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A Father, A Friend, A ‘Talented and Beautiful Soul:’ DC Teacher Dead After Police Encounter

Justice for Keenan Anderson |
Keenan Anderson smiling. Photo Courtesy of

An English and Language Arts teacher at Digital Pioneer Academy in southeast Washington, D.C., is dead after an encounter with Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers in the Venice neighborhood. 

On Jan. 3, Keenan Anderson, a father, friend, educator and what some have described as a “talented and beautiful soul” died at the age of 31.

“Our community is grieving. But we’re also angry. Angry that, once again, a known, loved and respected member of our community is no longer with us. Angry that another talented, beautiful black soul is gone too soon,” Mashea Ashton, the founder and CEO of Digital Pioneer Academy, said in a statement.  

Anderson, who was visiting family in Los Angeles over the winter break, was involved in a traffic collision. When policemen arrived, he attempted to flee, and this resulted in them trying to subdue him. According to the video surveillance, Anderson was tased up to seven times within 45 seconds. 

While being tased, Anderson was restrained by multiple officers on the scene. Following the incident, he went into cardiac arrest and died at a hospital. In the LAPD statement, the initial officer at the scene requested additional backup for a DUI investigation upon interacting with Anderson. The police department administrated a preliminary toxicology report and found traces of cannabinoids and cocaine metabolites in Anderson’s system. 

Despite this, Justin Wiggins, a local resident and the operations manager of the Howard University Barnes and Noble, believes police reform is still a necessity and makes a case for more diversity among the police force.

“I feel like the pattern of police brutality has been established for a long time and nothing is being done about it. I feel like it is time for a reform of the rules of engagement referring to the police,” Wiggins said. “We need more Black and brown police officers, lawyers and judges.” 

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According to DataUSA, 13.2 percent of the country’s police force is Black while 66 percent is white. 

Anderson’s death is the third this year at the hands of the LAPD under investigation, according to Los Angeles police fatally shot Takar Smith on Jan 2. and Oscar Leon Sanchez on Jan. 3. Mayor Karen Bass, the city’s first Black woman mayor, issued a statement following the incident.

“Full investigations are underway, and I pledge that the City’s investigations into these deaths will be transparent and will reflect the values of Los Angeles. I will ensure that the City’s investigations will drive only toward truth and accountability. Furthermore, the officers involved must be placed on immediate leave,” Mayor Bass’ statement read. 

 Anderson, who is the cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, leaves behind her, his 5-year-old son named Syncere Kai Anderson and his sister, Dominique Anderson, among other relatives. Cullors made her frustrations clear in an Instagram post dedicated to her late cousin.

“LAPD has killed three people this year. One of them is my family member. Keenan deserves to be alive right now, his child deserves to be raised by his father. Keenan, we will fight for you and for all of our loved ones impacted by state violence. I love you,” she wrote. 

In a City Hall news conference, Anderson’s younger sister, Dominique Anderson, discussed the importance of accountability for police officers to hinder abuse of power. 

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“If you continue to blame the victim and not hold officers accountable, why would they ever stop killing us? The police are supposed to be here to protect and serve the people, and yet they abuse their authority and have a lack of respect for human life,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s family is now seeking to file a $50 million claim against the city of Los Angeles, and Color of Change, an online racial justice organization, launched a petition for Mayor Bass to not reappoint the current LAPD police chief. 

Copy edited by Jasper Smith 


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