Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015, according to the findings ofa Guardian study that recorded a final tally of 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers this year.
Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.
Paired with official government mortality data, this new finding indicates that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the US is a killing by police.
Overall in 2015, black people were killed at twice the rate of white, Hispanic and native Americans. About 25% of the African Americans killed were unarmed, compared with 17% of white people. This disparity has narrowed since the database was first published on 1 June, at which point black people killed were found to be twice as likely to not have a weapon.
Of the 1,134 people killed, about one in five were unarmed but another one in five fired shots of their own at officers before being killed. At least six innocent bystanders were killed by officers during violent incidents.
More than 21% of deadly incidents began with a complaint to police alleging domestic violence or some other domestic disturbance. About 16% arose from officers attempting to arrest a wanted person, execute a warrant or apprehend a fugitive. Another 14% of killings followed an attempted traffic or street stop, 13% came after someone committed a violent crime and 7% after a non-violent crime. 160 people were accused of refusing commands to drop a weapon. Another 157 were said to have pointed or levelled a gun or non-lethal gun at officers. Police alleged that 158 people killed had “charged”, advanced at or fought with officers. And while 79 people were killed after allegedly “reaching for their waistband” or grabbing for a weapon, 44 attacked officers, some with knives and blades.
In at least 92 cases that led to fatalities this year, police had been alerted over a suicidal person or someone who was harming him- or herself. In 28 other deadly incidents, relatives or associates later said that the person killed had been suicidal before they died.
Of 29 military veterans who were killed by police in 2015, at least eight were said to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following their service. In all, mental health issues were reported in relation to 246 people killed by police this year – more than one in every five cases. On at least eight occasions, the death was officially ruled a suicide, prompting claims from relatives that officers were escaping scrutiny.