One Year Later: Why Natasha McKenna’s Death Matters [Op-Ed]

Natasha McKenna

Fairfax County

“You promised you wouldn’t kill me. I didn’t do anything.”

These were some of the last words spoken by Natasha McKenna before she died in custody after Fairfax County Jail officials tasered her four times with 50,000 volts. Despite the fact that video of McKenna’s cold-blooded killing has been available to the public since September, journalists and activists have resoundingly failed to draw the outrage to her story that it merits. February 8 marks the one-year anniversary of McKenna’s death.

Now is the time for journalists who were missing a year ago to shed light on the circumstances surrounding McKenna’s death. This date is an opening for activists across the country to take to the streets and march for justice for Natasha McKenna just as they have for Black men. Around this time last year, McKenna was taken into custody in Fairfax County Jail after police were called as first responders during a mental health crisis and discovered an outstanding warrant.

McKenna had been diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child. Rather than providing the care she needed, jail officials tasered McKenna four times with 50,000 volts while attempting to “extract” her from her cell. McKenna died a week later in the hospital. Her cause of death was recorded as “excited delirium,” a term not recognized by the American Medical Association, which is used almost exclusively in fatalities following police use of tasers.

On September 10, 2015, Fairfax County released footage of the encounter that led to McKenna’s death in an effort to show the “professionalism” and “restraint” demonstrated by the officers involved. On September 9, they announcedthat those responsible for her death had been cleared of any professional wrongdoing. The McKenna video was one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.

Before watching the video, I had not known that she would be naked, later clothed in nothing but a hood over her head. I found it hard to understand why the officers deemed it necessary to remove McKenna from her cell at that exact moment. Why couldn’t they have waited until she was calm and ready to be moved? When later asked why they didn’t pull back (or God forbid, bring in a mental health professional to support her) an official told the Washington Post that they “typically do not withdraw from a cell extraction once it has begun.”

See Also

Rather than being treated as a woman in crisis who needed compassionate intervention, they treated McKenna as a threat to the social order whose life was of less value than department protocol.

By: Rachel Anspach

Read more at Huffington Post


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