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Families of police shooting victims are left with years of pain, little sense of justice.

Police shootings captured on video often drive a lot of media attention, but after the funeral, it leaves victims' families with years of pain and a lonely journey with little sense of closure or justice.

Why it matters: Unlike organizations that provide support for victims of mass shootings or drunk drivers, families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police say there's no nationally known group currently that represents them as they grow in number. Instead, communities respond by erecting makeshift memorials and RIP murals (rest-in-peace public art) in honor of those killed by officers.


Stephen and Renetta Torres hold a portrait of their son Christopher, 27, who was shot and killed by Albuquerque police in 2011. Photo: Russell Contreras/Axios

Stephen and Renetta Torres sought to protect their 27-year-old son Christopher, who had schizophrenia, from dangerous encounters with police. He had landed several traffic tickets.

  • The devout Hispanic Catholic family asked Albuquerque police to notify them in advance if officers needed to talk to Christopher to prevent an altercation because of his mental health.

In April 2011, two plainclothes officers visited the Torres household to question Christopher over an alleged road rage episode. According to court documents, officers jumped a fence and fought with Christopher. One officer got on top of him and fatally shot him in the back.

  • It's unclear if Christopher ever knew they were officers.
  • "I just don't understand. I thought we did everything we were supposed to do," Renetta Torres told Axios.
Jewel Hall in her Albuquerque, N.M., apartment while speaking of her late son Milton. Photo: Russell Contreras/Axios

Milton Hall grew up in a middle-class family in Saginaw, Mich., and Albuquerque. His mother, Jewel, was a science educator who was active in the NAACP.

  • The former high school athlete attended Knoxville College and the University of New Mexico and got involved in racial justice issues, eventually getting to meet civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
Milton Hall before his death and a young Hall meeting Rosa Parks. Photo: Courtesy of the Hall family.

In July 2012, the 49-year-old Milton, homeless, with mental health issues and holding a pocket knife, was surrounded by six Saginaw officers who unloaded 47 shots.

  • Videos of the shooting sparked protests that attracted prominent activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It led to more officers of color getting hired to Saginaw police, but no officers involved in the killing were ever charged.
  • "My son was killed by a firing squad," Jewel Hall said. "I have a video of it on my computer. I've never seen it. I doubt I ever will."
  • Saginaw Branch NAACP president Terry Pruitt said he's working on getting a memorial placed near the site where Milton Hall was killed.

The big picture: A Washington Post analysis examining police shootings since 2015 found that Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate as white Americans. Latinos also are killed at a rate 55% higher than whites.

  • In the past two decades, the number of family members mourning victims of police excessive force has skyrocketed into thousands.

Since 2012, families of police shooting victims have led demonstrations from Warren, Ohio, to Portland, Ore., and Albuquerque to Ferguson, Mo., against excessive force and become local advocates for change.

  • Viral videos and witness accounts have called into question tactics used by police in communities of color and families often used the videos to argue the need for reforms.
  • Officers are rarely — if ever — prosecuted, but city and county governments have paid out millions of dollars to families to settle excessive force cases. The exact figure is unknown. Many agreements are undisclosed.

Yes, but: Eventually, temporary memorials are disbanded, RIP murals are painted over and the names of those shot by police, once shouted in the streets by demonstrators, fade into obscurity.

Axios continues its coverage of systemic racism today, unpacking the criminal justice system, from policing to incarceration and release.

  • Children of color too oftenare born into segregated, overpoliced communities. Read about children's perception of police. [link to Erica's story]
  • In middle and high school, teachers often seestudents of color as older than they are, and the students face harsher punishment. Read about teens' experiences with police. [link to Marisa/Shawna story]
  • America's court system is rife with racial disparities, from the first contact with law enforcement to sentencing. Read more about how systemic racism pervades the courts. [Link to Fadel's story]
  • For Americans who have served time, the hurdles they must overcome to re-enter society are so high, recidivism is common. [Link to Stef's story]

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