Tag Archives: Paul Castaway

Denver District Attorney Clears Police In Shooting Of Native American Man

Warning: Graphic video shows how the deadly encounter unfolded.

By AJ Vicens | Mother Jones

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has declined to press criminal charges against a Denver police officer who shot and killed a Native American man in July.

The man, Paul Castaway, holding a knife to his own throat and threatening to kill himself, was walking toward officers when Officer Michael Traudt fired three shots into Castaway’s midsection. Along with a nine-page report explaining his decision, Morrissey on Monday released surveillance footage of the shooting.

The shooting spurred protests in Denver this summer, as Castaways’ family disputed the initial police account that claimed Castaway, 35, came “dangerously close” to officers with a knife. At the time, they said officers didn’t have to shoot him, and he was clearly mentally ill and in need of help. Prior to releasing the video publicly, Morrissey had shown it to members of Castaway’s family, who said it showed him holding the knife to his throat—not pointing it in the direction of the police.

Lynn Eagle Feather, Castaway’s mother, blasted Morrissey’s decision. “I don’t think it’s right,” she told Mother Jones on Monday. “Because the Denver Police have been getting away with killing so many young people. Yeah my son had a knife to his throat, but he was more of a threat to himself than he was to the police.”

According to Morrissey’s report, officers were deployed to Eagle Feather’s apartment after she called and told the police that her son had arrived, “mentally ill and drunk.” She said she had been watching her grandchildren, and that her son had poked her in the neck with a knife, so she took the kids to a building across the street for safety. When the police arrived, they talked to Eagle Feather there and then went back to her apartment to see if her son was still around. As they escorted the mother back to her home, the officers spotted Castaway, who began running.

The officers chased him to a nearby trailer park, where they cornered him between a fence and a minivan. Castaway turned around, with the knife to his own throat, while walking in the direction of the officers. The surveillance footage shows the officers backing up as Castaway walks toward them with the knife still to his throat. According to Traudt, Castaway “started to move the knife from his throat toward me, and he didn’t stick it out, but he brought it down, and he was walking at me just aggressively and he wouldn’t stop, and I didn’t feel like I could back up anymore.”

Castaway had his back to the surveillance camera that captured footage of the shooting, so it’s impossible to tell whether the knife was actually coming away from his neck. The video also shows a lot of bystanders in the area, including several children.

“I called for help,” Eagle Feather said. “I didn’t call for a killing. And I can never get my son back.”

Eagle Feather told Mother Jones that the police need more training on how to deal with the mentally ill. She said she’s considering legal action against the Denver Police Department. The city of Denver has paid out more than $10 million in the last four years related to excessive police force, according to the Colorado Independent.

Morrissey said his decision was based on the law.

“In this case, Castaway’s decision to turn, confront the officers and deliberately advance toward Officer Traudt, knife in hand, rather than complying with his orders, compelled Officer Traudt to shoot,” Morissey said in the report. “The surveillance video clearly depicts Castaway moving quickly and purposefully toward Officer Traudt. Castaway’s actions and the statements he made suggest he had decided to die and further decided that Officer Traudt would be the instrument of his demise.”



Native Americans Most Likely Victims Of Deadly Police Force

Lynn Eagle Feather, mother of police shooting victim Paul Castaway, is consoled by friends at rally in Denver, Co., July 12, 2015. (Courtesy/Steve Stalzle

Lynn Eagle Feather, mother of police shooting victim Paul Castaway, is consoled by friends at rally in Denver, Co., July 12, 2015. (Courtesy/Steve Stalzle

Cecily Hilleary / Voice of America

The high-profile shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri last year focused international attention on police using deadly force against African Americans.

But another minority group in the U.S. — Native Americans — also claims they are frequently subjected to excessive force by police, and recent incidents and protests are drawing attention to their cause.

Three Native Americans are reported to have died during arrest or confinement last month.

One of them was Denver resident Paul Castaway, a 35-year-old Lakota Indian with a history of mental illness and alcohol abuse.

