https://reveal-player.s3.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/808_Reveal_PC.mp3

Washington, D.C.: The Difficulties of Firing Police Officers

A group of hackers attacked the Metropolitan Police Department in 2021, leaking 250 gigabytes of data and confidential files.

Buried in tens of thousands of records, Reveal reporter Dhruv Mehrotra found a disturbing pattern. Records of disciplinary decisions showed that an internal panel of high-ranking officers kept some troubled officers on the force – even after department investigators substantiated allegations of criminal misconduct and recommended they be fired.

Aurora, Colorado: ‘Excited Delirium’ and Ketamine in Police Confrontations 

When Elijah McClain was stopped by police in Aurora, Colorado, in 2019, he was injected with a powerful sedative, ketamine, and died after suffering cardiac arrest. His death sparked widespread protests.

KUNC reporters Michael de Yoanna and Rae Solomon covered McClain’s case, and it made them wonder how often paramedics and law enforcement use ketamine and why. What they found led to real change.

St. Louis: The History of Prisoner Disenfranchisement Laws in Missouri

Prisoner disenfranchisement laws have been on the books since the founding of our nation and disproportionately affect voters of color. 

Reveal Investigative Fellow and St. Louis Public Radio journalist Andrea Henderson reports from Missouri, where about 63,000 formerly incarcerated people could not vote in the last presidential election. She speaks to a community activist who credits getting his right to vote restored as the start of putting him on his current path. 

Dig Deeper

Formerly incarcerated Missourian Eric Harris proudly shows his “I Voted” sticker in November 2020 after voting for the first time after his release. Photo by Andrea Henderson for Reveal.

Read: DC Police Tried to Fire 24 Officers for ‘Criminal Offenses.’ A Powerful Panel Blocked Nearly Every One. 

Read: Coloradans dosed with ketamine during police confrontations want investigations. (KUNC)

Read: The controversial diagnosis of ‘excited delirium’ may become part of police defense. (The Marshall Project)

Listen: ‘A slap in the face’: Missourians with felony convictions don’t want to wait to vote (STLPR)

Credits

Reporters: Andrea Henderson, Dhruv Mehrotra, Rae Solomon and Michael de Yoanna | Lead producer: Stan Alcorn | Editor: Queena Kim | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Production assistance: Steven Rascón | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Jess Alvarenga and Kathryn Styer Martinez | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Ike Sriskandarajah 

Special thanks: Melissa Lewis, Nina Martin, Katharine Mieszkowski and St. Louis Public Radio.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Al Letson:Hey, it’s Al. And last fall, we brought you Mississippi Goddam. It was named one of the best podcast series of 2021 by The Atlantic, CNN, Rolling Stone and others. We told that story over the course of seven weeks and now we’re making it available to you to binge. You can hear the whole series by subscribing to Reveal Presents: Mississippi Goddam, wherever you get your podcast. Again, that’s Reveal Presents: Mississippi Goddam.
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Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center For Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah in for Al Letson. Today, we’re featuring three investigative stories from across the country that touch on issues of power. Who has it and how do they wield it? Let’s begin in Washington DC where we teamed up with public radio station, WAMU.

It’s April of 2021, and a group of Russian speaking hackers, they call themselves Babuk, claim to have pulled off what would be considered one of the biggest cyber heists of a police department ever. Babuk says it hacked Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, or MPD.
Speaker 4:Claiming to have a whopping 250 gigabytes of intelligence and confidential MPD files, Acting Chief Robert Contee said the attack was over.
Robert Contee:We have identified what occurred and blocked the mechanism that allow the unauthorized access.
Ike Sriskandara…:MPD closes the security hole, but the real trouble is about to begin. Babuk says they’re not a terrorist or activist group. They hacked the DC police for the same reason they hacked the Houston Rockets. They did it for the money.
Speaker 6:Babu Locker Ransomware uses the double extortion model. This means they encrypt the data and threaten to expose it if a ransom is not paid.
Speaker 7:We think maybe it could be the next ransomware superstar.
Lorax Horne:I think that the term ransomware at this point is misleading because it’s not one piece of software, it’s more of a business model.
Ike Sriskandara…:This is Lorax B. Horne, a journalist with a side gig that sometimes involves tracking ransomware groups on the dark web. That’s the part of the internet you can’t Google. And that business model of holding data hostage…
Lorax Horne:There’s been a push in recent years where they’ll publish to data.
Ike Sriskandara…:If the companies don’t pay the ransom, and in the case of the DC police, Babuk even publishes chats of their negotiation.
Speaker 9:Hello, do you have any questions? We don’t want anyone to get hurt.
Ike Sriskandara…:What were they asking for?
Lorax Horne:Four million? According to the chat log?
Speaker 10:Tell me how you decided 4 million for this. It seems extremely high for a public sector entity.
Lorax Horne:And the police department offered, I think 100,000?
Speaker 10:If this offer is not acceptable, then it seems our conversation is complete.
Ike Sriskandara…:Does that seem like a low ball to you?
Lorax Horne:Yeah, it’s really hard to say. It’s a question of how embarrassing is this going to be for them?
Speaker 10:I think we both understand the consequences of not reaching an agreement. We are okay with that outcome.
Lorax Horne:And I guess they decided that it was not that embarrassing for them.
Speaker 9:This is unacceptable [inaudible] site, follow your website at midnight.
Ike Sriskandara…:Babuk followed through on their threat and published all 250 gigabytes of data. And this is where Lorax’s side gig comes in. They’re a volunteer for an organization Called Distributed Denial of Secrets, DDoSecrets for short.
Lorax Horne:We’re a website, DDoSecrets.com, and we publish data coming from hacks and leaks that we believe is going to be useful for investigative journalism, for academic research.
Ike Sriskandara…:So if somebody hears this and they’re, “Oh, I like secrets, I open up the website,” and they’ll see the list of leaks.
Lorax Horne:Yeah. So the most recent data set that we put out is Petro Works, a company that contracts with a lot of oil companies, both keepers, emails, chat, membership, and donor list from the militia also Metropolitan Police Department.
Ike Sriskandara…:And is there a through line to all these hacks and leaks?
Lorax Horne:That’s the through line. That they are hacked or leaked is really the only commonality.
Ike Sriskandara…:Is it an uncomfortable position to be in, to work with people who are black mailing companies?
Lorax Horne:I don’t think that we do. It’s published already and someone’s going to have it. The difference is whether that data is then available to journalists and researchers or if it’s just available to bad actors. That’s how I see our work.

