Fact Check: Michael Vick Did NOT Serve More Time In Jail For Killing A Dog Than All Cops Who Have Killed The Last 493 Unarmed Black Men

Fact Check

  • by: Gita Smith

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Michael Vick Did NOT Serve More Time In Jail For Killing A Dog Than All Cops Who Have Killed The Last 493 Unarmed Black Men Cops Get Time

Did Michael Vick serve more prison time for animal abuse than all the police, combined, who killed the last 493 unarmed Black men? No, that is not true: The former NFL quarterback served 18 months in Leavenworth penitentiary. And the time served by any one of a number of convicted police officers over the past five years exceeds that.

The claim appeared in a meme (archived here) posted on Facebook on May 30, 2020. The heading reads"Y'all let that sink in!! !! this is more than George Floyd this is a problem with AMERICA." The meme reads:

"Michael Vick served more time in jail for killing a dog than all the cops who have killed the last 493 unarmed black MEN.

Let that sink in."

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jul 8 18:44:47 2020 UTC)

The claim that Vick's sentence exceeds those of "all the cops" sentenced for killing unarmed African Americans is bad math. While Lead Stories cannot verify how many years back it takes to count 493 police killings of unarmed Black men, we do know that since 2013 there have been 336 Black people -- including male and female -- killed by police. MappingPoliceViolence.org provides this data:

CNN's program, "Controversial Police Encounters," shows these examples of lengthy sentences within the timeframe that possibly includes 493 killings.

North Charleston police officer Michael Slager fatally shot Walter Scott, 50, an unarmed motorist who had been stopped for a broken brake light. Slager told investigators he feared for his life after Scott grabbed his police Taser. But cellphone video of the incident showed Scott running away and Slager shooting him in the back. Slager gave false evidence and in 2018 was given 20 years.

In a 2019 case, police officer Nouman Raja was convicted of killing Black musician Corey Jones on a South Florida highway. He was sentenced to 25 years. Jones had been afraid he was about to be robbed and showed a gun. Audio evidence showed that Raja had not identified himself as a police officer before shooting and lied about it to investigators.

Michael Vick served 18 months of a 23-month sentence in Leavenworth followed by three years' probation. Many in the animal rights community thought his sentence was too light after police found more than 50 dogs on his property, some injured and cruelly abused. "Vick sparked national outrage after he admitted sharing responsibility for hanging, drowning or beating to death six to eight dogs that had performed poorly in fights he backed" according to a May 20, 2009, story in the New York Daily News.

Updates:

  • 2020-07-09T15:48:55Z 2020-07-09T15:48:55Z
    Adding examples of police officers sentenced to more than 18 months. 336 unarmed Black people killed since 2013.

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  Gita Smith

Gita Smith covered news for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Montgomery Advertiser, and she wrote/edited medical newsletters for American Health Consultants at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic when clear, factual information was as needed. 

For a time, she taught in Auburn University’s journalism department and ran the History-Geography lab at Alabama State University, where she taught students to write research papers . She believes the following to be true: The power of the free press may appear to be a weak reed to lean on, but it separates democracies from juntas.

Read more about or contact Gita Smith

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