Hawaii ranks fifth in the U.S. for the number of people killed this year by police on a per capita basis, according to data compiled by The Guardian newspaper.
At least four people have died after encounters with law enforcement officers, including fugitive Bruce Zalonka, who was shot by a U.S. Marshals Service deputy in a Chinatown parking garage on May 12.
Zalonka, 46, is believed to have been reaching for a .38 caliber handgun when he was shot and killed by the deputy.
The other three people killed by police this year include Sheldon Haleck, Jeffrey Surnow and Michael Kocher Jr.
Haleck died in March after he was pepper-sprayed and tasered by Honolulu police officers who were trying to stop him from running through the streets around Iolani Palace. Officials have been tight-lipped about the cause of death, and have refused to release his autopsy results.
Both Surnow, 63, and Kocher, 19, were hit by police vehicles. Surnow, who was visiting the Big Island from Michigan, was struck by a Hawaii County Police officer while riding his bicycle around South Kohala.
Kocher was hit by a car while walking along a highway on Kauai in early January. He was reportedly alive immediately following the accident, but was killed when the responding officer hit him for a second time.
The Guardian documented the deaths as part of a new project aimed at tracking every person killed in the U.S. by the police. The project, named The Counted, will use both traditional reporting techniques and crowdsourcing to build a comprehensive database that can be used to better inform public debate.
Here’s what the The Guardian had to say about why such data is necessary:
The U.S. government has no comprehensive record of the number of people killed by law enforcement. This lack of basic data has been glaring amid the protest, riots and worldwide debate set in motion by the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
Before stepping down as U.S. Attorney General earlier this year, Eric Holder described the prevailing situation on data collection as “unacceptable.”
The Guardian agrees with those analysts, campaign groups, activists and authorities who argue that such accounting is a prerequisite for an informed public discussion about the use of force by police.
Much of the data that exists on a nationwide scale is flawed since it’s largely based on voluntary reporting to the FBI.
As The Guardian reports, only 1,100 police departments out of 18,000 police agencies reported “justifiable homicides” — those in which a felon is killed in the line of duty — to the FBI between 2005 and 2012. That leaves a lot to be desired.
So far, the Guardian has found that 489 people have died at the hands of police since Jan. 1, 2015.
Most of those killed were in the city of Los Angeles, where at least nine people have died after encounters with law enforcement. California leads the country with the total number of people killed by police with 74. It’s followed by Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Tops in the nation on a per capita basis is Oklahoma, where 23 people were killed during police encounters. Arizona, Nebraska, New Mexico and Hawaii rounded out the top five when population size is factored in.
The Guardian intends to analyze the data throughout the year, telling the stories of those who were killed and pointing out trends.
For instance, the news organization already found that black Americans killed by cops are twice as likely to be unarmed as white people.