In late April, the ransomware group published messages saying that they had hit MPD. And then in early May, we published our announcement that we had successfully retrieved the data and that we could make it available to researchers.
Ike Sriskandara…:And journalists. Like my colleague Dhruv Mehrotra.
Dhruv Mehrotra:I am a data reporter for Reveal. I use computers to investigate computers and sometimes to investigate the police.
Ike Sriskandara…:Dhruv downloads tens of thousands of MPD files from the DDoSecrets site. And these are files the public never gets to see.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Police departments are very, very secretive and tightlipped about a lot of their data.
Ike Sriskandara…:And these files give Dhruv a rare look into why it’s so difficult to hold cops who do bad things accountable.
Dhruv Mehrotra:It turns out, buried in all of the administrative detail, was pretty revelatory information about the misconduct of officers at the DC police. I saw folders for every year going back to 2004, and within each year was a folder for any officer who went through the disciplinary process.
Ike Sriskandara…:This is like 15 years of police officers who had been doing something wrong and were being investigated or punished.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yes.
Ike Sriskandara…:What do you do next?
Dhruv Mehrotra:Honestly, I clicked a random one. I don’t think there was any rhyme or reason, I just wanted to see what I saw. And frankly, the first one I saw was just so shocking that I knew I had something. It was a file for a Sergeant who was initially suspended without pay after he allegedly threatened to kill his wife and daughters as well as other officers within the DC Police Department. Something that really stuck out to me in his file is that one of the victims told the interviewer that the officer said it would be, “Very easy to get rid of a body by throwing them in with the pigs because the pigs will eat bones and everything.”
Ike Sriskandara…:What. This is somebody who works for the Metropolitan Police Department?
Dhruv Mehrotra:He eventually got fired, but he worked there until 2020.
Ike Sriskandara…:And the general public DC Metro area. Nobody knew this before this leak happened.
Dhruv Mehrotra:No, these are internal investigations. No one knew about this.
Ike Sriskandara…:So that guy who wants to feed human bones to pigs, he’s no longer on the force anymore.
Dhruv Mehrotra:That’s right.
Ike Sriskandara…:But I’m left wondering, are there police officers on the force who shouldn’t be?
Dhruv Mehrotra:Right, and I think that’s the question that we really wanted to try to answer. Eventually what we found was that about 70 different police officers, and remember these are current officers, were investigated for “criminal or quasi-criminal misconduct”, which are terms that are used in MPDs handbook.
Ike Sriskandara…:Is that like unpaid parking tickets can be criminal?
Dhruv Mehrotra:They’re talking about felonies. An officer drove onto the median of a highway and killed someone who was mowing the lawn. Officer allegedly had indecently exposed himself in the parking lot of a grocery store. Another officer was arrested for stalking.
Ike Sriskandara…:These sound bad.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yeah, it’s not good. Internal Affairs found that one officer had assaulted two women outside of a Hooters. And there was another officer who punched his wife so hard that she fractured a bone around her eye socket, according to a medical report.
Ike Sriskandara…:Just to be clear, these are all people who got to keep their jobs.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yeah. They not only were investigated, but Internal Affairs substantiated the criminal allegations and they all are still on the force. In many of these cases, they actually wanted to fire these officers, but they ended up not being fired.
Ike Sriskandara…:Dhruv, is there a case that demonstrates why these officers were allowed to stay on the force?
Dhruv Mehrotra:So I think the case of Ronald Faunteroy best illustrates what we’re trying to get at here. So on December 13th in 2015, Officer Faunteroy requested the last four hours of his shift off of work so that he could be with his family. But a few hours after that surveillance video catches him circling around a block in DC that’s well known for prostitution. And in that video, he backs into an alleyway and then flashes his headlights four or five times to signal to the sex worker that he’s interested.

The sex worker eventually approaches Faunteroy’s window, and according to an interview that she then gave to Internal Affairs later that day, she says that he offered her $30 for oral sex. She declined that offer and he drove off. 10 minutes later, the video shows that Faunteroy drove back up, facing the wrong direction on the street and cuts her off. He then gets out of his car, and according to that interview, this sex worker gave, Faunteroy gets out, points his MPD service weapon directly at her and accuses her of stealing his phone.
Ike Sriskandara…:When you say it’s his service weapon, that’s the gun he uses on the job.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yeah, it’s a Glock. So according to the interview that she gave to Internal Affairs, the sex worker says that she was just incredibly frightened. She thought that she was going to be shot. And her and Faunteroy are yelling. And that actually gets the attention of another sex worker who’s her friend, who then comes over to deescalate the situation. And according to that interview, the one between the friend and Internal Affairs, she told Faunteroy, “Look, man, give me your phone number, I’ll call your phone. My friend over here, she doesn’t steal. She doesn’t have your phone.” So she calls officer Frey’s phone number and it turns out that it’s in the back seat of his car.