“He recently lost his job and he was devastated,” said his mother, Lynn Eagle Feather.  On July 12, he returned home from an outing in a state of high agitation and began waving a knife.

She had seen him upset before, but nothing like this day, she said.  Frightened, she fled her apartment, her two young grandchildren in tow, and called the police for help.

“I told them, ‘He’s schizophrenic, he’s very angry,’” she said in an interview with VOA.

Paul Castaway, Lakota Native victim of police shooting July 12, 2015. His mother said this photo was taken "in happier times." (Courtesy/Lynn Eagle Feather)

Paul Castaway, Lakota Native victim of police shooting July 12, 2015. His mother said this photo was taken “in happier times.” (Courtesy/Lynn Eagle Feather)

Police found Castaway, armed with the knife, in a nearby trailer park and gave chase.

“There were about 18 children playing in the parking lot and they were running alongside of my son as the police were chasing him,” his mother said.

She says after Castaway came to a dead end, he ran back into the open street and stopped along a wooden fence. That’s when one of the officers approached him, took aim and fired.

After he fell, Eagle Feather said the officers rolled him over and handcuffed him.

“And he looked at them and said, ‘What’s wrong with you guys?’ That’s the last words that came out of his mouth,” she said.

Denver police officials say Castaway had threatened the officers with his knife. But according to Eagle Feather and a local television report, surveillance footage showed that Castaway had been holding the knife to his own neck.

The Denver Police department did not respond to telephone and email requests from VOA for comment on the Castaway shooting.  The officer involved has been removed from active duty, pending an investigation.

Meanwhile, the department has recently completed a major reshuffling of police personnel, citing “complacency” throughout the ranks.

This comes as little consolation to Castaway’s mother, who is looking for answers.

“My son was only a threat to himself,” she said.

She also worries about neighborhood children who witnessed his shooting, including one boy who fainted on the scene.

“He has to go to counseling because he can’t get it out of his head,” Eagle Feather said. “And some of the children are saying that they see my son sometimes, early in the morning, standing there along the fence with his head down.”

Native Americans vulnerable

The United States is home to 565 officially-recognized Indian tribes and other indigenous communities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, American natives make up less than one percent of the U.S. population.

But Native Americans are victims in nearly two percent of police killings — which makes them statistically more vulnerable to police violence than blacks, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Jonathan Blanks, a researcher at the Washington, DC-based CATO Institute, who edits policemisconduct.com, a website that tracks a wide variety of alleged police wrongdoing, says information can be difficult to access.

“The Federal government asks for data on the use of force by law enforcement, but local police agencies aren’t necessarily compliant,” Blank said.  “And in some cases, state laws actually prevent police departments from releasing information to the public.”

The FBI publishes data on law enforcement personnel who have been assaulted or killed in the line of duty, as well as cases of justifiable homicideby police.  The reports are based on data from 18,000 local and federal law enforcement agencies who voluntarily participate in the program.

But a 2014 Wall Street Journal study of data from more than 100 of America’s largest police agencies found that more than 550 cases of homicide by police between 2007 and 2012 were not included in the FBI data.

The lack of accurate statistics on police violence led D. Brian Burghart, a Reno, Nevada, journalist, to create fatalencounters.org, a site which charts arrest-related deaths every U.S. state.

“We track any manner of deaths — gunshot, Taser, vehicular accidents — anything outside of the jail,” Burghart said. “Unless incidents are reported in the media, chances are we don’t hear about them.  I’ve looked at some 8,000 incidents, and I believe that a lot of them, particularly the Native American deaths, don’t get tracked. It’s a giant black hole.  It’s almost lucky when it does hit the press.”

‘We never mattered’

Chase Iron Eyes, a Native American lawyer and rights activist with the Lakota People’s Law Project, based in Rapid City, South Dakota, has launched a Native Lives Matter campaign. It is patterned after the #BlackLivesMatter movement formed in the wake of race-related riots in Ferguson.

