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Fatal Police Shootings Related to Intimate Partner Violence

The Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review (DVFR) keeps track of deaths related to intimate partner violence, including homicides, suicides, and people killed by police responding to domestic violence.

Homicide deaths include any homicide of one intimate partner by another. These deaths also include homicides that happen in the context of intimate partner violence, such as friends and family members of victims killed by abusive partners, or abusers killed by domestic violence victims, often in self-defense. The suicide category includes suicide deaths of domestic violence abusers which occur in the context of an intimate partner homicide or assault. Most of these are murder-suicides.

Deaths of people killed by law enforcement intervention related to intimate partner violence were previously included in the DVFR count of suicide deaths. Nearly all were characterized as “suicide by cop,” in which abusers expressed suicidal intent and threatened victims or responding officers in order to elicit officers’ use of lethal force. In recent years, with greater attention by activists and journalists to police shootings and use of force, much more information is available about these deaths in publicly accessible databases. We can now more reliably identify law enforcement killings which involve intimate partner violence.

Conversations about ending police violence and expanding survivors’ options for safety should include attention to these deaths and their impact on survivors and their communities.

Fatal police encounters and intimate partner violence

A 2016 study of 812 incidents of fatal police shootings in 17 states found that 13.9% were related to intimate partner violence. Of 163 police shootings in Washington State during 2015-2019, the DVFR identified 22 (13.5%) related to intimate partner violence.

Table graph with heading "Fatal Police Encounters in Washington State 2015-2019." Graph indicates the following: 2015 had 19 fatal police encounters, 1 of which was intimate partner related; 2016 had 29 fatal police encounters, 2 of which were intimate partner related; 2017 had 43 fatal police encounters, 8 of which were intimate partner related; 2018 had 28 fatal police encounters, 4 of which were intimate partner related; and 2019 had 44 fatal police encounters, 7 of which were intimate partner related.

Racial disparities in police killings

An analysis of racial disparities in police killings in Washington by Mapping Police Violence shows that Native American, Black, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latinx people are victims of police violence at higher rates than white and Asian people. Compared with the rate for white people in Washington, Pacific Islander, Black, and Native American people are between 3.8 and 6.6 times more likely to be killed in an encounter with police.

Selected data sources

These publicly available sources of data track police killings in the United States. Many of these efforts began after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, MO in 2014. These databases use different criteria for which incidents are included and what information is tracked for each incident.

Data sourceDescriptionDates included
Fatal EncountersIncludes all fatal encounters with police. Compiled using a combination of volunteer contributions, paid researchers, and public records requests.2000-2020
Mapping Police ViolenceIncludes non-shooting deaths (e.g. choke holds, taser, vehicle chase), and killings by off duty police officers.2013-2020
Fatal Force (Washington Post)Compiled by the Washington Post. Includes fatal shootings by police officers in the line of duty.2015-2020
Gun Violence ArchiveIncludes fatal and non-fatal officer involved shootings.2014-2020
Police Data InitiativeA collection of data sources contributed by participating police agencies, including use of force data and officer involved shootings.varies