So she actually reaches back into his car, picks it up for him and says, “Look, here’s your phone, you can’t be pointing your weapon like that at my friend so I’m going to actually call the police.” Officers respond on the scene, and by that time Faunteroy is long gone. The friend had the foresight to take down his plates. They ran the plates through their databases and they found that it belonged to officer Faunteroy and that’s when the officer on the scene called Internal Affairs.
Ike Sriskandara…:An investigation begins.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yeah. The agent in charge of this investigation is someone named Charles Weeks. At the time, he had been with the force for 20 years, tasked with essentially investigating officers for misconduct. He pulled surveillance video. He interviewed both of the victims, the sex worker and her friend.
Ike Sriskandara…:I would imagine at some point the investigator has to ask the officer about it.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yeah. So eventually Internal Affairs interviews Faunteroy. And in that two hour interview Faunteroy refuses to answer the most basic questions in any straightforward way. He’s constantly contradicting himself, he says he has no recollection of flashing his lights four or five times to signal to the sex worker, even though there’s surveillance video that shows him doing exactly that. And at a certain point, Detective Weeks is just fed up, and then he proceeds to walk through what he knows about Faunteroy’s whereabouts minute to minute. And by the end of that Faunteroy says, “Look, you put the pieces together.” And Internal Affairs then writes up a report that concludes that Faunteroy actually confessed. He confessed to soliciting prostitution, to pointing his weapon at a sex worker.
Ike Sriskandara…:Wow. So this is an officer who was caught, investigated, confessed, and still has his job? How is that possible?
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yeah. And that’s exactly what we wanted to figure out. So Agent Weeks at Internal Affairs wrote up his report and sent it off to the Disciplinary Review Division. And even the Disciplinary Review Division said, “Look, we agree with the findings and Ronald Faunteroy should be fired.” But he wasn’t fired. And the reason it turns out is because of something called an Adverse Action Panel.
Ike Sriskandara…:What is an Adverse Action Panel?
Dhruv Mehrotra:An Adverse Action Panel is a rotating panel of three high ranking officers who will listen to the facts of a case in this sort of court room like administrative proceeding. And then they’ll come up with a amended disciplinary recommendation.
Ike Sriskandara…:So instead of judges, these officers face a tribunal of their fellow officers.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Exactly. And oftentimes the officers know or have worked with members of the panel, from the people I’ve spoken to, personal history can kind of influence the panel’s decisions.
Ike Sriskandara…:And what do we know about their review of this particular appeal?
Dhruv Mehrotra:Well, we know that Robert Contee, the current Chief of Police for the DC Police Department was the chairman of this panel. And we know that during the panel’s proceedings Faunteroy, represented by his lawyer, basically took back his confession and said he was innocent of all charges. And we ultimately know that the panel decided that instead of firing Faunteroy, he would actually be suspended for 45 days.
Ike Sriskandara…:So how does the panel explain themselves? Is that in the documents at all?
Dhruv Mehrotra:So the panel found that Faunteroy was in fact soliciting prostitution and they found that he did lie about it. But when it comes to the threatening of a sex worker with his weapon and then accusing her of stealing his phone, they actually thought that was a legitimate police stop. And they cited him for not filing the proper paperwork for a police stop.
Ike Sriskandara…:You can pull your gun on somebody because you left your phone in the backseat.
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yeah. That’s essentially what the panel concluded.
Ike Sriskandara…:How many officers did you find, like Officer Faunteroy, where police departments tried to fire them but this panel vetoes it?
Dhruv Mehrotra:We found 21 cases like Faunteroy. These are cases where Internal Affairs sustained allegations of criminal or quasi-criminal misconduct and the department wanted to fire these officers. But an Adverse Action Panel overturned those firings and instead handed out suspensions or acquittals. All of the cases that I had mentioned earlier were officers who the panel decided to suspend or to acquit.
Ike Sriskandara…:Oh, the officers who assaulted their wives and punched women at Hooters. Those are part of this number who got to keep their jobs?
Dhruv Mehrotra:Yes.
Ike Sriskandara…:And the thing that’s keeping those officers on the job seems to have a lot to do with this panel.
Dhruv Mehrotra:It does.
Ike Sriskandara…:And is this unique to the DC police or is this how police departments operate? Do you have any sense of how widespread this is?
Dhruv Mehrotra:I don’t. And I think it took a hack of a large police department for us to even figure out that this issue in the disciplinary process exists.
Ike Sriskandara…:That was Reveal Data Reporter, Dhruv Mehrotra. The Police Chief, Robert Contee, who helped make sure that officer Faunteroy got to keep his job, he wouldn’t talk to us, and neither would anyone else at the police department. But after Dhruv and our partners at WAMU first published this story…
Muriel Bowser:So that is our briefing.
Ike Sriskandara…:At a press conference.
Muriel Bowser:And I’m happy to answer your questions.
Ike Sriskandara…:A reporter asked DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser about the cops who couldn’t be fired and the role the Chief played.
Speaker 13:Did you know about this when you promoted him to Chief? And I mean, are you comfortable with these officers having a badge and gun and pull police powers out on the streets?
Muriel Bowser:If they were recommended by the Chief of Police for termination, then that is what I think should have happened.
Ike Sriskandara…:Since Reveal first published its investigation, MPD has started to release schedules of Adverse Action Panels to the public. And the Washington Post Editorial Board called on the Police Reform Commission to “examine how discipline is dispensed and ensure that officers who shouldn’t be on the streets, aren’t allowed to stay on duty.”

When we come back, we continue our look at local investigations that have had a big impact. We’ll go to Aurora, Colorado, where paramedics use powerful drugs to sedate people during incidents involving police.
Joseph Baker:There were situations where police arrived on scene before us and they were saying that the patient needed ketamine or they needed sedation.
Ike Sriskandara…:Police claimed suspects had excited delirium but is that really a thing? That’s next on reveal.
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Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center For Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah in for Al Letson. There’s a pattern that’s familiar, it’s one where police officers do something wrong and then afterwards, nothing really changes. We heard that story in the last segment. But in this next story, we’re going to take you to Aurora, Colorado, where there was a different outcome. If you know anything about the Aurora police department, it’s probably because of Elijah McClain.
Speaker 15:Say his name, Elijah McClain.
Ike Sriskandara…:Elijah McClain was a 23 year old black man, a musician and massage therapist. He was a skinny guy and his friends described him as shy. And in 2019, he was stopped by Aurora police while he was walking home from convenience store. The officers wrestled him to the ground, put him in a choke hold and held him down as he said, “I can’t breathe.” Then Elijah was injected with a powerful sedative, ketamine. On the way to the hospital he went into cardiac arrest. Three days later, Elijah died.