Chase Iron Eyes (Courtesy/Lakota Peoples Law Project)

Chase Iron Eyes (Courtesy/Lakota Peoples Law Project)

“It’s very unfortunate that black people are being victimized by police,” he said. “But native people are also being victimized by the very system that’s designed to — should be designed to — protect all Americans,” he said.

“We felt that our voice also needed to be heard and that we needed to deconstruct what we see as a European male-dominated patriarchy and a legal system that was designed to protect European males at the expense of everyone else,” he said.

The controversy is high his home state of South Dakota, where more Native Americans live below the poverty line than in any other U.S. state and where Native Americans are incarcerated at a higher rate than any other race.

While they make up only nine percent of the general population, they represent 29 percent of North Dakota’s prison population.

All this, says Iron Eyes, is part of a pattern of racial discrimination and violence against Indians that dates back generations.

He cites the case of Allen Locke, a native man shot and killed by police in December only a day after he attended a #NativeLivesMatter rally in Rapid City.  Police called it a case of “suicide by cop.”

Most recently, in early July, Sara Lee Circle Bear, 24, a Cheyenne River Lakota woman in for a bond violation, complained she was in pain, but was ignored by prison staff who accused her of “faking.”  They later found her unconscious in her cell.  They transferred her to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Autopsy results issued this week indicated she died from an overdose methamphetamines.

The South Dakota State’s Attorney General’s Office said it will continue its investigation “as to the source of the methamphetamine.”

“There probably will be no follow-up because native lives don’t really matter,” Iron Eyes said.

And they won’t matter, he said, unless stories like hers are brought into the national spotlight.

“Mainstream media that has world wide reach doesn’t usually get the stories that we have because of where we live,” Iron Eyes said.  “And if the local or regional media puts a blackout on something, or if the content is detrimental to the image or the reputation of elected officials, like in South Dakota, those kinds of stories don’t get published.”

But Iron Eyes concedes that much of the tension in South Dakota relates back to the August 2011 shooting of two Rapid City police officers by a young native man who had been stopped for a routine traffic violation.

‘No conspiracy’

Steve Allender, mayor and former police chief of Rapid City, acknowledged that there are challenges in providing law-enforcement services to Native American community members.

“Native Americans have been through a great deal of trauma over the past 500 years, largely at the hands of white-skinned settlers. A significant component of today’s problems are due in some part to our failure to transition from our roles of the past to roles of the present,” he told VOA.

Encounters with police officers, who are mostly white or non-native, can bring many of these frustrations to the surface, Allender said.

“There is no doubt Native Americans are overrepresented in our local judicial systems,” he said.  “Activists simply claim it’s racism, even genocide, but I disagree.”

There may be ignorance, he admitted, even insensitivity among some white officials.

“But there is no conspiracy to apply heavy-handed governance to one segment of the population.”


One Of The Racial Minorities Most Likely To Be Killed By Police Is Also The Most Overlooked

Enough is enough.(Reuters/ Elizabeth Shafiroff)

Enough is enough. (Reuters/ Elizabeth Shafiroff)

By Tara Houska / Quartz, 08/14/15

Ma-hi-vist Goodblanket. Corey Kanosh. Allen Locke. Paul Castaway. Sarah Lee Circle Bear. Do any of these names sound familiar? Those are just some of the names of Native Americans who recently lost their lives upon encountering police.

Case in point: On July 12, Denver police fatally shot 35-year-old Paul Castaway, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, four times. According to law enforcement, Castaway had stabbed his mother in the neck and was “dangerously close” when he was shot. Surveillance footage and eyewitnesses told a different tale, however.

Paul Castaway’s mother, Lynn Eagle Feather, said she called 911 asking for help with her mentally ill son. A security camera showed Castaway holding a knife to his own neck when officers opened fire. Witnesses said his final words were “What’s wrong with you guys?” Eagle Feather says she now regrets calling the police.

