Police Kill Mentally Ill Native American Man, Protestors Demand Justice

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 17, 2015

On July 12, 2015, Paul Castaway, 35, was shot and killed by police in Denver. Officers say they shot him after he came “dangerously close” while holding a long knife, but witnesses say the shooting was unnecessary. Castaway was reportedly a Lakota Sioux.

Police arrived at the home of Lynn Eagle Feather, Castaways’ mother, after she called for help because he was threatening her with a knife. “He was drunk. I told the cops he was mentally ill. He was schizophrenic. And I said I called for help. I didn’t call for them to kill him,” she told Fox-31 Denver. When police arrived, Castaway ran into Capital City Mobile Home Park across the street. “All of a sudden, I heard rapid gunfire. One right after the other. I’ll never see him and hug him. Never tell him I love him,” his mother said.

Castaway was shot four times and died at a local hospital, leaving behind a three-year-old son. His last words were, ““What’s wrong with you guys?”

Police say he was a threat to the officers, but after watching surveillance video from the mobile home park, family members say he was only a threat to himself, as he had put the knife to his neck after realizing he had nowhere to run. Neither the names of the officers involved nor the video have been released to the public. The officer who pulled the trigger is on administrative leave during the investigation. 

Castaway’s family members aren’t the only ones questioning the officers’ version of events. Mother Jones reports that almost 100 people protested in downtown Denver this week calling for justice and an end to the use of excessive force.

A 2014 report from nonprofit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice found that while Native Americans make up just 0.8 percent of the population, they represent 1.9 percent of those killed by the police. That makes them nearly twice as likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. In an examination of law enforcement killings from 1999 to 2011, the organization found that Native Americans ages 25 to 34 are the second most likely group to face police-involved death, coming in only behind black people ages 20 to 24.

Watch video coverage featuring Castaway’s family and protests below.