It wasn’t the officers who gave him ketamine. Cops just can’t use drugs to control people. It was the paramedics for what they said were medical reasons. Reporters, Michael de Yoanna and Rae Solomon at KUNC Public Radio were covering the case and they wanted to know who else this was happening to and why?

What they found led to real change. We’ll tell you about that after we play their story originally broadcast in 2020. Michael begins with another Elijah, a man by the name of Elijah McKnight.
Michael de Yoan…:I meet Elijah McKnight in the lobby of his apartment building in Denver. Because of the coronavirus, we bump elbows and then sit at opposite ends of a couch. He’s in his mid-20s, tall, and wearing a baseball hat and t-shirt. He’s multiracial and identifies as black. And he tells me about a night several years ago.
Elijah McKnight:So I was at work. I just started working at this barbershop.
Michael de Yoan…:He cuts hair. And after his shift, one of his clients invited him to hang out.
Elijah McKnight:He was like, “Let’s go to a bar and chill.” We actually hit a couple or a few bars downtown.
Michael de Yoan…:It was August 20th, 2019 and it turned out to be an epic night of drinking. The partying eventually wound down, but on the ride home, Elijah’s buddy pulled over.
Elijah McKnight:On the way home, he was saying he didn’t want to take me all the way, it was kind of out the way. I was like, “All right.” So I told him to just stop the car and let me out because it kind of made me mad, he can’t take me up the street? Okay, stop the car and I’ll get out.
Michael de Yoan…:Looking back on it, he says it wasn’t his best decision. He thought maybe he could catch a bus.
Elijah McKnight:Stumbled to the bus stop because I didn’t realize I was that drunk until I got out the car and I was, “Ah, I got to sit down.”
Michael de Yoan…:Actually he laid down on his backpack.
Elijah McKnight:And I guess I pass out cold, fell asleep and got woke up by the police that woke me up.
Speaker 18:Just sit right here, okay, because I don’t want you to fall over. But sit back up here on the bench.
Michael de Yoan…:Two deputies with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, help him stand up. They’re responding to a citizen’s call to 911. This audio comes from their body cameras.
Speaker 18:Have a seat.
Elijah McKnight:You all don’t have to press.
Speaker 18:We’re making sure you’re not going to fall, man. You’re not in trouble right now, man. We just want to make sure you’re okay.
Michael de Yoan…:Officers repeatedly ask him to sit down, but he doesn’t do it. Elijah is standing, swaying back and forth. His speech is slurred.
Speaker 18:How much have you had to drink?
Elijah McKnight:Yeah.
Michael de Yoan…:Elijah mumbles. He asks the deputies to help him by calling his dad.
Speaker 18:Let’s start with this. Can you sit down and give me an ID and then we’ll figure out what you do.
Elijah McKnight:No, because I’d lose to the warrant.
Michael de Yoan…:He tells the deputies that there are warrants out for him.
Elijah McKnight:I don’t want you to arrest me. Please don’t arrest me.
Michael de Yoan…:This is where things get out of control and a warning that the next minute or so of the story can be disturbing to listen to.
Speaker 18:What’s you name, Eliza?
Elijah McKnight:Elijah.
Speaker 18:Elijah.
Elijah McKnight:With a J.
Speaker 18:E-L-I-J-A-H. This is what I’m going to do, I’m going to just…
Elijah McKnight:No, don’t…
Speaker 18:Just…
Dhruv Mehrotra:Just about eight minutes in, a deputy reaches for Elijah’s arm. And as he does, Elijah turns and tries to run. Within seconds and just a few feet from where he started, Elijah is on the ground, on his back, looking up at the deputies.
Speaker 18:You’re going to get tased, do you understand me? Turn around, get on your stomach now, you’re going to get tased. Turn around, get on your stomach now. Put your hands behind your back now.
Elijah McKnight:Stop, stop please.
Speaker 18:71 taser deployed.
Elijah McKnight:Please stop.
Speaker 18:Put your hands behind your back now.
Elijah McKnight:You love it.
Speaker 18:You will get tased again, you understand?
Elijah McKnight:Yes. Stop, please.
Speaker 18:Do not move again.
Elijah McKnight:All right, I will not move again. I will not move again.
Michael de Yoan…:Deputies handcuff him, but they don’t arrest him. They don’t put him in the back of their cruiser. They don’t take him to jail.
Speaker 18:Rescue’s here to talk to you are you going to cooperate with them?
Michael de Yoan…:Paramedics from South Metro Fire Rescue arrive. And a few minutes after that, you can’t see who’s talking, but it’s clear that sheriff’s deputies ask the paramedics whether they can give Elijah drugs.
Speaker 18:You guys can’t give him anything can you unless he goes to the hospital?
Speaker 19:We can give him ketamine and he’ll be sleeping like a baby but [inaudible].
Elijah McKnight:Don’t give me, don’t inject anything into my veins. [inaudible].
Michael de Yoan…:Over Elijah’s protests not to have anything put into his veins, a paramedic sedates him. And this is what my reporting partner, Rae Solomon, and I want to focus on..
Rae Solomon:Exactly. We want to know how paramedics can give Elijah drugs even after he just told them not to?
Michael de Yoan…:We found out that paramedics said Elijah was suffering from something called excited delirium. That’s a medical term some ER doctors use for what they claim is a rare life threatening medical emergency where a patient is completely out of control and shows extreme agitation, overheating, combativeness, and exceptional strength. At this time in Colorado, if paramedics diagnosed someone with excited delirium, they were allowed to sedate them and the drug of choice was ketamine. But was excited delirium what was going on with Elijah? We reached out to South Metro Fire Rescue and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, neither would talk to us.
