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Protestors Want Answers About The Death Of Miciah Lee

People lay face up on a road and hold posters that are shaped like tombstones. The poster in the front reads, "In Loving Memory of Miciah Lee 1/5/20."
Lucia Starbuck
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KUNR Public Radio
The "die-in" demonstration for 18-year-old Miciah Lee, who was shot and killed by Sparks Police in January 2020. The protest took place in front of the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office in Reno, Nev. on June 26.";

Dozens of protestors gathered in front of the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office Friday to demand an investigation into an officer-involved shooting in Sparks earlier this year, which killed a young Black man.

In January, Sparks Police officers responded to a call of a suicidal person, identified as 18-year-old Sparks resident Miciah Lee. Lee left the scene in a car, and Sparks Police spotted him a few blocks away. The Associated Press reported that Lee crashed the vehicle, and police said he reached towards a weapon before officers shot and killed him.

Lee’s mother and community members are demanding that the investigation, including body cam footage of the incident, be released.

Washoe County District Attorney Christopher Hicks is in charge of evaluating the incident and determining if this officer-involved shooting is justifiable, according to the Sierra Nevada Ally. That conclusion has not yet been published.

In response, Lee’s mother stood next to a large poster of her son, while protestors laid down in the street. They held posters in the shape of tombstones, with the names of local people who have died in the hands of law enforcement. Co-organizer, Nathaniel Phillipps, said this type of demonstration is called a "die-in."

A man in an orange vest holds a bullhorn. There is a banner behind him that reads, "Black Lives Matter."
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Nathaniel Phillipps, in the orange vest, explains what a "die-in" demonstration is to a group of protestors in front of the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office in Reno Nev., on June 26.

“We have our banners, our signs, our megaphones, but our bodies are a tool. Bayard Rustin is a famous civil rights icon; he organized with MLK (Martin Luther King, Jr.) the March on Washington. He said we have to put our bodies in the spokes, in the wheels, of the system, so they no longer turn. That's why we did a die-in," Phillipps said.

Phillipps said one specific change he would like to see is not having law enforcement officers respond to non-violent situations.

"Mental health professionals can respond to mental health crises. People without guns can respond to nonviolent situations," Phillipps said.

Black Lives Matter protests have swept through the country, and in Nevada, bringing awareness to police violence as people demand structural change.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
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