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The family of an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by New Mexico State Police days before Thanksgiving are demanding answers.
Rodney Applewhite, 25, was killed while traveling to spend Thanksgiving with his mother in Phoenix, Arizona, on Nov. 19, Searchlight New Mexico reported. In a press release from the New Mexico State Police Department, an officer tried to pull over Rodney while he was driving on Manzano Expressway in Los Lunas, New Mexico, at 8:32 a.m. Rodney fled and the officer continued to pursue him, using tire-deflation devices to stop his vehicle.
Almost seven minutes later, state police were dispatched and found Rodney standing outside his car. The department claimed the 25-year-old resisted arrest and grabbed one of the officer’s guns. One of the officers shot Rodney, firing “at least one round,” according to the press release.
The department said the officer who shot Rodney has been placed on leave and an investigation is ongoing.
“I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I’m heartbroken,” Katrina Cox, Rodney’s mother, told Searchlight New Mexico. “Why is it always shoot to kill? Because he’s tall and he’s a Black man?”
Katrina told the news outlet that she found out about her son’s death nine hours later following the incident. She told the publication she called state police at about 5 p.m. after Baysia Cox, Rodney’s sister, was sent an online news report about the shooting, which featured Rodney’s car.
After confirming with the police, Cox followed up with law enforcement on Nov. 20 for more information about the shooting. The family said they have not heard of any new information about the investigation since.
“We just want the truth, and to know everything was done the correct way,” Baysia told Searchlight New Mexico. “But we haven’t heard anything, and it just didn’t feel right to us.”
Rodney was trying to turn his life around after being placed on probation for waiting outside a getaway car while two of his robbed a drug dealer during a party in 2015. Since January, Rodney worked at a factory and a Mexican restaurant in Elkhart, Indiana, Searchlight New Mexico reported.
“He was just trying to figure out how he could change his life so he wouldn’t end up back in jail,” said Rhamon Mallard, Rodney’s close friend, told the publication.
Civil Rights Organizers Demand Answers
Civil rights activists and organizations have demanded answers and new information from the New Mexico State Police Department.
“Rodney Applewhite was supposed to spend Thanksgiving with family in Arizona, but a @NMStatePolice officer fatally shot him on the way, during a “traffic stop” south of Albuquerque. One week later, his family still doesn’t know why or how his life ended. We demand ANSWERS!” civil rights attorney Ben Crump wrote on Twitter.
“Rodney Applewhite, a 25-year-old Black man, was driving through New Mexico on his way to spend Thanksgiving with his family when he was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop. There must be a thorough and transparent investigation. #BlackLivesMatter,” Everytown, a nonprofit organization against gun violence, tweeted.
The Washington Post database on police shootings found that there have been 114 fatal police shootings in New Mexico since 2015, and there were only 16 cases where officers wore body cameras.
To demand answers about the fatal shooting, contact the office of the New Mexico State Police Chief at: (505) 827-9219