Rae Solomon:So we turned to Joseph Baker, a critical care paramedic in Minnesota. He filed a lawsuit against his former employer at the City of Woodbury claiming he faced retaliation for refusing a police officer’s order to sedate someone.
Joseph Baker:There was more than one occasion where dispatch updated us prior to our arrival where they said that police were asking to either get ketamine ready or police were saying that the patient was going to need ketamine.
Rae Solomon:Joseph says police would sometimes pressure him to inject ketamine even when he thought it wasn’t medically necessary. He says some officers have a mindset that sedations are an easy way to control people who are being difficult or disagreeable.
Joseph Baker:There were situations where police arrived on scene before us and they were saying that the patient needed ketamine or they needed sedation. And we could develop a rapport and a running dialogue where it wasn’t necessary. The situation could be deescalated.
Michael de Yoan…:Sedating a person isn’t something to take lightly. People have different reactions to the drug. In Elijah McKnight’s case, that reaction was bad.
Elijah McKnight:Yeah, I would say I was out cold. Several doctors told me they saved my life and that I was pretty much dead.
Michael de Yoan…:Paramedics gave Elijah of two doses of ketamine. To calculate those doses, they needed to guess Elijah’s weight. According to their own records, paramedics got it wrong overestimating his weight by more than 100 pounds. At the hospital, Elijah was intubated and put on a ventilator that breathed for him.
Elijah McKnight:My memory, it went from being pinned down like that to them pulling a tube out my throat.
Rae Solomon:Elijah’s experience isn’t unique. We looked at excited delirium cases throughout Colorado and we found that almost 17% of the time patients developed complications before they even got to the hospital. And once people got to the hospital, they were intubated 20% of the time.
Michael de Yoan…:High complication rates make some doctors worry about this.
Mary Dale Peter…:The information that we’ve gotten is that it’s probably not a safe practice.
Michael de Yoan…:Mary Dale Peterson is President of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
Mary Dale Peter…:Ketamine is actually a general anesthetic. That’s a powerful drug. Depending on the dosage, it has different properties on the brain. As that dosage escalates, we will see more problems.
Rae Solomon:Problems like we’re seeing in Colorado. Problems like hypoxia, where someone suffers from low oxygen levels. Problems like significant increases in blood pressure and most serious…
Mary Dale Peter…:It can cause people to stop breathing.
Rae Solomon:With excited delirium, dr. Peterson is that paramedics may be sedating people for the wrong reasons.
Mary Dale Peter…:Ketamine or any other drug should never be given for law enforcement purposes. We only give out drugs or medications for medical reasons.
Michael de Yoan…:We reached out to another doctor who raised even more questions. Paul Appelbaum of the American Psychiatric Association helps write the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Basically the accepted dictionary of psychiatric diagnoses. As for excited delirium, it isn’t in there
Paul Appelbaum:To date, we have not been aware that there exists sufficient data to validate as a diagnostic entity.
Michael de Yoan…:In other words, psychiatrists like Appelbaum doubt that excited delirium is even a real condition. He says the symptoms and causes are all vague.
Paul Appelbaum:Part of my concern about a term like excited delirium is my sense that it’s being used as a waste basket term, which is to say everybody who creates problems and struggles with the police and ends up hurt or dead is thrown into this waste basket.
Michael de Yoan…:As a medical condition, excited delirium has only been around for a little over a decade and one man played an outsized role in defining it.
Mark DeBard:I’m Mark DeBard, I’m a medical doctor now officially retired as an emergency physician, although I maintain my status as a Professor Emeritus of Emergency Medicine at the Ohio State University here in Columbus, Ohio.
Rae Solomon:Dr. DeBard says that back in the 90s, he was working in the emergency room and he saw people who were agitated, acting bizarre and physiologically stuck in fight or flight mode. Many were on stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine. And some people died essentially exerting themselves to death.
Mark DeBard:By the early 2000s, it became obvious that we were seeing more and more cases of this. And I start reading about them all over the country in custody of law enforcement and EMS dying before they get to the hospital.
Rae Solomon:So Dr. DeBard spoke with peers around the country and formed a task force to investigate. In 2009, they issued a white paper through the American College of Emergency Physicians, formally defining excited delirium syndrome and its treatment.
Mark DeBard:You can’t talk these people down, you have to intervene medically usually with sedative medications. It calms the entire body down and it interrupts this feedback loop, allowing their body to return to normal.
Rae Solomon:They landed on ketamine because it worked quickly and had a pretty solid safety record. Dr. Debar stands by his findings despite what other doctors say.
Mark DeBard:I wouldn’t expect psychiatrists or anesthesiologist to ever see a case. There’s no possibility they would ever encounter a case. These cases occur out in the field and they occur in the emergency room. But in the end, the only physicians that see these cases are emergency physicians.