Just a few weeks earlier, Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Sarah Lee Circle Bear, a 24-year-old mother of two who was allegedly pregnant, died in a South Dakota holding cell. Witnesses said Circle Bear pleaded with jailers and told them she was in excruciating abdominal pain. According to media accounts, her calls were met with callous skepticism. She was found unresponsive hours later and pronounced dead on arrival to a nearby hospital.

There are no nationwide rallies for Native American justice, no presidential commentary, no around-the-clock coverage.

These stories bear similarities to the narrative of police brutality and questionable deaths that has dominated the news as of late. Yet, aside from small protests organized and attended by Native Americans, these injustices are largely unheard by the greater public. There are no nationwide rallies for justice, no presidential commentary, no around-the-clock coverage.

Last August, the Center on Juvenile Justice and Criminal Justice reported that despite being less than 2% of the US population, Native Americans are the most likely racial group to be killed by law enforcement. This fact is often overlooked in stories referencing violence against people of color—the conversation is largely a black and white binary, and even that binary is often denied and suppressed. “All Lives Matter” comes to mind.

Sadly, for Native America being overlooked is nothing new. Our voices are seldom in the mainstream, our issues disregarded. Native media and alternative media are frequently our only platforms, with the rare article reaching a wider audience.

One of the biggest stories to finally percolate into the public consciousness came through the Washington football team name controversy. And yet even there Native erasure was apparent, as we saw decades of protests and lawsuits against the Washington team turned into a “liberal PC crusade.” The few Natives featured in mainstream media were painted as fringe activists, and told there were “more important things to worry about.

A country actively engaged in taking down confederate flags and denouncing symbols of racism remains lukewarm—if not downright celebratory—of the dehumanization and racial caricaturing of Native Americans because well, that’s different. Never mind that Native Americans are statistically far more likely to be the victims of a hate crime than any other racial group besides African Americans.

Truth be told, many Americans remain unaware of the indigenous peoples living in their midst. According to the schoolbooks, our communities disappeared with the onset of Manifest Destiny.

Our very existence is an affront to American exceptionalism—best that we remain static noble warriors.

Our very existence is an affront to American exceptionalism—best that we remain static noble warriors, not modern peoples living with the effects of attempted eradication, intergenerational trauma, and ongoing disparities across the board.

Thanks largely to a jurisprudence that continues to whittle away at tribal sovereignty and rights reserved to us through treaties, our communities are almost entirely without authority to prosecute non-Native criminals on reservations.

Imagine, if you will, being told an out-of-state offender is exempt from jurisdiction, that all law enforcement can do is escort them to state lines. That’s our reality.

The federal government holds prosecution power on reservations, but its declination rate hovers around 35%. Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime and one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime. Roughly 70% of the offenders will be non-Native. Most will walk.

That’s just a small sampling of the many unseen ways Native Americans are disparately treated by the American justice system. The deaths of Paul Castaway and Sarah Lee Circle Bear merit investigation, but it appears unlikely to happen without national pressure. Charges have yet to be filed in either incident.

America’s original people are tired of our seemingly invisible status. This is an opportunity for Americans everywhere to stand together with the smallest minority population, to demonstrate that “justice for all” is truly a tenet of American society.

Native lives matter.


Police Killing Of Native American Man Exposes Hidden Epidemic Of Violence

Alcatraz Island Prison sign

Alcatraz Island Prison sign

By Akira Watts / July 28, 2015

On July 12th, Paul Castaway, a Lakota Sioux tribal citizen, was shot and killed by officers with the Denver Police Department:“

Police Chief Robert White reported at the scene Sunday that one of his officers shot and killed a man after he came ‘dangerously close’ with a long knife. However, family members said they believe the shooting was not justified after the manager at Capital City Mobile Home Park on West Kentucky Avenue showed them surveillance video of the shooting. . . . Castaway, 35, was shot four times and died Sunday evening at Denver Health. Gabriel Black Elk, Castaway’s brother, said the video shows his brother holding the knife against his own throat. He had tried to escape from police by running behind a fence, but there was no gate or opening. The video shows Castaway turning around and walking toward police, who were several feet away. The knife stays pointed toward his neck the entire time, Black Elk said. Thomas Morado, a cousin of Castaway’s, also said he had seen the video. His account matched that of Black Elk’s. ‘There was a different way to go about this,’ Morado said. ‘It didn’t have to end in his death.’”

