Fatal State Violence

About the Fatal State Violence Project

ArchCity Defenders (ACD) is committed to supporting the families of those killed by the state and to collaborating with others to realize a future in which all people can live freely and flourish.

In the tradition of speaking truth to power, ACD released a policy report in 2021 entitled, “Death by the State: Police Killings and Jail Deaths in St. Louis,” and a publication in 2023 called “In Her Words: The Impact of Fatal State Violence on Black Women and Women of Color Left Behind.” In addition, ACD co-anchors the Fatal State Violence Response Program, an initiative to support individuals and families impacted by state violence.

What is Fatal State Violence?

Fatal State Violence (FSV) refers to the instances in which state sanctioned institutions and their respective actors such as police officers and jails guards become deadly. FSV is contextualized within a broader culture of prejudice, brutality and injustice that disproportionately impacts Black people, people of color, and poor people.  

Why look into it?

The magnitude of Fatal State Violence in St. Louis is a chronic, and largely unaddressed crisis. 

Bound by Blood

After a loved one’s life is taken by the state, it is frequently and predominately women who pick up the pieces, support their families, and lead the fight for justice. In hearing these struggles, we saw a need to shift the conversation around fatal state violence to center the experiences of women survivors, and deepen public understanding of fatal state violence, whom it impacts, and how.

“In Her Words: The Impact of Fatal State Violence on Black Women and Women of Color Left Behind” features stories from women whose loved ones were killed by police or died in custody, and an incarcerated Black transgender woman whose life is constantly jeopardized. Although each woman’s story is unique, their distrust of the police and carceral state; their advocacy; and their desire for peace, closure, and justice comprise collective experiences that span a decade and reach across the State of Missouri.

This publication accompanies “Bound by Blood,” a multimedia exhibition including portraits and video stories from the women featured that took place at The Luminary in January of 2023.

“Bound by Blood” is a collaboration between ACD, My Friends and I, and The Luminary.

Click to download the report.

Portraits and Video Interviews

This video compiles excerpts of the individual women’s full stories into a single video. Click the portrait images below to view each woman’s full video interview. The entire playlist is available here.
Tammy Bufford
Toni Taylor
Gina Torres
Khorry Ramey
Wanda Parker
Maria Miller
Lexii Alexander

Death by the State

According to Mapping Police Violence, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) has the highest rate of police killings by population of any police department of the 100 largest U.S. cities. From 2009-2019, at least 179 people have been killed by police (132) or while in jail custody (47) within four counties of the St. Louis region (St. Louis County, St. Louis City County, Jefferson County, and St. Charles County).

When people are killed by police, several overlapping problems unfold:  

  • Families often question the accuracy/truthfulness of the police’s narrative, and the state makes it very difficult to get access to records or information– What happened to their loved one? Were there witnesses? Where is their loved one’s body? What do I do now? 
  • Not only are families often met with indifference by police departments and local governments, they inevitably hear one-sided news narratives that show bias towards law enforcement and misrepresent/demonize their loved one 
  • Even with an attorney, families’ pathways to justice and closure are long and challenging, particularly within the context of the current legal system  
Click to download the report.

There is an overall lack of systematic accountability within policing and an imperative to boldly re-imagine public safety.

ACD’s FSV initiative stems from our mission and practice of combatting state violence and the criminalization of poverty through direct representation, civil litigation, community collaboration and media and policy advocacy. 

Click an image to view and download datasets.
Police Killings Dataset
Jail Deaths Dataset
The Officers Dataset

What does this initiative/work entail?

  • Media & Policy Advocacy: Data, policy recommendations, changing narratives
  • Community Collaboration: Trainings, Rapid Response
  • Direct Representation: Records Requests, Investigations
  • Civil Litigation: Filing civil rights lawsuits


This would not be possible without the support and input from impacted families, organizations like Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (CAPCR), Action St. Louis and Faith for Justice, and activists and organizers. 

Have you lost a loved one to Fatal State Violence?

If you have, and wish to get in contact with us, email stateviolence@archcitydefenders.org

Want to support this work?

Learn more about our organizational partner, Faith For Justice

Click here to make a tax deductible donation.