BLack Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors is among many relatives, friends and colleagues of Keenan Anderson who are demanding answers after the respected Washington DC high school teacher was allegedly ‘tasked to death’ by LAPD officers.
“All I know is my cousin was asking for help and he didn’t get it,” said Ms Cullors, 39. The Independent in an interview on Friday. “And a few hours later he was dead in the hospital.”
Anderson, 31, a father-of-one, was visiting family in Los Angeles during the winter school break when he was involved in a traffic accident in the Venice neighborhood on January 3.
When officers arrived, they saw Anderson “running down the middle of the street and displaying erratic behavior,” according to an LAPD press release.
Edited body camera footage released Wednesday shows Anderson attempting to flee from police, before being pinned face down by several officers. As he continued to struggle, an officer fired a 50,000 volt charge at him at close range for about 30 seconds. The officer pauses briefly before tasering him again.
The LAPD said in a statement that Anderson received medical assistance at the scene before being taken to a Santa Monica hospital, where he suffered cardiac arrest.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a press conference Wednesday that Anderson had committed a hit-and-run and was trying to flee the scene by getting into another person’s car.
Mrs Cullors said The Independent she had yet to see the full body camera footage, having received the edited version hours before it was made public, and wanted to know more about the circumstances that led to her cousin’s death .
One thing she knows for sure: “If my cousin hadn’t had to interact with the police that day, he would still be alive.”
“He loved his students”
Anderson lost his mother at a young age and was raised by members of his large extended family. The family who had moved from Louisiana to California after facing racism, Ms Cullors said.
She remembers spending summers with Anderson and their cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents in Los Angeles, hanging out in parks and having picnics.
“Laughing, playing, having a barbecue, these are the most powerful moments. When you get to be together without having to deal with problems with the police. Just be free,” she said, adding that Anderson had “big eyes” and a magnetic personality that rubs off on everyone around him.
After enduring a difficult childhood, Anderson had big dreams of making an impact in the world. He initially wanted to become a police officer but later decided he could effect the most change through education, she said.
“He was a human being who could transform his community, transform the world. He was super funny, super smart,” she said.
Ms Cullors founded Black Lives Matter with friends and fellow activists Alicia Garza and Ayo Tometi in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the 2013 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
During her two decades in the civil rights movement, she says she spoke extensively to Anderson about the possibility of changing the black community.
She said Anderson sees his work as a teacher, educating young minds and supporting young people in crisis as an essential part of the movement.
“He loved his students, loved his family and did everything in his power to help change his life but also change the lives of those around him,” Ms Cullors said. The Independent.
Anderson worked for several years at a charter school in Watts, South Los Angeles, before getting a job at the Digital Pioneers Academy in Washington DC six months ago.
“Our family not only lost a loved one, but the community lost a mentor. The students lost someone who changed their lives,” she said.
“They’re trying to get me George Floyd”
The LAPD released an edited version of police body camera footage of the Jan. 3 incident that shows officers arriving at the corner of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards in Venice, Los Angeles, around 3:38 p.m. on Jan. 3.
A woman is seen telling officers, “I think that guy up there needs some help because he’s trying to get away.”
Anderson spoke to officers for several minutes, according to the LAPD statement. Then, as additional police units arrived, he suddenly tried to flee along Venice Boulevard.
Police body camera video cuts to text saying he ‘tried to run away’. Footage resumes to show Anderson running down the road, and when an officer catches up to him, he is asked to lie on his stomach.
Officers tell him to relax by moving him onto his stomach. He is heard shouting “Help, they’re trying to kill me” as he struggles with several officers.
Footage from a second officer then shows police warning Anderson that they will tase him if he doesn’t stop struggling.
“They’re trying to get George Floyd to me,” he hears. The officer then tasered Anderson for a period of approximately 30 seconds, and after a further 5 second pause, the footage plays. He is handcuffed and placed on a stretcher by doctors from the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Anderson died in hospital about four and a half hours after his first contact with police.
A community ready for change
After years of activism aimed at reforming law enforcement and redistributing bloated police budgets to social services, Ms Cullors said it was ‘disorienting’ to lose someone so close in this way .
She says Anderson’s death, which occurred the same week that two other people of color were killed by the LAPD, clearly illustrates why the police have nothing to do with responding to traffic stops or people suffering from health crises. mental.
“My cousin’s death should be a huge reminder why when black people ask for help, we should get help, we should get care. We should be able to receive those things that give life,” she said.
Ms Cullors believes the majority of the American public wants to change the relationship between the police and the communities in which they operate, and all that’s missing is the will of elected officials.
“People want law enforcement reduced in their communities. Our problem is the lack of courage of elected officials to change policy, to reassess its relationship with the police,” she said. “When you have been enlightened by the LAPD, law enforcement and elected officials about the police and why they are needed, and a member of your own family is killed by them, terrorized by them, it becomes incredibly clear about what is needed, what is most important.
Ms Cullors said the family are preparing to file a formal complaint against the LAPD and legal action may follow.
“Our family should be able to live a full life. We shouldn’t have to have viral headlines because a member of our family died at the hands of the LAPD,” she said.
“It’s too much”
The release of the body camera footage on Wednesday sparked a furious backlash on social media.
“This needs to stop,” Misan Harriman, photographer and close friend of Meghan Markle, wrote on Instagram, alongside images of Anderson being tased. “My God. This is just too much. Again. In the heart of Los Angeles. On the sidewalk, begging for his life, LAPD officers killed another young brother in broad daylight.
Actor Seth Green wrote in a Twitter post: “It’s okay, just LAPD murdering a man in the street for no reason.”
Comedian and writer Travon Free called on the LAPD to be ‘held accountable at all costs’ in a viral post on Twitter: “The LAPD murdered Keenan Anderson. A beloved high school English teacher and father who reported them for help after a car accident. He was no threat to anyone. He needed help and it cost him his life.
“Our community is in mourning”
The Digital Pioneers Academy in Washington DC is in mourning over Anderson’s death.
Founder Mashea Ashton said in a statement posted on the school’s website that he was the third member of the school community to be abused in the past two months.
“The details of his death are as disturbing as they are tragic. Our community is in mourning. But we are also angry,” Ms Ashton said. “Angry that once again a known, loved and respected member of our community is no longer with us. Angry that another beautiful and talented black soul left too soon.
She said Anderson had been a teacher for eight years and in the six months he had worked at the academy he had established “strong relationships with academics and staff”.
“He was loved by everyone,” Ms Ashton said. “Our school community will inevitably ask some really important questions in the days and weeks ahead: How were the police able to defuse this situation? How are we going to stop losing our black boys and men to violence “How do we grieve and move forward as a community? We all deserve answers to these questions. Keenan’s family deserves justice. And our students deserve to live, live without fear, and have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.
“It’s a vigil, not (yet) a demonstration”
The BLM branch in Los Angeles is holding a vigil for Anderson at the place where he died at 5 p.m. on January 14.
“Join the family and loved ones of Keenan Anderson as we lift his spirit and generate the energy to fight for justice on his behalf,” reads their Instagram page.
“This is a vigil, not a protest (yet). Please wear white, bring candles, flowers, prayers and love.