There have been no shortage of shocking acts perpetrated against Native Americans this year. Back in February, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker smashed the dreams of the Menominee Tribe over venal considerations. Native American groups are still fighting against a deal, sponsored by Arizona Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, that gives 2400 acres of sacred Apache land to Resolution Copper, which intends to mine the living shit out of it. And in South Dakota, a group of drunken idiots who poured beer on Native American children will suffer little consequences for their actions.

This is something further though: more violent and less in the eye of the national media. And it is far worse than you might think. While African American men between the ages of 20 and 24 are the one demographic group most likely to be killed by the police, Native Americans constitute the racial group most at risk of police killing:

“The racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement is Native Americans, followed by African Americans, Latinos, Whites, and Asian Americans. Native Americans, 0.8 percent of the population, comprise 1.9 percent of police killings. African Americans, 13 percent of the population, are victims in 26 percent of police shootings. Law enforcement kills African Americans at 2.8 times the rate of white non-Latinos, and 4.3 times the rate of Asians.”

Though this statistic receives little recognition, it is hardly surprising. The history of state violence against Native Americans goes back hundreds of years. Organized resistance against this violence, such as the American Indian Movement, was met with escalation of state sponsored violence. The needless death of Paul Castaway is only the latest in a string of state violence targeting Native Americans. But this string of violence has been largely invisible to the public. The needless and shocking death of Sandra Bland has galvanized the nation. One day after her death, Native American activist Rexdale Henry died, in very similar circumstances.

But the death of Rexdale Henry has seen nowhere near the public outcry and national attention as the death of Sandra Bland. That needs to change.

Let me be very clear about this. The recognition of police violence perpetrated against Native Americans, as well as the #nativeamericanlivesmatter movement is not something that stands in opposition or as an alternative to the #blacklivesmatter movement. This is not a zero sum game. Bringing the epidemic of violence against Native Americans to national attention does not mean that we must turn our attention from the epidemic of violence against African Americans. #nativeamericanlivesmatter is not analogous to #alllivesmatter. #alllivesmatter distracts from the issue in a manner analogous to responding to a query about one’s feminism with the claim that one is a humanist. #nativeamericanlivesmatter and #blacklivesmatter address related, if distinct, issues. Addressing one issue will not necessarily address the other, but it can  provide valuable insights. The movements can very much compliment and act in solidarity with one another.

Ultimately, the unjustified violence against African Americans and the unjustified violence against Native Americans are symptoms of the same root cause: a systemic racism that pervades American society, and which our police act as agents of coercion and violence in service of. Fighting against that systemic racism is a task for everyone, but it will not be accomplished by the glib claim that #alllivesmatter. Because “all lives” includes those, such as myself, who directly benefit, willingly or not, from this same systemic racism. It footnotes those who are, in actuality, directly targeted by state coercion, repression, and violence. Those voices need to be directly heard, and not smothered by a broadly obvious claim about all lives mattering. And that, ultimately, is why both #blacklivesmatter and #nativeamericanlivesmatter are necessary and essential. Both must be supported and both must be publicized.

The task now, for those who are part of the #nativeamericanlivesmatter movement, is to elevate the public’s awareness of the epidemic of violence that is occurring. Paul Castaway and Rexdale Henry should be as much a part of the national discourse as Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland. Both Native Americans and African Americans are being targeted by the police. And both of those shameful facts must be addressed.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons

Source: Reverb Press

Denver Police Tell Lies About Fatal Shooting Of Native American Paul Castaway

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

By Black Powder / Red Power Media

Denver police caught telling key lies about their fatal shooting of Paul Castaway.

