continue in the streets of Detroit, calling for independent investigation. The police officers involved have not been named, and are on administrative leave pending the department’s investigation.

Kevan Ruffin, Jr., 32, died on July 2 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Police responded to a disturbance report, found man with what looked like knives who advanced on police and did not respond to commands to stop. Officer used a taser that “failed,” so he shot Ruffin, killing him. Ruffin’s family said he had mental health issues and was on medication, information the police department had known for a decade. The officer was put on administrative leave, pending investigation.

Jamel Floyd, 35, died on June 24 in Brooklyn, New York

Died in custody at US Bureau of Prisons detention center after being pepper-sprayed in his cell by a corrections officer, who said Floyd was “increasingly disruptive and it was believed he could be potentially harmful to himself and others.” Floyd suffered from asthma and diabetes, and his mother said that jail officials were aware of his health conditions. He had been in the jail for two days because he hadn’t appeared for a court hearing on failure to pay child support, and could not afford $2500 for bail.

Sean Monterrosa, 22, died on June 20 in Vallejo, California

Stopped by police in Walgreen’s parking lot, after reports of looting. While Monterrosa was on his knees with his hands raised, officer Jarrett Tonn fired his gun at him five times from inside an unmarked police car. One bullet hit and killed Monterrosa. Tonn said he thought Monterrosa had a gun in his pocket, but it turned out to be a 15” hammer. Monterrosa died at the hospital.

Rayshard Brooks, 27, died on June 12 in Atlanta, Georgia

In a Wendy’s parking lot, Brooks was being arrested for DUI. Brooks was on probation after a 2-year jail sentence, and if arrested again might have been returned to jail. He grabbed an officer’s taser and ran, firing the taser back in the direction of Rolfe and the other officer. As Brooks ran, Rolfe shot him 2 times in the back, a third bullet hitting a nearby car with people in it. The prolonged encounter was recorded from many cameras. After Brooks had fallen to the ground, Rolfe appeared to say, “I got him,” then kicked Brooks, who later died in surgery. In April 2020, Officer Rolfe had completed a 9-hour course in de-escalation techniques. He has been charged with felony murder, and the other officer with aggravated assault.

George Floyd, 46, died on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Arrested after a phoned-in report to police that Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill in a store. E was held down by Police Sergeant Derek Chauvin with a knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while Floyd, who had recovered from Covid-19, pleaded many times, “I can’t breathe.” Cell phone video by a teenage bystander recorded the events, starting the worldwide public protests against police brutality targeting people of color. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, and the three others face charges of aiding and abetting murder. Some are out on bail, awaiting trial.

Carlos Ingram-Lopez, 27, died on April 21 in Tucson, Arizona.

His grandmother called police at 1am because Ingram-Lopez was drunk and behaving erratically. In a garage, police pinned him to the ground face down, handcuffed him, and put a yellow plastic blanket over him. For 12 minutes, he pleaded in English and Spanish for water, yelled that he couldn’t breathe, and called for his nana. Then he went into cardiac arrest and stopped moving. He was declared dead at the scene. Officers Samuel Routledge, Ryan Starbuck, and Jonathan Jackson have resigned. Ingram-Lopez’s death was made public for the first time at a police department press conference on June 24, after the release of graphic body cam footage.

Breonna Taylor, 26, died on March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky.

After midnight, police officers used a battering ram to enter Taylor’s apartment on a “no-knock arrest warrant” issued by a judge because the police believed that one of the two drug dealers they were looking for at a different address received packages at Taylor’s address. Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker shot at what he thought were burglars, hitting one officer in the leg. Police returned fire, shooting Taylor at least 8 times. She received no medical attention for 20 minutes, and died at the scene. No drugs were found in the house. The police had already located their main suspect before breaking into Taylor’s apartment. There is no body cam footage.

Walker was charged with attempted murder of the police officer, but the charge was dropped in May. On June 11, the city banned the use of no-knock warrants. Officer Brett Hankison was fired on June 23, and has appealed his firing. Officers Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove have been placed on administrative leave. No officers face criminal charges, as the Kentucky attorney general and the FBI investigate. Protests continue in the streets of Louisville. Taylor’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, died on Feb. 23 in Glynn County, Georgia.

While jogging, Arbery was followed by 3 men in 2 trucks. He tried to evade their pursuit, but they blocked his escape. When he turned to defend himself, Travis McMichael killed him with 3 shotgun blasts. “Do you got him?” another pursuer said. One of them recorded Arbery’s shooting, and the video went viral only months later, resulting in all three men being arrested for murder in early May. The men apparently assumed Arbery was responsible for thefts in the area, although none had been reported for 7 weeks. There was reportedly a Confederate flag sticker on the toolbox in McMichael’s truck bed. The Justice Dept. is investigating Arbery’s murder as a hate crime.