Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Shane Aumic dies in tiny Ava, Missouri, after officer kneels on his back, a move similar to that of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Shane Aumic, in a family photo


Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin is being tried for murder this week in the racially charged death of George Floyd. That news is coming from Minneapolis, one of our major urban centers. But at the same time, events eerily similar to those surrounding the Floyd death are unfolding here in the Missouri Ozarks, not far from where we reside -- in a place that's about as rural as they come.

George Floyd
The locale is Ava, MO (pop. 2,993), which is the only incorporated city in Douglas County. Ava is not exactly a diverse place; its population is  0.1 percent Black and 97.6 percent white. The town's police department does not have to deal much with race-related issues, but Ava officers still can't keep from killing citizens, much the way George Floyd was killed. It makes you wonder if some cops are so thick-skulled that they cannot learn, even from lessons taught on the national stage.

The decedent in Ava was a man named Shane Aumic. Best we can tell, all of the individuals connected to the incident were white. From a report at, under the headline "Woman files lawsuit, claims husband died as Ava, Mo. officer knelt on his back":

A woman has filed lawsuit in federal court claiming that an officer from the Ava Police Department killed her husband last April by kneeling on him for several minutes while in custody.

Rachel Aumic, the wife of Shane Aumic. filed the lawsuit in federal court. It consists of three counts, two for violations of civil rights and one for a wrongful death.

According to the lawsuit, officer Kaleb Berkshire from the Ava Police Department initially responded to a call over a domestic disturbance around 6 a.m. on April 4, 2020, in the 500 block of Pennington Avenue.

Officer Berkshire found Aumic’s mother and stepfather outside. The officer entered the home after being informed that Aumic was intoxicated, holding a knife and “not in the right state of mind,” according to the lawsuit.

Per court documents, Aumic left the home, then made statements that somebody was trying to kill him. Officer Berkshire then instructed him to put down a knife several times. The officer eventually convinced Aumic to let go of the knife. Officer Berkshire removed a pistol from his possession, then handcuffed Aumic on the front porch, per court documents.

When medical assistance arrived on the scene, the situation did not improve much:

According to the lawsuit, Berkshire was lying on his stomach and attempted to search Aumic. . . .  Aumic kept yelling while Berkshire said, “Stop! Stop, you understand? Stop now!” Then Aumic pleaded, “Please! Have Mercy!”

During that encounter, the lawsuit says Berkshire knelt down on Aumic and placed his knee in Aumick’s back for several minutes. The encounter was captured on body-cam footage time-stamped around 6:22 a.m. A medical crew arrived right around that time.

According to the lawsuit, Berkshire told Aumic “I’ll get off your back when you stop” while Aumic kept yelling. The lawsuit says, a CoxHealth paramedic held Aumic’s legs down while Berkshire was on his back. The lawsuit says, Berkshire threatened to use a taser near the end of the encounter. Aumic, who was grunting for several minutes, then became silent.

The paramedic asked Berkshire if Aumic was still conscious after several minutes. Berkshire stated, “Yeah... Well, I think he is.” The officer then yelled an expletive, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Berkshire and the paramedic began life-saving procedures around 6:30 a.m. until additional emergency medical staff arrived. A coroner pronounced Aumic deceased at 7:05 a.m.

 Berkshire apparently was surprised that a subject could be in bad shape from having a cop kneel on his back They don't get newspapers or cable news in Ava?

The lawsuit accuses the Ava Police Department and other parties of negligence, particularly for not being properly trained for the encounter. Aumic’s wife is seeking compensatory damages and damages for aggravating circumstances against the defendants, punitive damages, and reasonable attorney’s fee and costs. She is being represented by an attorney from Kansas City.

Other defendants in the lawsuit are Douglas County, Cox Medical Centers, Douglas County Emergency Management and paramedic Steve Woods.

KY3 contacted the Ava Police Department on the lawsuit. We will update if the department releases a statement.

