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Keenan Anderson
via Instagram (@osopepatrisse)

Cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder is killed by police

Body camera footage from the Los Angeles Police Department shows an officer repeatedly tasering 31-year-old teacher Keenan Anderson

The cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors has died after being repeatedly tasered by Los Angeles police.

Keenan Anderson, a 31-year-old high school teacher and father, was killed on January 3 after police were called to a traffic accident in the Venice neighbourhood of Los Angeles at around 15:00 local time. The incident was caught on body camera footage.

The footage shows the first officer arriving at the scene of the collision, where a distressed Anderson is seen in the middle of the road. While in the midst of an apparent anxiety attack, he says, “please help me.” The officer then tells him to “get up against the wall”; Anderson complies and says “I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry.” After a few minutes, Anderson appears to be concerned with the officer’s behaviour, saying, “I want people to see me” and “you’re putting a thing on me”.

Eventually, Anderson starts to flee, at which point the officer pursues him on his motorcycle and shouts at him to “get down to the ground, now”. Anderson then becomes increasingly distressed, and in the bodycam footage can be heard saying “please help me” and “they’re trying to kill me”, as multiple officers hold him down. One officer can be seen pressing their elbow against Anderson’s neck. “They’re trying to George Floyd me,” Anderson says at one point.

The officer holding the taser repeatedly threatens to use it on Anderson if he doesn’t “stop resisting” – although, by this point, it does not appear as if Anderson is resisting. The officer then repeatedly tasers Anderson who begs him to stop, yells in pain, and calls for “help”.

Paramedics later arrived at the scene and took Anderson to a hospital where, according to the LAPD, he went into cardiac arrest four and a half hours later and died.

“My cousin was asking for help, and he didn’t receive it. He was killed,” Cullors told the Guardian after watching the footage. “Nobody deserves to die in fear, panicking and scared for their life. My cousin was scared for his life. He spent the last ten years witnessing a movement challenging the killing of Black people. He knew what was at stake and he was trying to protect himself. Nobody was willing to protect him.”

Since his tragic death, Cullors has questioned why it was necessary for armed police to show up to a reported traffic collision. “Instead of treating him like a potential criminal, police should have called the ambulance,” Cullors told the Guardian. “If there was a policy in which traffic stops were met with unarmed professionals who come to the scene to help with whatever situation has happened, that would have prevented my cousin’s death. And that would have prevented so many other deaths.”

“These types of killings and this type of force will not be interrupted unless we have courageous elected officials come forward and challenge not just the police, but also the policies,” she added.

The news comes just days after it was revealed that police killings in the US hit a record high in 2022, with law enforcement killing an average of 100 people a month. Black people remain disproportionately likely to experience police brutality, and accounted for 24 per cent of those killed last year despite making up only 13 per cent of the population. From 2013 to 2022, Black people were three times more likely to be killed by US police than white people.