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

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.

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Feds Raid Native American Reservation, Seize 12,000 Legal Marijuana Plants

This article was originally published at MintPressNews.com.

Last week, federal agents raided land belonging to two federally-recognized Native American tribes, and seized 12,000 cannabis plants from their properties. The bust came despite new federal guidelines designed to allow limited marijuana cultivation by indigenous groups in the United States.

The agents arrived at the properties at the far northern edge of California on July 8, ultimately seizing the plants and over 100 pounds of marijuana ready for use from two buildings — an event center belonging to the Alturas Rancheria and a greenhouse belonging to the Pit River tribe. Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. District Attorney in Sacramento, led the raid.

“The volume of marijuana that the XL facility alone was capable of producing … far exceeds any prior known commercial marijuana grow operation anywhere within the 34-county Eastern District,” Wagner said in a statement quoted by The Sacramento Bee on the day of the bust.

A view of the marijuana farm on the XL Rancheria in California.

The Justice Department announced in December that it would allow Native American tribes to choose whether to legalize marijuana on their reservations, which are considered sovereign nations for many aspects of lawmaking and governance. Under the new regulations, tribes are free to maintain a ban even if the states they are in have passed medical cannabis laws or broad legalization, but the opposite is not true: Tribal efforts at legalization aren’t allowed to overturn state laws that criminalize marijuana.

In his statement, Wagner accused the Pit River Tribes and the Alturas Rancheria, a community of just five registered members, of taking their growing operations too far, and said he’d previously warned tribal leaders they were acting “in a manner that violates federal law, is not consistent with California’s Compassionate Use Act, and undermines locally enacted marijuana regulations.”

The grow operation was funded by Grand River Enterprises, a huge Canadian tobacco business which distributes its products on Native American and First Nations reservations, and the involvement of a foreign investor may be another factor that led to the bust. According to The Associated Press, the Bureau of Indian Affairs also supported the raid. (more…)