CoxHealth released the following statement Friday afternoon to KY3: 

 “We have not yet been served with a lawsuit, so we are in the very early stages of gathering information. However, we take this matter very seriously, and are conducting a thorough review of our records to learn more.”


Anonymous said...

Are cops ever going to learn that kneeling on someone's neck or back is not a good idea/

legalschnauzer said...

Don't know how that technique got started, but it must be something in the PD training course. Needs to be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Anyone think there will be riots or protests if Chauvin is acquitted in Minneapolis.

legalschnauzer said...

Oh, I think there is a strong chance of unrest if Chauvin is acquitted. Hopefully, it will be more in the form of protests than riots. But my sense is that large swathx of the public, black and white, is fed up with police brutality -- unnecessary deaths at the hands of those who "serve and protect."

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much some of these cops weigh. A cop kneeling on you at 160 might be a lot different from one weighing 260. Either way, a knee in a sensitive place clearly can cause serious injury.

legalschnauzer said...

Good point, @10:34. The thing that struck me about Derek Chauvin is that he just didn't seem to care about Floyd's well-being. Chauvin looked to me like he was doing his nails while kneeling on a seat cushion.

legalschnauzer said...

From AP and Axios --

A Minneapolis firefighter testified that cops blocked her from using her EMT training to try to save George Floyd.

Genevieve Hansen cried as she testified in her dress uniform: "There was a man being killed ... I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities. And this human was denied that right." (AP)

Anonymous said...

The guy in Ava pretty clearly was drunk. Why not remove all potential weapons from the area, entrust his family to watch him, and let him sleep it off.

legalschnauzer said...

From Truthout, on the Chauvin defense strategy:

rugs have long been used to justify racist police-perpetrated violence, and the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the alleged murder of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street corner last May is, thus far, no different.

In his opening statement in a Minneapolis courtroom on Monday, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric J. Nelson spoke at length about Floyd’s health problems and drug use in a clear attempt to cast doubt on the prosecution’s central argument: Floyd was killed because Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd pleaded for mercy and gasped, “I can’t breathe.”

The prosecution saw this coming from miles away. Attempts by Chauvin’s defense to blame the victim began shortly after Floyd was handcuffed and killed in police custody — an alleged murder that was captured on video before sparking mass protests against racist police violence in Minneapolis and across the nation. As Floyd struggled for life under Chauvin’s knee, another officer reportedly turned to the crowd and said, “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.”

“You will learn that [Floyd] did not die from a drug overdose, he did not die from an opioid overdose,” lead prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told jurors in his opening statement.

Indeed, multiple medical experts have dismissed the idea that Floyd died from an overdose. Floyd lived with opioid addiction and had the opioid fentanyl in his system — a fact Chauvin’s defense immediately seized on — but Floyd’s death in no way resembled an opioid overdose, which renders a victim unconscious. Floyd struggled and pleaded for his life. Two separate autopsies found that Floyd died by homicide because his heart stopped as officers compressed his neck and chest.

According to the prosecution, Floyd no longer appeared to be breathing during the final three minutes that Chauvin knelt on his neck. Both the police and the paramedics who later arrived were equipped with naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, but there is no evidence that naloxone was administered to Floyd, according to The Washington Post.

legalschnauzer said...

More from Truthout on Chauvin defense --

Darnella Frazier, an eyewitness who took the famous video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd, told the court on Tuesday that she saw “a man terrified, scared, begging for his life.” Frazier said bystanders urged Chauvin to check Floyd’s pulse, but the former officer continued kneeling on his neck until paramedics arrived.

“If anything, he actually was kneeling harder,” Frazier said.

It may take weeks for the court to sift through all the evidence in a case that is widely seen as a litmus test for the criminal legal system’s ability — or inability — to hold cops accountable, but judging by Monday’s opening statements, it’s not just former officer Chauvin who is on trial. The jury is examining another casualty of the war on drugs and the racist police violence it foments.

