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Advocates for Social Justice responds to Cedar Rapids officer-involved shooting decision
Group concurs with attorneys’ decision, but says police should be trained on de-escalation
Advocates for Social Justice released a statement Thursday in response to the decision by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and the Linn County Attorney’s Office that the fatal officer-involved shooting of William Rich in Cedar Rapids was legally justified.
The nonprofit worked with the family of Rich, who was killed on Aug. 30, to organize protests requesting the release of the police body camera footage of the incident.
The footage was released about a week after Rich’s death, and the decision from the Attorney General’s Office and Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks was released Wednesday.
“While we concur with the decision that the officer's actions were legally justified, we would like to reemphasize that there is still a need for focus on de-escalation and cultural competency training for officers. Black offenders are dying at a disproportionate rate compared to white offenders,” the nonprofit said in a post on Facebook.
The post included screenshots of two recent Gazette articles meant to illustrate the racial disparity. The first article was about the arrest of 23-year-old Brandon Nelson when he was released from the hospital on Sept. 7, more than a month after he reportedly engaged in a shoot-off with Cedar Rapids police officers on July 30.
Nelson shot once at the officers during the exchange. The officers shot at him 12 times. He suffered three gunshot injuries but survived and was charged with two counts of attempted murder and several other charges. He remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.
The other article pictured in the Facebook post was about the protests demanding answers after the death of Rich. Rich was shot by two Cedar Rapids police officers who responded to the scene after Rich’s girlfriend called 911 to report that Rich choked, punched and tried to drown her.
Rich, who was armed with a knife, fought with the officers and was eventually shot and killed.
The post pointed out that Nelson, who is white and shot at an officer, survived his encounter with police, while Rich, who was Black and had a knife, did not.
The post also linked to a report from the United State Bureau of Justice Statistics detailing homicide trends in the United States since 1976. The report states that Blacks are disproportionately represented among both homicide victims and offenders.
“Communities of color have long felt a mistrust of law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” the Facebook post states. “Immediate public outcry for the release of the bodycam footage regarding William Rich’s death is a result of said mistrust. Community-centered action items are necessary to rebuilding community relations with law enforcement.
“Advocates for Social Justice continues to extend condolences to the family of William Isaac Rich. The loss of a human life, no matter the circumstances, is tragic,“ the Facebook post reads.
Rich’s family has not released a public statement regarding his death or the events that followed.
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