Best of AP — Second Winner


Dozens of deaths reveal risks of injecting sedatives into people restrained by police

In this combination of images from body-camera videos, medics prepare to inject sedatives to Ivan Gutzalenko in Richmond, Calif., in 2021; Hunter Barr in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2020, and Wesley Garrett-Henry in San Diego, Calif., in 2020. An investigation led by The Associated Press published in 2024, has found the practice of giving sedatives to people detained by police spread quietly over the last 15 years, built on questionable science and backed by police-aligned experts. RICHMOND POLICE DEPARTMENT, COLORADO SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT, SAN DIEGO POLICE DEPARTMENT VIA AP

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By digging into data, putting it in context and giving it a human face, Ryan Foley, Carla Johnson and Shelby Lum shed light on how and why injections of powerful sedatives were used as tools of control when police restrained people.

AP’s lethal restraint investigation has stunned readers by detailing for the first time the scope, the risk and the questionable science of the practice. For the second installment, Foley aggressively dug into the details of 94 deaths involving sedatives that he and other reporters identified, carefully selecting cases that would shed light on separate risks of the practice.

He spoke with grieving family members, analyzed hundreds of documents and hours of body-camera footage, and astutely found ways around official efforts to suppress the release of crucial details. In one stroke of luck, when Foley uploaded a document, redactions disappeared revealing that the amount of ketamine given to one man was four times what the autopsy report said.

Medical writer Carla Johnson interviewed doctors and paramedics, learning that a few experts were concerned about the dangers of sedation, but none knew how many people have died after injections.

Video journalist Shelby Lum’s nine-minute documentary artfully presented the problem and possible solutions. Lum leveraged the voluminous body-camera footage reporters had collected from multiple police encounters to show the scope and circumstances of sedation.

It took a village: Tom Berman was the lead editor, while Marshall Ritzell made illustrations that Sallee Ann Harrison used to stack the story on the site. Sophia Eppolito and Bridget Brown created an audience engagement and social plan.

The mainbar or state-specific stories won front page play in Dallas, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas, Tennessee and Wisconsin. An AP post on X generated 3.5 million views and garnered 11.6K link clicks.

Thanks to AP’s Localize It efforts, members produced their own coverage, using case files and video that AP provided. Those members included the most prominent chain of newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, CBS TV in San Diego and NBC TV in Austin.

One reader called the AP and detailed how he survived a similar injection. The man said: “I was this close to being another name on your list.”

For giving our audience a deep understanding of a practice that an early proponent of sedation said is leading to “an unending parade of unnecessary deaths,” Foley, Johnson and Lum are Best of AP — Second Winner.

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