Death Of Paul Castaway Highlights Denver’s Overlooked Police Brutality Problem

Killer Cops on the Loose

Originally published at MintPress News.

DENVER — The death of a Rosebud Sioux man in Denver earlier this month is a painful reminder that police shootings are not limited to any one part of the United States, and certainly not just to places that received mainstream media attention after recent killings.

Paul Castaway, left, a citizen of the Lakota Nation, was shot and killed by police on July 12. Photo courtesy
Paul Castaway, left, a citizen of the Lakota Nation, was shot and killed by police on July 12. Photo courtesy

On July 12, Lynn Eagle Feather called police for help with her schizophrenic son, Paul Castaway. Witnesses and police give conflicting accounts of an incident that quickly spiraled out of control. Officers shot Castaway multiple times while he held a knife to his own neck. He died the following day at an area hospital. Police say they shot in self-defense, but witnesses and Castaway’s family disagree.

As his family struggles for justice, a diverse coalition of protesters from the American Indian Movement to local groups like Denver Community Defense Committee are working with the families of the victims of Denver police brutality. They’re hoping to draw attention to a largely overlooked epidemic of police violence that rivals other cities like Baltimore or New York City for its ability to destroy lives. Now, police are targeting activists and journalists who support them with arrests and even violence.


‘What’s wrong with you guys?’: The death of Paul Castaway

In a conversation with MintPress News last week, Lynn Eagle Feather told MintPress that she wanted police to force her son to calm down and rethink his actions. She says she never intended to risk his life.

“Usually I can control him, and talk him down,” Eagle Feather said by phone last week. That night was different, though. Paul Castaway seemed especially haunted. Eagle Feather snuck out of her house and called 911, because, she said, “I thought if I filed charges, he’d understand that he can’t act like this.”

Not only did she inform the officers and 911 of his mental illness, but Eagle Feather also added that police in her district had encountered him before and should have been familiar with his condition. She also denied police claims that Castaway stabbed her. She said officers saw her neck that night, which didn’t require medical care and shows no sign of injury today.


‘Come Back When You’re Dangerous’: How Police Are Failing The Mentally Ill

Natasha McKenna (Courtesy of Natasha McKenna’s family)

This post was originally published at

Natasha McKenna was killed in February by a Special Emergency Response Team officer at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center in Virginia. She had been shot four times with a taser while her hands were cuffed behind her back, her legs shackled, and a mask secured to her face to prevent her from spitting.

The Washington Post reported that her last words were, “You promised you wouldn’t hurt me!”

The Fairfax County Police Department released the findings of an investigation into the death of the 37-year-old woman on Monday. Video of the incident has not been released to the public.

The official cause of death, as reported in April by the FCPD, is: “Excited delirium associated with physical restraint including use of conductive energy device.” Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are also listed as contributing causes.

The official “manner” of death, however, is ruled an “accident” in the autopsy report.

In other words, the SERT officer accidentally killed McKenna, who is survived by a 7-year-old daughter.

This seems typical for the way that black and brown people are treated by law enforcement in the United States – unarmed persons are killed, and the offending officers walk away with, at the most, a slap on the wrist.

Matthew Fogg, a retired chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service, agrees.

“As a Marshal and having handled prisoners, thousands of prisoners, in my career, this seems like it was an unnecessary use of force,” Fogg, who has no professional connection to McKenna’s case, told MintPress News. “You’re talking about a female here, only 130 pounds, and you’ve got her restrained, and you’re tasing her!”

“Why so much force?” (more…)