Another Handcuffed Suspect's Death Ruled a Suicide

[Content Note: Guns; death; police misconduct.]

In Akron, Ohio, 17-year-old Xavier McMullen had been arrested on suspicion of armed robbery, had been handcuffed, and had been placed in the backseat of a police car when he was fatally shot in the head. The county medical examiner has ruled his death a suicide.
Police say Xavier McMullen shot himself after police picked up him and two others in connection with a robbery in Kenmore.

Capt. Daniel Zampelli, a police spokesman, said Sunday that it wasn't clear if the shooting was a suicide or an accident.

In a press conference Monday afternoon, Capt. Jesse Leeser, who is in charge of the police department's detective bureau, confirmed that McMullen was handcuffed with his hands behind his back in the cruiser, but said he could not comment on the manner or cause of death.

Multiple witnesses said the teen was alone in the vehicle, Leeser said.

None of the six officers who were on scene were involved in the shooting, he said. The six haven't been placed on leave.

...When asked whether officers had patted down the suspect before putting him into the cruiser, Leeser said he could not comment.
So, we are meant to believe that a young man of color who was a suspect in an armed robbery wasn't patted down by arresting officers and thus allowed to hang onto a deadly weapon that was also potential evidence in a crime; that he was placed in handcuffs, his hands cuffed behind his back, and somehow managed to access a weapon hidden from officers' plain view; and that he managed to shoot himself in the head with that weapon.

Somehow, I'm just not convinced that this is an accurate account of what transpired.

Even if Xavier McMullen did shoot himself, by accident or on purpose, once the police take someone into custody, they are by law responsible for that person's safety. Allowing Xavier continued access to that weapon while in a vulnerable and possibly terrified state is criminally irresponsible.

Even if this was indeed a suicide, that doesn't mean the police are without culpability. It merely changes the shape of what that culpability is.

My condolences to Xavier's family and friends. If they decide to push for an investigation and for something, anything, resembling justice, I expect they'll have a long and painful slog. I take up space in solidarity with them.

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