Of the 777 individuals killed by police by October 2017, 149 are hispanic. However, there is reason to believe these numbers are underreported.
The latino and hispanic population is the second most reported demographic reported to be victims of police killings, second only to African Americans as a group. However, coverage of police violence against latinos goes underreported by the media.
There is also evidence to suggest that latinos are less likely to speak out after an incident of police brutality occurs, meaning that incidents are less likely to be recorded.
Hispanics face unique circumstances
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Hispanics make up 17.8 percent of the overall population, yet account for 23 percent of all police searches and 30 percent of all arrests.
Eric Rodriguez of UnidosUS argues in a NPR Newshour report that America has a history of seeing racial conflicts in terms of black and white, which excludes the hispanic population.
Issues surrounding immigration can heighten police violence. In many communities local-law enforcement sign agreements to enforce federal immigration laws. Says Rodriguez, “So they were empowered to do things that, in some ways, would enhance the probability of abuse and profiling.”
Hispanics may also be disinclined to report violent police encounters if they fear it will jeopardize their immigration status, or the status of family members. There is a culture of trying to keep one’s head down to avoid unnecessary attention.
Furthermore, the latino community lacks the organization as that other minority groups have, according to Juan Cartagena, the president of LatinoJustice. In a New York Times article Cartagena observes that the latino community lacks a central figurehead and that religion does not play as a strong of a role in organizing as it does in African American communities. As Cartagena notes, “The Catholic Church really hasn’t used that kind of messaging as a way to galvanize support.”
Combined, all of these circumstances mean that hispanic communities struggle to find justice when police brutality and killings occur.
This national problem affects Oklahoma residents as well
Already in 2017 Oklahoma City has seen the deaths of 5 individuals at the hands of the police.
In the most recent incident, a deaf hispanic man, Magdiel Sanchez, was shot and killed by police, even as neighbors yelled to officers, “He can’t hear!” At the time, law enforcement officers were responding to a hit-and-run accident.
When officers arrived they found Sanchez standing on the porch holding a two-foot metal rod. Neighbors said that Sanchez was known to carry the pipe because there were many stray dogs in the area. Unable to hear the officers Sanchez, did not respond to police orders to drop the pipe.
With weapons drawn, the two officers simultaneously fired multiple shots into Sanchez from fifteen feet away. Sanchez was pronounced dead at the scene.
OKC public information officer for the police department, Captain Bo Matthews explained the shooting by saying, “In those situations, very volatile situations, when you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision or you can really lock into just the person that has the weapon that’d be the threat against you.”
The two officers involved were not wearing body cameras at the time, so there is no documented evidence of the incident beyond several eyewitness accounts. The officers allege that Sanchez was walking toward them as opened fire.
Sanchez was not the driver and was not involved in the hit-and-run accident. Nor had he any previous police record. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you believe your constitutional rights were violated, or the rights of anyone you love have been violated, you need the help of an experienced attorney. Contact Jacqui Ford’s office today.