Still no justice-Police tortured Natasha McKenna to death

After two months of “prompt and comprehensive investigation,” there has still been no response by Fairfax County police after Natasha McKenna (pictured above) was shocked to death with a taser. Instead, their investigation has released the outrageous details of her death: McKenna was literally shackled and chained when she was shocked four times.

McKenna, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, was detained after allegedly assaulting a police deputy—a charge frequently used as a fig leaf to cover arbitrary incarceration and police violence, variously used to justify the murder of Michael Brown, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray.

On February 3rd—three days after her arrest—six deputies came to her cell to transport her to Alexandria, Virginia, and requested her permission to handcuff her through her food slot, which she granted. After three days in custody, the Washington Post reported that her mental health had “deteriorated,” presumably for lack of adequate care, and although she granted their request, the “corrections” officers proceeded to further restrain her. At the end of the process, she was handcuffed behind her back and was wearing leg shackles and a mask (read: muzzle).

The six men proceeded to shock McKenna four times with 50,000 volts from a stun gun. Some reports also describe the six men beating her between shocks. Described as “petite,” McKenna stood at 5’3”, weighed 130 pounds and was being held in a heavily-guarded jail and thus was extremely unlikely to escape.

Furthermore, Taser—the manufacturer of the stun gun—provides explicit instructions that the weapon is not for use on the mentally ill and that using a stun gun more than three times exceeds the safe threshold for one person. In other words, McKenna was restrained and posed no physical threat to the police, who outnumbered her six-to-one, and it would be practically impossible for her to escape.

Given that she was restrained then shocked, the only conclusion to draw is that McKenna was essentially tortured to death. Merriam Webster defines torture as, “the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.” Given that McKenna posed no threat whatsoever and that she was not at flight risk, shocking her was naked brutality for its own sake.

When most people think of torture in the U.S. “criminal justice system,” they think of far-away military complexes like Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, but McKenna’s brutal killing shows that the most mundane movements of the system drip with blood.

Since the news of McKenna’s killing in early February, police have covered up details of the incident. The Fairfax County officials have even gone so far as to obscure the details of her arrest.

What the public is left with is the following: a woman was arrested under mysterious circumstances, denied care for mental illness, restrained and then shocked and beat to death.

This is an outrage. The long history of police brutality in the United States already has too many chapters, and Natasha McKenna’s story is an unwelcome addition to that sad history.

Fairfax County’s cavalier attitude towards justice shows that there are two tracks for “justice” in the United States: one for killer cops, bankers and war criminals, and another for everyone else. That second system has been in the news as the responsible entity for Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and many more, but those are just pinholes shedding light on a system which kills a Black person every 28 hours and whose prison population is 39.4 percent Black and 20.6 percent Latino.

The brutality and racism of the case show there is no “liberty and justice for all” in the United States, but for a very few. For most—especially people under the boot-heels of racism and national oppression—those lines read as farce, starkly in contrast to the lived reality of murder and captivity.

Justice for Natasha McKenna!

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