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1 verdict, then 6 police killings across America in 24 hours

April 24, 2021 GMT
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Kirk Rivers addresses demonstrators outside City Hall as they await members of the city council who held an emergency meeting on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Elizabeth City, N.C., in regards to the death of Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by a Pasquotank County Deputy Sheriff earlier in the week. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)
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Kirk Rivers addresses demonstrators outside City Hall as they await members of the city council who held an emergency meeting on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Elizabeth City, N.C., in regards to the death of Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by a Pasquotank County Deputy Sheriff earlier in the week. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)

Even as the Derek Chauvin case was fresh in memory — the reading of the verdict in a Minneapolis courtroom, the shackling of the former police officer, the jubilation at what many saw as justice in the death of George Floyd — even then, blood flowed on America’s streets.

And even then, some of that blood was shed at the hands of law enforcement.

At least six people were fatally shot by officers across the United States in the 24 hours after jurors reached a verdict in the murder case against Chauvin on Tuesday.

A 16-year-old girl in Columbus, Ohio.

An oft-arrested man in Escondido, California.

A 42-year-old man in eastern North Carolina.

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The deaths, in some cases, sparked new cries for justice. Some people said they reflect an urgent need for radical changes to American policing — a need that the Chauvin verdict cannot paper over. For others, the shootings are a tragic reminder of the difficult and dangerous decisions law enforcement face daily.

An unidentified man in San Antonio.

Another man, killed in the same city within hours of the first.

A 31-year-old man in central Massachusetts.

The circumstances surrounding each death differ widely. Some happened while officers investigated serious crimes. Police say some of the people were armed with a gun, knife or a metal pole. One man claimed to have a bomb that he threatened to detonate. In several cases, little is known about the lives of those killed and what happened in their final moments.

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As the nation watched the judge read the verdict against Chavuin on Tuesday afternoon, an officer hundreds of miles away was listening over his patrol car radio in a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. Minutes earlier, a colleague fatally shot a teenage girl.

Police had been called to the house after someone called 911 and reported being physically threatened. Body camera footage shows an officer approaching a group of people in the driveway as the teenager, Ma’Khia Bryant, swings a knife wildly. Moments later, the girl charges at a young woman pinned against a car.

The officer fires four shots before Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade, similar to a kitchen or steak knife, lies on the sidewalk next to her.

“You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!” a man shouted at the officer.

The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”

Later, an anguished neighbor yells at officers: “Do you see why Black lives matter? Do you get it now?”

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Bryant, who was in foster care at the time, was a shy, quiet girl who liked making hair and dance videos on TikTok, her grandmother, Debra Wilcox, told The Associated Press. Her family says her actions that day were out of character.

“I don’t know what happened there unless she was fearful for her life,” Wilcox said.

Though officials have said Bryant’s death was a tragedy, they point to laws allowing police to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.

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About the same time the radio brought the news of Chauvin’s verdict to Columbus, two officers in San Antonio were confronting a man on a bus. Exactly how the encounter started remains unclear, but police say the unidentified man was armed. It ended with officers firing fatal shots.

Later that evening in the same city, authorities say a man killed a person working in a shed outside his own home. As officers arrived, the suspect started shooting at police. They returned fired, killing him. Officials have not released his name.

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As the nation digested the news from Minneapolis, the day wore on and daily life unspooled. In Worcester, Massachusetts, the night was punctuated by a standoff with police that ended in gunfire.

Phet Gouvonvong, 31, called 911 and claimed to have a bomb he threatened to set off, police said. Officers found him on the street; they said he was wearing body armor and had a backpack and what appeared to be a rifle.

A police SWAT team joined negotiators. One reached Gouvonvong by phone to try to calm him, officials say.

Around midnight, officials say, Gouvonvong moved toward police, and an officer opened fire.

Gouvonvong was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not said whether he actually had an explosive device.

On Thursday, his mother crumpled onto the street in tears where flowers had been laid at the site of her son’s killing. AnnMarie Gonzalez told The Telegram & Gazette newspaper she had called police Tuesday night to try to connect with her son but they wouldn’t put her through. She believed she could have prevented it.

“They had no right taking my son’s life,” she said. “They had no right.”

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The next morning, as people in Minneapolis awakened to a city boarded up for unrest that never materialized, a 42-year-old Black man in eastern North Carolina was shot and killed when deputy sheriffs tried to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants.

An eyewitness said Andrew Brown Jr. was shot dead in his car in Elizabeth City as he tried to drive away. A car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a shattered back window.

His slaying sparked an outcry as hundreds demanded the release of body camera footage. Seven deputies have been placed on leave.

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That same morning, police in Southern California got a call about someone hitting cars with a metal pole. The man ran off when police arrived, but then another officer spotted him carrying a 2-foot metal pole in the street.

The white man charged the officer, who commanded him to drop the pole before firing, police said.

Police in Escondido near San Diego have not released the name of the dead man, but did say he had been arrested nearly 200 times over the past two decades for violent assaults on police and the public, drug charges and other crimes. Efforts to get him help from mental health professionals hadn’t worked, the police chief said.

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Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Julie Watson in San Diego and Juliet Williams in San Francisco contributed to this report, as did Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio. Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.