Natasha McKenna should be alive today. She was only 37 years old when she was killed by Virginia police in February 2015. The Washington Post provided extensive coverage of her story and the unconscionable treatment she received by law enforcement officers.
McKenna, a Black mother of a young child, was living with schizophrenia when she called 911 for assistance after an assault. She was being treated at a local hospital when she was arrested and transported to the Fairfax County Jail for assaulting an officer a few weeks prior. The term “excited delirium” would be used in conjunction with her name as news of her story spread across social media.
McKenna Was Repeatedly Transferred After Being Detained
According to the Washington Post, McKenna was transferred a number of times between different Virginia correctional facilities without any clear reason being given to her family. They deserve answers and citizens need to know that they won’t meet the same fate if they are arrested.
The videotape released from the Virginia Sherrif’s department is hard to stomach. Viewers are warned that the footage is extremely graphic. McKenna was naked when she is approached in her cell at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center by six officers in full-bodied hazmat gear. This transfer was to land her at an Alexandria facility. She never made it.
Officers Tased McKenna Four Times With 50,000 Volts
Instead, a mask was placed over her face (they say it was to keep from spitting). She was handcuffed, and her ankles were shackled to a chair when officers took her down, pinning her naked body to the floor with their body weight.
They tased her four times and each shock carried 50,000 watts of electricity. After being treated like a plantation slave in the deep south, her body gave out and she was not able to be revived. McKenna was then transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. The medical examiner listed the cause of death as “excited delirium.”
The Term ‘Excited Delirium’ Allows For Police Abuse
The term is controversial and is applied to people living with mental illness and drug addiction. Symptoms include bizarre and/or aggressive behavior, shouting, paranoia, panic, violence towards other people, unexpected physical strength, and hyperthermia. Raymond F. Morrogh, The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County, played up McKenna’s mental health by reporting that she displayed “superhuman” strength and therefore required massive restraint including the electric shots to her body. He determined no charges would be filed against any of the six officers, who assisted in killing her. His statement reads in part,
“It is my legal opinion that there is not probable cause, much less proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that anyone involved in this case committed a crime.”
Police Promised Not To Kill McKenna; They Lied
McKenna’s last words to the police were,
“You promised not to kill me.”
Naked Woman Versus Hazmat Gear
Police were again absolved of any wrong doing for the murder of an unarmed, masked, handcuffed, and shackled black person was executed while in custody. The irony of her naked body writhing with pain from torture while the officers were clothed and in full hazmat gear should not be overlooked. Black people in Ameria are disproportionately killed by police across the country and it is both undeniably common as it is disturbing for those who believe in human rights.
No one Knows How Many Unarmed Black People Police Have Murdered
According to MappingPoliceViolence.org more than 100 unarmed Black people were killed by police in 2015. Fifteen of those murdered were Black women.
I call the names of Nuwnah Laroche, Alexia Christian, Meagan Hockaday, Monique Deckard, Jonisha Fonville, Natasha McKenna, Yuvette Henderson, Mya Hall, Sandra Bland, India Kager, Chandra Weaver, Tiara Thomas, Lashonda Ruth Belk, and Bettie Jones so they aren’t forgotten.
Those are just the names reported by the media. In 2014, The Washington Post wrote, “No one knows the actual numbers of how many police shootings took place.”
All Lives Don’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter
This statement makes it clear how easy it is to downplay, overlook, and pretend that race has nothing to do with state violence against unarmed Black bodies. Not all cops are bad; most are doing the right thing. It’s the bad ones that concern me. The ongoing murders of unarmed Black people must end. Let’s be clear: All Lives Matter once Black Lives Matter. Until then, we all have work to do.
Featured image is a screengrab via YouTube.