LAPD’s Release of Drug Tests Is Smearing Keenan Anderson, Groups Say - DMT NEWS

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LAPD’s Release of Drug Tests Is Smearing Keenan Anderson, Groups Say

Los Angeles police’s decision to release preliminary drug test results from Keenan Anderson is in line with a strategy often used by cops to smear victims of police brutality, according to civil liberties organizations. 

Anderson, 31, died at around 8:15 p.m on Jan. 3, about four hours after the LAPD said he was tased six times by a cop while being physically restrained by several officers. The incident, which followed a traffic collision police said was caused by Anderson in a “felony hit-and-run,” marked the third time a man of color died after an encounter with the LAPD in 2023. 

In body camera footage released by police, Anderson, a teacher and father who was visiting L.A. from Washington, D.C., begged for his life and repeatedly said, “They’re trying to George Floyd me!” and “Help, they’re trying to kill me!”

While an initial police news release said Anderson died of cardiac arrest, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore later said in a press conference that the department doesn’t know what caused his death. Moore said police are waiting on an autopsy report from the coroner’s office. Nonetheless, LAPD conducted its own preliminary toxicology tests and reported that Anderson had cocaine metabolite and cannabinoids in his system. Testing positive for cocaine metabolite does not necessarily mean that Anderson was high on cocaine during his interactions with police. 

“Although initial reports indicate narcotic consumption, more information is needed from the coroner’s office before cause of death can be determined,” Moore said. 

“It appears Mr. Anderson was in an altered mental state,” he continued, claiming that the motorcycle officer who initially arrived on scene attempted “to de-escalate the situation” while waiting for backup. 

LAPD did not respond to VICE News’ question as to why it released preliminary drug test results while awaiting an independent autopsy. But it’s not uncommon for police departments to disseminate information about the drug use of someone who was killed after interacting with cops. And, as seen following the murder of George Floyd,  once that information is out, it’s often used to justify police’s actions or suggest that it played a role in the victim’s death. 

“LAPD's disclosure of information about incidents in which its officers kill people are public relations actions, they are not a public information service,” said Melanie Ochoa, director of police practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. 

“I think the goal of the LAPD’s PR machine is to have the public believe that the victim somehow caused their own death.” 

Jeannette Zanipatin, California state director for the Drug Policy Policy Alliance, added that the police who approached Anderson did not have the toxicology information—though the first cop who apprehended him suspected him of driving under the influence. 

“That's very unfortunate that they're trying to use this at the back end to sort of absolve themselves,” she alleged.  

Anderson’s initial drug test results are already being seized upon by right-wing commentators to explain his death. It’s a familiar playbook. 

The fact that Floyd had fentanyl in his system when he was murdered by ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was used by Chauvin’s defense attorney, who claimed Floyd died because of the drugs as opposed to having a man kneel on his neck for more than nine minutes. 

After shooting 32-year-old cafeteria worker Philando Castile to death in a car in front of his girlfriend and her daughter in 2016, Minnesota cop Jeronimo Yanez justified it by saying he smelled weed in the vehicle.

“I thought if he’s, if he has the… guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me,” Yanez told investigators after he killed Castile. 

In a paper published in the science journal Neuron in 2020, Carl Hart, a professor of psychology at Columbia University who researches drug addiction, said the exaggeration of the negative impacts of recreational drug use “have been used to justify police brutality against Black people” and stoked paranoia among cops. 

While some online are speculating that Anderson died of a cocaine overdose or that his behaviour during the encounter with police is due to drug use, medical toxicologists told VICE News we can’t conclude that based on the preliminary toxicology results. 

Because cocaine doesn’t last long in a person’s system, when people test positive for cocaine, it really means the tests found a metabolite called benzoylecgonine. But that metabolite can be in a person’s blood or urine samples for days, according to Dr. Andrew Stolbach, an emergency physician and medical toxicologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. 

“It doesn't demonstrate that they were high or intoxicated or impaired. It just demonstrates that cocaine entered their system,” he said. 

Dr. Lewis Nelson, professor of emergency medicine and chief of the Division of Medical Toxicology at Rutgers Medical School, said when someone dies of a cocaine overdose it usually happens while they’re using cocaine. 

“Cocaine can kill you, but it kills you when you're using it. For the most part, you don't use cocaine now and are well for four hours and then die,” he said. 

However, he said cocaine “puts a huge stress on your heart,” which could be further agitated by being tased, and the stress of interacting with police.  

Stolbach said people who are high on cocaine and encounter cops are in a “high risk situation where people can get sicker and die, especially if they're not cared for in the right way.” 

Both doctors said much more information is needed to determine what, if any role, drugs played in Anderson’s death. 

As for the sentiment that cops are justified in killing people who use drugs, Zanipatin said it’s part of a “visceral response” Americans have when it comes to substance use. 

“We really need law enforcement to be trained to deal with folks that are either having a mental health crisis or may be under the influence. No one deserves to die at the hands of law enforcement ever.” 

The families of Takar Smith and Oscar Sanchez, who both also died after interactions with the LAPD this year, have said both were experiencing mental health issues. 

In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said the deaths require “urgent change” in how police deal with people experiencing mental health crises. 

A vigil for Anderson will be held Saturday night at the intersection where he was tasered.



via https://www.DMT.NEWS

Manisha Krishnan, Khareem Sudlow