Michael de Yoan…:We wanted to know how often medics around the country sedate people for supposed excited delirium. So we started in our own state, Colorado, where more than 100 paramedic agencies are allowed to use ketamine like this. We learned that in the last two and a half years, paramedics injected the drug 902 times.
Rae Solomon:We thought those numbers sounded high. Excited delirium is supposed to be rare. So we asked Dr. DeBard how many cases he would expect to see.
Mark DeBard:I came up with the number 57 as the number of expected cases, statistically speaking, for Colorado in those two and a half years.
Rae Solomon:We told Dr. DeBard about the 902 cases Colorado actually had over that time period.
Mark DeBard:That sounds like they had about 15 times more uses of ketamine for excited delirium syndrome than I would’ve expected.
Michael de Yoan…:In Colorado, we know how often paramedics use ketamine to sedate people for excited delirium because the state keeps track of that. But many states don’t and we couldn’t find any national data.
Rae Solomon:By phone, we ask Dr. DeBard about this.
Michael de Yoan…:Do you know how many EMS providers across the country are using ketamine for excited delirium?
Mark DeBard:Not right now, I don’t.
Michael de Yoan…:It does seem pretty widespread. That’s just the impress of it.
Mark DeBard:I would agree that it seems widespread but I have no data on that.
Michael de Yoan…:Yeah. Do you know if there is a universal definition for excited delirium being used by these EMS providers? And then beyond that, is there also universal training? Are they all getting the same education?
Mark DeBard:So I don’t know the answer to either one of those.
Michael de Yoan…:So we started counting ourselves. We found about 30 states across the country that allow paramedics to sedate people for excited delirium. And we know of at least one case where ketamine sedation for excited delirium contributed to a man’s death.
Rae Solomon:But until we have national data on how often people are sedated for excited delirium, there’s no way to say just how many are being harmed or how often excited delirium is misdiagnosed.
Michael de Yoan…:And that’s another thing we wanted to know from Dr. DeBard. In the case of a Elijah McKnight, does DeBard believe that Elijah was suffering from excited delirium?
Rae Solomon:Dr. DeBard agreed to watch the body cam footage. Can you hear it okay?
Mark DeBard:Yes, I can.
Rae Solomon:Dr. Debar watches as deputies have Elijah handcuffed and pinned to the ground and a paramedic crouches down to talk to him with.
Speaker 19:I’m with the fire department.
Elijah McKnight:Please help me.
Speaker 19:What’s your name?
Elijah McKnight:Elijah DeShawn McKnight.
Speaker 19:One more time.
Elijah McKnight:Elijah.
Speaker 19:Elijah.
Elijah McKnight:Deshawn is my middle name and McKnight is my last name.
Speaker 19:Okay.
Mark DeBard:He’s obviously understanding and answering their questions somewhat rationally.
Speaker 18:You guys can’t give him anything can you unless he goes to the hospital?
Speaker 19:We can give him ketamine and he’ll be sleeping like a baby but [inaudible].
Rae Solomon:Dr. Debar says no. He doesn’t see anything even close to excited delirium in Elijah’s body cam tape.
Mark DeBard:So yeah, the big deal on this is they sound like they want to give him ketamine to control his behavior as opposed to treat excited delirium syndrome.
Michael de Yoan…:So what about Elijah McKnight? What was going on for him that night? What was he feeling?
Elijah McKnight:Yeah, I freaked out for sure. I already got tased, I just felt like I was going to be the end of it. My life was in their hands. I’m thinking that like they killed people all the time and get away with it. I’m about to one of those victims. So I’m struggling.
Michael de Yoan…:Elijah is facing two felony assault charges, one for each deputy, along with two misdemeanors for obstruction.
Rae Solomon:Prosecution documents point to excited delirium. They say medics attempted to ask Elijah questions but he refused to give answers. They also say he was so strong that he kept lifting a deputy off the ground with his leg while restrained.
Elijah McKnight:The paramedics on the scene of the ketamine administration, I feel like giving false information. But if they’re saying I’m being wildly combative and experiencing excited delirium, they made something up because they’re like, “Oh yeah, he’s lifting everybody up off the ground, he was the Incredible Hulk.”
Michael de Yoan…:Elijah says he was drunk that night.
Rae Solomon:And he was scared and agitated after being tased.
Michael de Yoan…:But he doesn’t believe he had excited delirium.
Rae Solomon:And if he did wouldn’t that mean he was delirious and facing a medical emergency?
Michael de Yoan…:If that’s the case, it leaves him wondering why prosecutors even charged him at all?
Ike Sriskandara…:Michael de Yoanna is a reporter at KUNC Public Radio in Colorado. Rae Solomon was formerly at KUNC but is now a producer at Lemonada Media. After Michael and Rae’s story aired, Colorado passed a law restricting paramedics from using ketamine to sedate people during police confrontations. The State’s Health Department also put together a panel of experts and they concluded the diagnosis of excited delirium is prone to implicit bias and racism. After he was forcibly sedated, Elijah McKnight received $115,000 settlement from South Metro Fire Rescue. After the break, we continue looking at stories that question who has power and how it’s being used, with the look at laws restricting people’s right to vote. Some of them have been around for centuries.
Pippa Holloway:In early 19th century, Missouri. If you poisoned someone, you would lose the right to vote. But if you cut off someone’s ears, you would not lose the right to vote.
Ike Sriskandara…:That’s next on Reveal.