On Sunday, July 12th, Castaway, a 35-year-old Native American, was brutally shot and killed by police.

Castaway’s mother, Lynn Eagle Feather, says she called the police for help after her son threatened her with a knife, telling cops he was mentally ill.

Police Chief Robert White said at a news conference after the shooting that investigators believed Castaway had stabbed his mother in the neck before he was killed.

Police allege Castaway charged at them with the knife.


Paul Castaway, a 35-year-old Native American, was shot and killed by Denver police on July 12th, 2015.

This much we know:

“He didn’t stab me in the neck. He was drunk. I told the cops he was mentally ill. He was schizophrenic. I called for help. I didn’t call for them to kill him,” Eagle Feather said.

Her son ran toward Capitol City mobile home park across the street.

“All of a sudden, I heard rapid gunfire. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. One right after the other,” she said.

Speaking to Indian Country Today, Eagle Feather said the police shooting was racially motivated.

“I want justice for my son. I want those cops to be reprimanded. These Denver cops love to kill Natives. They love to kill people of color here,” she told Indian Country Today.

Immediately after the shooting, though, police began telling lies about what happened.

First off, we have this.

It never happened.

Video: Mother of Paul Castaway tells what really happened at a Press Conference.

It was reported that police had said that “Castaway had stabbed his mother in her neck” but the wording was later changes to “he had threatened her with the knife.”

The family of Castaway, protests outside Denver police headquarters. 

Castaway’s family gathered outside Denver Police Department headquarters early last Tuesday, evening to protest the shooting.

Afterward, a group of about 40 protesters marched from the station, along the 16th Street Mall to Union Station. Two protesters were arrested, police said: One woman for failure to obey a lawful order and one man for interference/pedestrian in a roadway.

DENVER, CO - Brenda Carrasco, friend of Paul Castaway, pleads the family's case to officers during a protest about the police involved shooting of Paul Castaway on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at Union Station in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

Brenda Carrasco, friend of Paul Castaway, pleads the family’s case to officers during a protest about the police involved shooting of Paul Castaway on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at Union Station in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

DENVER, CO - Police arrest a protester while moving protesters back during a protest about the police involved shooting of Paul Castaway on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 along the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

Police arrest a protester while moving protesters back during a protest about the police involved shooting of Paul Castaway on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 along the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

Surveillance video conflicts information in deadly shooting.

The manager of Capital City mobile home park at 4501 W. Kentucky Ave. has the video. He wouldn’t give it to FOX31 Denver, but he did show it to reporter Tammy Vigil.

Eyewitnesses at the mobile-home park where the incident occurred contradicted the police account and alleged instead that Castaway was holding the knife to his own neck.

The video reviewed by the reporter appears to back up those witnesses.Video: Surveillance Video Conflicts Information in Paul Castaway police shooting

“It shows [Castaway] coming up from behind a white mobile home, through a black iron fence onto the street and around a wooden fence, which is a dead end,” writes Tammy Vigil, the KDVR reporter who viewed the recording. “He then turned back around onto the street with a knife to his neck the whole time, when an officer shoots him.”

“The video,” she wrote, “seems to not match what police say happened.”

"DENVER, CO - July 14: Thomas Morado, causing of Paul Castaway, leads the march during a protest about the police involved shooting of Paul Castaway on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 along the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)"

July 14th, Thomas Morado, cousin of Paul Castaway, leads the march during a protest about the police involved shooting of Paul Castaway on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 along the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)”

“What’s wrong with you guys? Those are the last words uttered from Castaway’s mouth as he lie there dying,” said Thomas Morado, a cousin of Castaway’s.

Castaway was taken to Denver Health Medical Center in critical condition. He died at the hospital.

The killing of Castaway was met with outrage online. 

Indian Country Today is reporting, while the family seeks justice for Castaway, they are also caught planning and funding his funeral and burial.

In response, supporters have launched a crowdfunding page for the family of Castaway.