Police killing of Renee Davis spurs public outrage, ‘Native Lives Matter’

23-year-old Renee Davis, a five-month pregnant Native American mother of three suffering from depression was shot and killed by police on the scene of a wellness check on October 21 in Washington state. Since then, the killing of Davis has sparked public outrage on social media, yet has received little to no attention by major news outlets.

In the year 2015 alone, 991 people were killed by police in the U.S. and in 2016, over 800 thus far.

Although Natives make up only 0.8% of the population, the group was found to account for 1.9% of police killings, reported CNN

The death of Renee Davis is not an isolated incident. Davis is neither the first pregnant or first Native American suffering from depression to be a victim of police brutality and to be absent from media coverage.

Within the last two years at least two other similar incidents have also occurred: On January, 2016, 32-year-old pregnant mother Jacqueline Salyers was shot and killed in a parked car by Tacoma police in Washington state. On July 8, 2014, Jeanetta Riley, 35 and mother of three was shot and killed by police outside of a hospital after being admitted for attempting to commit suicide.

The substantially high rate of police killings of indigenous people and other minorities go unreported and when they are covered, they are often misrepresented in the news.

According to an investigation by In These Times, a report showed that from May 2014 to October 2015, of 29 Native Americans killed by police, only two were given any news coverage, one of which was misidentified as Latino by the Washington Post and New York Times.

In These Times also reported, “When compared to their percentage of the U.S. population, Native Americans were more likely to be killed by police than any other group, including African Americans.” The investigation also found that Native Americans are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.

Creating a narrative for the anti-police brutality movement, Black Lives Matter, which formed in 2012, brought attention to the lack of media reporting on blacks killed by police officers. Following the BLM movement, “Native Lives Matter” was established in 2014 in response to the exclusion of Natives from the national discourse on police brutality.

“The absence of [Native Americans] from conversations about police brutality and social inequality exemplifies the United States’ complicity to the continued marginalization and neglect of Native communities,” Al Jazeera stated.

The common phenomenon of minority groups subjugated to police brutality is a struggle faced not only by indigenous people, but also those who suffer from mental illness, such as Renee Davis.

As police being first responders to situations involving mental health crises in America, police departments hold the responsibility of training officers on handling these incidents appropriately.

According to The Washington Post, a quarter of victims killed at the hands of police suffered from suicidal and mental health problems. Many of these killings occur because police lack training on how to respond to those who suffer from mental illness.


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