From the Center For Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah filling in for Al Letson. Eric Harris is 29 years old, he’s from St. Louis. And he said, growing up, he didn’t put a lot of stock in voting
Eric Harris:People in general, in the community that I come from, a lot of their family members are formerly incarcerated people. So they already have the mind frame of, “My vote is not going to count anyway.”
Ike Sriskandara…:Eric’s talking about a law in Missouri that takes the right to vote away from people if they are on parole or probation for a felony conviction.
Andrea Henderso…:I first interviewed Eric in 2020?
Ike Sriskandara…:That’s Andrea Henderson. She’s a Reveal Investigative Fellow.
Andrea Henderso…:I was working on a story about people who couldn’t vote in the Presidential Election because of this law in Missouri, which affects over 60,000 people.
Ike Sriskandara…:And nationwide, there were more than five million people who couldn’t vote in the last Presidential Election because of these kinds of laws. Half of the states in the US to even have five million people total.
Andrea Henderso…:And Eric was a part of this group that was helping people who were off of probation or parole get their vote back. And the group was also trying to get rid of this law that took their vote away in the first place.
Ike Sriskandara…:Voter restriction laws have been in the spotlight lately. Last year, some 19 states passed these laws. But Andrea says lost in this conversation, prisoner disenfranchisement. And these laws have been on the books since the founding of our nation. And advocates say they disproportionately target voters of color by design. So we asked Andrea, who’s also a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio, to look into the history of prisoner disenfranchisement laws in Missouri.
Andrea Henderso…:Eric remembers the exact moment he realized his vote was actually worth something.
Eric Harris:I was working in the law library at Tipton Correctional Facility. And that’s all I did was read, read, read, read, right? That’s all I was doing.
Andrea Henderso…:Tipton Correctional Facility is about 160 miles west of St. Louis, where Eric was born.
Eric Harris:I grew up in what we call the West Side of St. Louis.
Andrea Henderso…:The West Side of St. Louis is in a part of town that was once home to a black middle class. But then the General Motors Plant closed in the 1980s and jobs dried up. By the time Eric was born in the early 1990s, poverty and drugs had settled in.
Eric Harris:In our neighborhood, the kids jumping off the porch at 12.
Andrea Henderso…:Wait, what does jumping and off the porch mean?
Eric Harris:Getting into trouble, getting into mischief, being a knucklehead.
Andrea Henderso…:So were you a knucklehead at 14?
Eric Harris:I was a knucklehead at 12.
Andrea Henderso…:For the next decade, Eric had a series of run-ins with the law. And at 22, he landed at Tipton for four years. And that brings us back to that law library.
Eric Harris:When I got there, I was still filing appellant paperwork.
Andrea Henderso…:Eric was trying to appeal his conviction and he said, while he was at that law library, he’d also read books on American History and random case laws.
Eric Harris:Just to be gaining knowledge.
Andrea Henderso…:Eventually, Eric stumbled on the Missouri Constitution of 1820 and came across this section that basically said persons convicted of a felony may be excluded by law from voting. And Eric remembered thinking, “Why do they want to take my vote away?”
Eric Harris:They’re only stripping the vote away to keep power.
Andrea Henderso…:According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, around 63,000 formerly incarcerated people cannot a vote in the last Presidential Election because they were on probation or parole. And Reveal dug into the numbers and found that a quarter of those people were black. And that’s in a state where black folks make up about 12% of the population. Pippa Holloway is the author of Living In Infamy: Felon Disfranchisement and the History of American Citizenship.
Pippa Holloway:And then, I’m a Professor of History at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia.
Andrea Henderso…:Holloway says the early American States got their prisoner disenfranchisement laws from Britain.
Pippa Holloway:And that’s really the case in Missouri’s 1820 constitution.
Andrea Henderso…:At that time, black people couldn’t vote.
Pippa Holloway:In Missouri, the vast majority of the black population was enslaved and certainly across the south, that was the case. So this at this time is not about race or certainly not about denying African Americans the right to vote.
Andrea Henderso…:But Holloway says those early felon disenfranchisement laws were confusing.
Pippa Holloway:So here’s an example. In early 19th century, Missouri, if you poisoned someone, you would lose the right to vote. But if you cut off someone’s ears, you would not lose the right to vote.
Andrea Henderso…:Lawmakers believed cutting off someone’s ears could have been an accident, a sort of crime of passion. Whereas poisoning someone takes planning.
Pippa Holloway:In Kentucky, I found a case in which they said, “Well, what if a man beats his best friend to death with a croquet mallet because they’re playing croquet and he loses and he gets really mad?” And they say, “He shouldn’t lose the right to vote for that.” And I’m like, can you imagine what it would take to beat someone to death with a croquet mallet? Good Lord.
Andrea Henderso…:Holloway’s bigger point is when laws are complicated and difficult to understand they can be weaponized.
Pippa Holloway:And so a judge that doesn’t really remember was, “Is this a crime you lose the right to vote or not?” They’re going to say, “Okay, if a black person does it, they lose the right to vote. If a white person does it, they don’t.” Basically vague laws allow for racially biased enforcement.
Andrea Henderso…:And in 1916, about 100 years after the Missouri Constitution was ratified, this proved true in Missouri.
Pippa Holloway:So the 1916 Presidential Election is hotly contested across the country.
Andrea Henderso…:The election was during the great migration and millions of African Americans were moving north to escape the horrors of the Jim Crow south. And in St. Louis, the black population exploded.
Pippa Holloway:Democrats are running Woodrow Wilson for re-election.
Andrea Henderso…:Back then, most black voters were not Democrats. They identified as Republicans. It was a party of Lincoln.
Pippa Holloway:And Republicans were hoping that the additional influx of African American voters into Missouri is going to help Republican Charles Evans Hughes win the State of Missouri and possibly the country.
Andrea Henderso…:So to win, the Democrats launched a campaign to stop black voters from going to the polls. And they used felon disenfranchised men laws to do it.
Pippa Holloway:The few weeks before the election, white Missouri Democrats sent about 20 young attorneys to comb the criminal court records and compile lists of African American voters who’ve been convicted of crimes.
Andrea Henderso…:About 1,000 people ended up on that list or around 25% of the registered black voters in St. Louis. As election day approached, the Democrats put out a notice in the local papers. It read…
Pippa Holloway:As rapidly as they arrive at the polls, they will be challenged. If they insist on casting their ballots and start to swear in their vote, they’ll be arrested and charged it once with perjury.
Andrea Henderso…:African Americans fleeing the Jim Crow south had experienced intimidation and violence at the polls. They understood that this was not about the list.
Pippa Holloway:So basically it’s a threat to African American voters. Now what’s different in Missouri though, for these new voters, is they’ve got the Republican party on their side.
Andrea Henderso…:The Republicans hired an army of lawyers told black voters that if they were harassed at the polls, the party would defend them.
Pippa Holloway:So this sets the stage for a very exciting election day that November in 1916.
Andrea Henderso…:Exciting for white people. Despite the threats black men showed up at the polls. Remember women couldn’t vote then.
Pippa Holloway:And when men came to vote, they were challenged by these challengers. They say, “All right, we’re going to look at this list and see if you’re on it.” And whether or not they were, they could still accuse them of being on it, right?
Andrea Henderso…:Holloway says sometimes the voters shouldn’t have been voting.
Pippa Holloway:But much more likely, it was just someone with a same name or a similar name, and it was a false accusation.
Andrea Henderso…:In some precincts when that happened, the police were there to arrest black voters. At the end of election day, Holloway said there were about 96 black men who were arrested and accused of voting illegally. After nearly three years on parole, Eric got his right to vote back just in time for the 2020 Presidential Election.
Eric Harris:Hello, how are you doing?
Andrea Henderso…:That’s Eric greeting the poll worker at a library in St. Louis. He was gripping a manilla folder. In it, his release papers and a letter from the state that read, Restoration of Voting Rights. He showed it to the poll workers. They weren’t expecting this.
Speaker 27:Oh, all right. I get it.
Eric Harris:It’s good. It’s all right.
Andrea Henderso…:Since Eric was released from Tipton, he’s been part of a political awakening taking place in St. Louis. It was sparked by the killing of Michael Brown Jr. and activists who emerged from the Ferguson protests have been leading it. In fact, Eric told me he registered to vote in large part to elect one of those activists. Her name is Cori Bush.
Speaker 27:… call downtown. We’ll have to call. We’ll do it.
Andrea Henderso…:Back at the polling center, they can’t find Eric on the voter roll. And so they call the Board of Elections and a couple of phone calls later.
Linda:Hi Sharon, it’s Linda again, I looked up and got voter ID.
Andrea Henderso…:Eric gets his is ballot.
Linda:Here’s your ballot. You got all your papers?
Eric Harris:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andrea Henderso…:And for the first time in his life, Eric entered a voting booth. And when he came out, he had a little smile on his face.
Linda:So how do you feel?
Eric Harris:How do I feel?
Linda:Yeah.
Eric Harris:I feel wonderful actually, because with my vote, I would like to see elected officials bring people like myself to the table where decisions are being made about the people in the community that are mostly affected by it.
Andrea Henderso…:And Eric’s vote helped do that. His candidate, Cori Bush became the first black woman to represent Missouri in the US House of Representatives.
Ike Sriskandara…:Reveal Fellow and St. Louis Public Radio Reporter Andrea Henderson brought us that story. Today, Eric Harris is a community activist and he credits getting back the right to vote for putting him on this path.

