The Police Killing You Probably Didn't Hear About Last Week

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In the wake of the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota and the deadly ambush of cops in Dallas, several readers flagged another fatal shooting of a citizen by police that got relatively little attention last week, this time in Fresno, California. The killing of Dylan Noble actually happened a month ago but a bystander’s video of the shooting surfaced on Wednesday, raising serious questions about excessive force. Here’s the infamous footage, which only shows a fraction of what went down—but a disturbing one:

Reason’s Brian Doherty sums up the situation that day:

On June 25, Fresno police were investigating a call from a woman who insisted a man with a rifle and camo gear was at a certain corner. While in that area looking, a pickup driven by Noble drove up, tires squealing. The police gave chase to that pickup, and pulled it over. Noble apparently got out of the truck and walked toward the officers “rapidly,” according to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer in interviews with The Fresno Bee, and allegedly refused to obey when told to show both his hands. Dyer says that Noble placed his right hand behind his back then pulled it out “very quickly.” Noble also, according to Dyer, shouted something about hating his life.

The officers began shooting at Noble, three from one officer’s handgun and one from an officer’s shotgun. At least the last two shots were fired after Noble was already shot and prone on the ground. Noble had no weapon on his person or his vehicle. No such rifle-wielding suspect was ever found.

The police chief indicates that the body camera footage will reveal a lot more of the situation that wasn’t captured in that short clip. The district attorney and the FBI have been brought in to investigate. For more on Noble’s death and how his vigil became politicized and racialized, see The Daily Beast’s Michael Daly.