"What had happened was..."
Background: In the US, police violence has been an intractable problem. Black women and girls (BWGs) in particular, are at an elevated risk of being killed by police, yet few studies have focused on the factors that increase their exposure to police and contribute to their deaths. Objective: Using a multi-method approach, and grounded in critical theories, the purpose of this dissertation was to elucidate the mechanisms through which BWGs have been killed by police over a 20-year period, and examine the impact of discourse around their killings. Methods: This dissertation leveraged a combination of primary data sources across three aims. In Aim 1, the Fatal Encounters database was used to identify BWGs killed between 2000 and 2019. Thematic analysis was conducted on case descriptions, supplemented by news and police reports, legal documents, and other case-relevant texts. One BWG from Aim 1, was selected for a case study in Aim 2. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) was performed on all discursive events related to her death between 2017 and 2021. A total of 194 texts were located through database and internet searches, and 72 texts underwent CDA. Finally, in Aim 3 in-depth interviews were conducted with family members of the decedent, to elucidate the impacts of media communications on their well-being and pursuit of justice. Results: Findings from this study revealed several trends in the types of issues and sequences of events underlying fatal policing for BWGs. It further demonstrated the fortitude of police narratives over time and the commitment to using racially criminalizing language and misogynoir in service of exonerating police from blame in killing civilians. Conclusion: This work bolsters efforts to reimagine how community safety is conceptualized, and supports the calls for adapting an abolitionist framework within public health to improve violence prevention efforts.