Nelson’s strategy is to undercut the facts of the case and convince at least one juror that murder and manslaughter charges cannot be proven beyond a “reasonable doubt,” the legal standard of proof in criminal cases that Nelson repeatedly mentioned in his opening statement. To do so, Nelson is attempting to use to Chauvin’s advantage all of the social stigma that stems from drug criminalization, especially when the drug user is a poor Black man.

Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group opposed to the drug war, said suspected involvement with drugs — whether real or perceived — has long been used as a “cover for law enforcement to harass, inflict violence upon and even kill Black, Latinx and Indigenous people.”

“We know exactly what killed George Floyd. It’s the systems that have been created through the parasitic relationship between policing, the drug war and racism,” Frederique said in a statement. “These systems empower officers like Derek Chauvin to operate with impunity, snuff out Black life and attempt to avoid any and all accountability.”

People of color and Black men especially are targeted by police for drug searches and arrests: Black people were arrested for drugs at a rate more than two times that of white people in 2016, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. When to comes to arrests for suspicion of a crime — when a person is arrested for no specific offense and released without formal charges — Black people are arrested at a rate more than five times that of whites. Police often use suspicions about drugs to stop, harass and arrest people of color, and Black men in particular.

legalschnauzer said...

More from Truthout --

Every police interaction or arrest — even over the most trivial matters — comes with the threat of escalation, injury and death, and we’ve seen this over and over in deadly cases of police violence. The police-perpetrated killings of both Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two Black men, began with an initial interaction that escalated from a call about tobacco products. A store clerk called the police on Floyd because he bought a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. Breonna Taylor was gunned down by police in Louisville during a botched drug raid on a house where no drugs were found.

The movement to defund the police and defend Black lives that filled the streets last summer seeks to decriminalize drugs and reduce or eliminate police interactions with the public. Activists see a direct link between the war on drugs, the violent policing of Black and Brown communities, and the brutal killings of Floyd, Taylor and many others.

In the trial of Chauvin, the defense will attempt to use Floyd’s drug use to justify the violence that led to Floyd’s death and cast doubt on whether Chauvin killed Floyd, even though it was Chauvin who knelt on Floyd’s neck for those infamous nine minutes and 29 seconds. If jurors reject Chauvin’s lawyers’ argument, they will also be rejecting the oppressive logic of the drug war, which continues to give police the power to dehumanize and abuse the most vulnerable among us.

“Until we dispense with the notion that people involved with drugs — or even thought to be involved with drugs — are not guaranteed the same

right to dignity and life, we will continue to fight,” Frederique said.

Anonymous said...

Ava, Mo. must be a rocking place on a Friday night.

Anonymous said...

Might check the timelines of the two events.

legalschnauzer said...

I wonder if a paramedic has the authority to say to a cop, "I need you to take your knee off this dude so I can try to save his life." If so, would the cop listen or say," Hey, I'm the one in charge here."

Anonymous said...

The guy in the Ozarks had already been disarmed and handcuffed, and he was drunk, so what was the purpose of kneeling on him.

legalschnauzer said...

@2:08 --

You raise a good question about he timelines. I checked and found Shane Aumic was killed in April 2020, and George Floyd was killed in May 2020 -- so the Aumic killing came first. My guess would have been that the Floyd killing came first, hinting that the small-town cop was copying the technique used in the Minnesota case, which drew national attention. But I would have been wrong.

Anonymous said...

@10:42 your idea of disarming him and leaving has a couple of problems. First, the officer was still in the process of disarming him when he died. Second, if he left someone who was clearly more than intoxicated (“not in the right state of mind,”), he would be responsible for any injuries the guy or family suffered. The guy wasn't passed out, he was actively resisting a search. If he was completely disarmed, he still could have gotten a weapon from the kitchen if the officer just left him. He was a danger to himself and others and they couldn't just leave him. In fact the family couldn't deal with him in the first place.

@4:09 he hadn't been searched, the officer found a knife and a pistol. Without a search, are you sure there wasn't another weapon. Had the officer missed another gun and thus guy was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He definitely didn't need a gun.