Were Several Cops Killed at George Floyd Protests?

Misleading memes have misrepresented or mislabeled the circumstances of several officers' deaths.

Published Jun 9, 2020

Updated Jun 16, 2020
TOPSHOT - Police officers kneel during a rally in Coral Gables, Florida on May 30, 2020 in response to the recent death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while being arrested and pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer. - Clashes broke out and major cities imposed curfews as America began another night of unrest Saturday with angry demonstrators ignoring warnings from President Donald Trump that his government would stop violent protests over police brutality "cold." (Photo by Eva Marie UZCATEGUI / AFP) (Photo by EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images) (EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images)
Image Via EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images

In June 2020, as protests against racial injustice and police brutality continued across the United States in the days following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, rumors started to circulate on social media that a number of police officers had been killed by demonstrators.

For example, the following set of images supposedly showing "6 officers that died in the last 10 days" while working the protests, actually shows officers who died of various causes (ranging from brain cancer, to heart attacks, to car crashes) months prior to these protests:

Since publishing our article about the above-displayed image (which you can read here), we've encountered several similar rumors about officers that have supposedly been killed while working these protests. The majority of the rumors that we've investigated involved officers that truly died but whose deaths were unrelated to the spring 2020 protests.

We'll compile some of these rumors in the list below, but before we get to the officers whose deaths were unrelated to the 2020 protests against police violence, let's acknowledge the one police officer, as of this writing, who truly did die while protecting a store from being looted in the chaotic aftermath of a protest in St. Louis, Missouri: David Dorn.

CNN reported:

"A retired police captain fatally shot during looting in St. Louis was passionate about helping young people and would have forgiven those behind the violence on the city's streets, his son says.

David Dorn, 77, was killed while responding to an alarm at a pawnshop overnight Monday [June 1, 2020], St. Louis Police Department announced in a news conference Tuesday.

Were These Five Officers Killed During 'Riots'?

Four of the officers pictured here died during incidents unrelated to the protests, and two of the pictured officers died prior to Floyd's death on May 25, 2020. As stated above, the person in the middle of the bottom row, David Dorn, was a retired police officer who was truly killed while responding to a looting call in St. Louis.

Here is some information about the deaths of the five officers pictured in the above-displayed graphic:

  • Trooper George Baker died from injuries "injuries sustained on May 20, 2020, when he was struck by a Hammond patrol car while removing stop sticks from the roadway during a vehicle pursuit."
  • Officer Cody Holte was shot and killed during an attempt to serve eviction papers.
  • Officer Nate Lyday (not Lyway) was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
  • Officer Michael Mosher was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a hit-and-run suspect.
  • David Dorn was a retired police officer who was attempting to protect a pawn shop from being looted in the chaotic aftermath of a protest in St. Louis when he was shot and killed.

Sources: Law Enforcement Today / CNN / Officer Down Memorial Page

Debra Clayton?

A meme featuring an image of an officer named Debra Clayton was widely circulated on social media in June 2020 in posts that either omitted the date, made connections to the "riots" or the Black Lives Matter movement, or chastised the media for not covering her death:

Debra Clayton was a Lieutenant with the Orlando Police Department in Florida. She was shot and killed in 2017 while trying to make an arrest on a murder suspect.

Sources: Orlando Sentinel

Were These 4 Men Killed or Injured By 'Rioters'?

Another image collage claims that "four honorable men" had either been killed or injured by rioters.

Here's what we know about these four individuals.

Chris Beaty. While not explicitly stated in this post, the man in the top left was not a police officer. Beaty was shot and killed on the same night a protest occurred in Indianapolis, Indiana, but as of this writing there's no indication that Beaty's killer was a protester. Beaty, who was well known in the community, was reportedly killed while attempting to stop a mugging. A friend of Beaty's said that "these were not protesters, they were just bad guys out there robbing people."

Details on Beaty's death are a bit unclear at the moment as police have not apprehended his killer.

Dave Patrick Underwood. Underwood was working as a contract security officer for the Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service (FPS) at a U.S. Courthouse in Oakland, California, on May 29, 2020, when he was shot and killed after someone opened fire from a vehicle.

On June 16, 2020, authorities arrested Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant linked to the far-right extremist "Boogaloo" group, and charged him with the murder of Underwood and the attempted murder of a second security officer who was shot during the ambush.

NBC News reported:

Authorities said Carrillo and a second man traveled to Oakland with the intent to kill police and believed the large demonstrations spurred by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis — which they were not a part of — would help them get away it.

"They came to Oakland to kill cops," said John Bennett, special agent in charge of the San Francisco division of the FBI.

David Dorn. As noted above, David Dorn was a retired police officer who was shot and killed while trying to protect a pawn shop as it was looters during the chaotic aftermath of a protest in St. Louis. On June 7th, a 24-year-old man named Stephan Cannon was charged with the first-degree murder of Dorn.

Max Brewer. Brewer is an Atlanta police officer who was assisting with traffic control during a night of protests when a man driving an ATV sped through an intersection and hit him. Brewer was seriously injured during the incident but was reportedly in "good spirits" while recovering at Grady Memorial Hospital.

While Brewer was injured while working these protests, it isn't clear if the man who was driving the ATV was a protester or if the collision was intentional. According to AJC, Avery Goggans, 42, was arrested and charged with "DUI, serious injury by vehicle, reckless driving, possession of marijuana and other traffic charges."

Sources: Sports IllustratedFox News / St. Louis Dispatch / AJC / NBC News


Updated [16 June 2020] to include details about Steven Carrillo's arrest in relation to the death of Dave Patrick Underwood.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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