Police Custody Death Leaves BLM Co-Founder’s Family Heartbroken
Michael Brignac, Keenan Anderson’s uncle, told The Daily Beast that his nephew was the type of person who would “bring light to a dark room.”So when police released body camera footage of Anderson’s violent tasing after a traffic stop mere hours before his death in police custody, he said he barely recognized the boy he
Michael Brignac, Keenan Anderson’s uncle, told The Daily Beast that his nephew was the type of person who would “bring light to a dark room.”
So when police released body camera footage of Anderson’s violent tasing after a traffic stop mere hours before his death in police custody, he said he barely recognized the boy he helped to raise.
“I don’t think my nephew should have feared for his life. That’s not him. That’s not even his personality,” Brignac told The Daily Beast, emotion breaking his voice. “You can look at that kid and see he was fearing for his life. Keenan was so full of joy and full of happiness and love.”
Instead, he wants Anderson, who he loved like a son, to be remembered differently — as Brignac did: a man who turned a difficult childhood into motivation to make the world a better place.
“Keenan was a very inspiring person,” Brignac told The Daily Beast. “His goal was to be something in life.”
Anderson, a high school English teacher in Washington DC —and cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors— died on January 3rd in Los Angeles Police Department Custody.
He was hospitalized, and then died, following his arrest at the site of a traffic accident at the corner of Venice Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevards. His passing would mark the third death of a man of color in LAPD custody in less than a week.
Disturbing body camera footage released by the police department on Wednesday showed Anderson yelling, “Help me please,” “They’re trying to kill me,” while officers restrained him in the street.
Anderson was pushed against the asphalt as one of the cops held his elbow to Anderson’s neck.
“They’re trying to George Floyd me!” he cried multiple times.
Officers then repeatedly tased the 31-year-old, after issuing warnings, and one cop appeared to tase Anderson for 30 seconds straight.
While the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office website showed that Anderson’s death was still under investigation, Cullors and others have stated that they believe Anderson was killed by the police’s use of force.
“We were devastated,” Cullors told The Daily Beast on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the LAPD told The Daily Beast they would not immediately release the names of the officers involved in Anderson’s arrest.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Wednesday that “it’s unclear” what role Anderson’s struggle with police played in his death. He said Anderson was in an “altered mental state” and claimed that a preliminary blood test showed he had cannabis and cocaine in his system.
According to Brignac, Anderson’s tough childhood began after his mother’s death when he was young. He would spend summers with Brignac, also later living with his sister — and sometimes would return to work for his uncle’s landscaping business.
Despite his personal trials and tribulations, he was always positive and ambitious about life.
“He used to motivate me, “said Brignac. “Tell me, ‘C’mon Uncle Mike’ you know, ‘You can do it man!’
“He definitely liked to dance,” added Brignac, noting he had a wide-ranging and eclectic love of music. And “he did a lot of reading.” But when he was with family, he was an inspiring go-getter, “our movie star.”
“He was that light of our family.”
He was also competitive, said Brignac, recalling – with a laugh – the time he had taught Anderson and his own son to drive a motorcycle at age 14.
He said that while it took Michael, a year older, a bit more time to learn, though Anderson was a quick study: “Riding with no hands, hollerin’, ‘Look at me uncle Mike,’ and I said, ‘This guy always gotta show off’.”
Brignac remembered how Anderson initially wanted to become a police officer, but then found his calling in education.
“He taught at a predominantly black school in DC and he really was hellbent on helping save their lives, helping be the mentor that he believed they needed,” said Collurs. “And I think that’s how I want people to remember him.”
Brignac agreed, recalling how the well-dressed Anderson would buy shoes and lunches for kids at his school, and was beloved by his students — some of them going on to college themselves, as he himself had done.
“What’s so amazing about a person like that is they think about how hard they had it and they want to make the next generation better,” said Brignac.