Monday, January 26, 2015

Kristiana Coignard: Another Teen Dead at the Hands of Police

Kristiana Coignard, shot and killed by Longview, TX police
It's doubtful that Diana Showman, Karen Cifuentes, Dillon McGee or Roshad McIntosh ever met 17 year-old Kristiana Coignard (pictured left), but they all shared something in common.

All of them were American teenagers shot and killed by police under very sketchy circumstances.

In a November 25, 2014 article for The Daily Beast, Nina Strochlic documented fourteen teenagers in the US who were killed after the death of Michael Brown on August 9th last year; not all of those teens were angels, but they were still teenagers - young people whose brains were not yet fully formed.

Individuals still learning the critical life lessons necessary to make the transition to adulthood. Kids.

Last Thursday January 24th as many of us we're thinking about what to eat for dinner, Kristiana Coignard walked into the Longview Police station in Texas, picked up an in-house phone and asked to speak with a police officer.

According to Longview police, when an officer came out to the lobby to speak with her, the 17 year-old brandished a weapon and was shot four times in the "trunk and upper body."

She was taken to a hospital in Dallas but she died from her injuries; police still won't say where she died.

While Coignard's aunt and grandmother say that she did struggle with some emotional issues, according to them she wasn't violent to others. 

The police won't say what specifically prompted them to shoot the teenage girl multiple times in the lobby of the police station, but three unnamed Longview police officers have been placed on paid leave.

Obviously there's a growing demand for answers in this case.

Why were three police officers placed on leave if only one of them came out to the lobby to speak with the teen initially? Who fired the shots at her? Why?

According to an article posted on the Marshall News Messenger Website, "Longview Mayor Jay Dean said Thursday he was told a “female wielding a knife entered into the police department.” 

Why would a teenage girl walk into a police station with a knife? Was it really necessary to shoot her four times?

A Longview police spokesperson says the incident in the lobby was caught on video, but it hasn't been released yet.

In light of the Eric Garner and Michael Brown decisions, this story is already garnering growing national media attention; an unidentified group infiltrated the Longview police Website in reaction to the teen's death and protests are planned.

Were police in this small Texas town physically threatened by a teenage girl standing in the lobby of the station holding a knife to the degree that deadly force was warranted?

There's no question members of law enforcement have a right to defend themselves, especially in light of two NYPD officers being shot and killed while sitting in their police cruiser in Brooklyn.

But I can only hope this country hasn't reached the point where the use of deadly force by police becomes justified merely by officers saying "they felt threatened." 

Maybe we as a nation need to develop more definitive standards for police in terms of what "feeling threatened" really means - and when they draw their weapons and fire.

Especially when it's a police officer with a loaded handgun facing a lone teenager who's unarmed; or holding a knife.

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