Former NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick recently announced a new initiative to aide the families whose loved ones suffered police-related death. The Autopsy Initiative was created to give free, second autopsies to victims of police violence. The autopsies will be conducted by a group of five Board-Certified pathologists.
The goal of the Initiative is to give the family proof that no manipulation of evidence and potential bias is done by the medical examiner and the coroner. The victim could be involved in a shooting, restraint, beating, or being intentionally hit by a police vehicle by an on-duty or off-duty officer.
“We know that the prison industrial complex, which includes police and policing, strives to protect and serve its interests at all costs,” Kaepernick said. “The Autopsy Initiative is one important step toward ensuring that family members have access to accurate and forensically verifiable information about the cause of death of their loved one in their time of need.”
The pathologists that will conduct the autopsies are Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, Dr. Allecia M. Wilson, Dr. Roger A. Mitchell, Dr. Jennifer L. Hammers, and Matthias I. Okoye. The Autopsy Initiative will provide a finished second autopsy, release of preliminary findings, and the final autopsy report.
The initiative has been working on the case of Keishon Thompson, a man who died in police custody 15 hours after being arrested.
Offering a second autopsy helps the family find justice without it being a financial burden, as private autopsies cost around $5000. Medical examiners have been known to give biased autopsy reports. When George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, his first autopsy stated his death involved factors of fentanyl, heart disease, and methamphetamine. The family of Floyd hired a private pathologist for a second autopsy and their report stated he died of asphyxia due to restraint by law enforcement.
Dr. Wecht ensures that the Autopsy Initiative is not meant to downplay the efforts of pathologists who work on first autopsies.
“Sometimes medical examiners are simply not calling things as they should call them,” he told WISN 12. “There’s a close relationship, broadly speaking, between medical examiners, coroners and law enforcement officers. A set of fresh eyes looking at these cases is important.”
The Autopsy Initiative is part of Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights organization, for more information about the initiative, visit www.knowyourrightscamp.com.