14-Year-Old Native American Boy Killed By Police, Family Wants Answers

A 14-year-old Native American boy was killed by police on a Native reservation in Wisconsin, and now, his family demands justification.

Jason Pero, an eighth-grader residing on the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation, was fatally shot outside of his home last Wednesday, November 8, while staying home from school due to a flu diagnosis.

According to The AP, the sheriff’s office of Ashland received a call at approximately 11:40 a.m. local time in regards to a person walking down the street holding a knife. The deputy who responded to the call reportedly fired a gun at Pero, who later died at a local hospital. Although relatives of the boy stated that they were not aware as to why he was carrying a knife, they were doubtful in his criminalized intentions.

“He was a big old teddy bear. He teased his little nephews once in awhile but that was the meanest part he had. Maybe he was doing something [with the knife] but he’d never hurt a fly. Never in his life,” Alan Pero, grandfather, and guardian of Jason said. “He got murdered out in front of the house here. He’s a boy. There’s warning shots. There’s Tasers. There’s pepper spray. You don’t go right on a 14-year-old kid and go for the kill zone.”

The death of Jason Pero, while startling, is not unheard of. In a study run by Mike Males, senior researcher at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, it was proven that, when comparing percentage to U.S. population, Native Americans were more likely to be killed by police than any other group, including African Americans. 

This information is widely unknown, considering the massive lack of media coverage. Claremont Graduate University researchers Roger Chin, Jean Schroedel, and Lily Rowen presented a paper at a Western Social Science Association meeting that reviewed articles about police brutality deaths published between May 1, 2014, and October 31, 2015, in the top 10 U.S. newspapers.

29 Native Americans died during the timespan, but only one received adequate coverage. Furthermore, according to In These Times, “The killing of Suquamish tribal member Daniel Covarrubias, shot when he reached for his cell phone, received a total of 515 words in the Washington Post and the New York Times (which misidentified him as Latino). The other 27 deaths received no coverage.”

Interestingly, during the fall of 2015, Minneapolis police killed both White Earth Ojibwe tribal member Philip Quinn and African-American male Jamar Clark. And while Clark’s story was “well-reported,” Quinn’s death was hardly acknowledged.

In any case, police brutality resulting in death is a horrifying tragedy. Yet while our society tends to condemn police brutality made against other ethnic groups, Native Americans seem to be forgotten. Many others like Jason Pero have had their lives unjustly ended, but most of the time, the injustice is ignored.

“I’m really having a hard time keeping my anger in,” said grandmother of Jason, Cheryl Pero. “You don’t come up to a 14-year-old boy and pull a gun on him and just fire… That’s baloney. We’re asking questions. We’re not getting answers.”

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