Our lead producer for this week’s show is Stan Alcorn. He had help from Steven Rascon. Queena Kim edited the show. Special thanks to Reveal’s Melissa Lewis, Nina Martin, Katharine Mieszkowski and St. Louis Public Radio, Victoria Baranetsky is our general council. Our production manager is Amy Mostafa. Score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda. They had help this week from Jess Alvarenga and Kathryn Styer Martinez. Our digital producer is Sarah Mirk. Our theme music is by Camerado-Lightning. Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva & David Logan Foundation, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Inasmuch Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center For Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah, and as Al Letson usually reminds you here, there’s always more to the story.
Al Letson:If you like what we do and you want to help, well, it’s pretty simple. Just write as a review on Apple Podcast. It’s easy and only takes a few seconds. Just open the Apple Podcast app on your phone, search for Reveal, then scroll down to where you see write a review. And there, tell them how much you love the host. Your review makes it easier for listeners to find us and well, it really does us make a difference. And if you do it, you will get a personal thank you for me, right now. Not him, you. Yes, you. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. All right.
Speaker 29:From PRX.

Andrea Henderson

Andrea Henderson (she/her) covers race, identity and culture for St. Louis Public Radio. Before that, she assisted with the production of NPR’s podcast “Code Switch” and produced pieces for the weekend edition of “All Things Considered.” Henderson’s passion for storytelling began at a weekly newspaper in her hometown of Houston. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a master’s degree from Syracuse University. She won a 2020 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her contributions to St. Louis Public Radio’s news series Children Under Fire. For Reveal, Henderson is planning to investigate voting rights for formerly incarcerated felons.

Dhruv Mehrotra (he/him) is a data reporter for Reveal. He uses technology to find, build and analyze datasets for storytelling. Before joining Reveal, he was the investigative data reporter at Gizmodo and a researcher at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. In 2017, he was an artist in residence at Eyebeam, a nonprofit art and technology center in New York City.

At Gizmodo, he was on a team that was a finalist for the 2020 Gerald Loeb Award in explanatory reporting for the series Goodbye Big Five. Mehrota is based in New York.

Stan Alcorn is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. His radio work at Reveal has won awards including a Peabody Award, several Online Journalism Awards, an NABJ Salute to Excellence Award, and a Best of the West Award, as well as making him a finalist for a Livingston Award for Young Journalists. He previously was a reporter for Marketplace, covering business and economic news – from debit card fees levied on the formerly incarcerated to the economic impact of Beyoncé's hair. He has helped launch new shows at Marketplace, Slate, and WNYC; contributed research to books by journalists at Time and CNBC; and reported for outlets including NPR, PRI's The World, 99% Invisible, WNYC, FiveThirtyEight, Fast Company, High Country News, Narratively, and Digg. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California office.

Queena Sook Kim

Queena Sook Kim is a senior editor for Reveal. She was previously at KQED, where she supervised the weekend desk. Before that, she headed the Silicon Valley desk and hosted a statewide daily news show, The California Report, for the station. Kim was also a senior reporter covering technology for Marketplace and covered homebuilding and toys at The Wall Street Journal. She has spent much of her career starting up shows and editorial projects for local public radio stations. She most recently edited an eight-part documentary, “The Political Mind of Jerry Brown.” Kim is also the head of audio at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Her stories have appeared on NPR, WNYC’s The Takeaway, Here & Now, BBC’s Global Perspective and The New York Times’ multimedia page.

Amy Mostafa (she/they) is the production manager for Reveal. She is a UC Berkeley School of Journalism alum, where she focused on audio and data journalism as a Dean's Merit Fellow and an ISF Scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on NPR, KALW and KALX. Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She has most recently reported on housing and aging in the Bay Area. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Steven Rascón (he/they) is a production assistant for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is a sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. As a multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the original music, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. He has held four O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary abilities. His work has been recognized with Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Edward R. Murrow, Gerald Loeb, Third Coast and Association of Music Producers awards, as well as Emmy and Pulitzer nominations. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio for media and TV ads, and co-founded a film-scoring boutique called the Manhattan Composers Collective. He worked with clients such as Marvel, MasterClass and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck+Company, BUCK and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles, such as SFJAZZ Monday Night Band, Art&Sax quartet, Krychek, Dark Inc. and the New York Arabic Orchestra. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 Percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker,” Wondery’s “Detective Trapp,” MSNBC’s “Why Is This Happening?” and NBC’s “Born to Rule,” to name a few. Arruda also has a wide catalog of composed music for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which has premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. The original music he makes with Jim Briggs for Reveal can be found on Bandcamp.

Jess Alvarenga (they/she) is an associate producer for Reveal. They are an audio producer and documentary filmmaker from the American South. Meeting at the intersection of art and journalism, they use storytelling as a way to document and reimagine immigrant narratives, particularly those of the Central American diaspora. In 2017, Alvarenga was awarded an individual artist grant from the Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston for their work on the city’s Central American population. They have a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.

Kathryn Styer Martínez

Kathryn Styer Martínez (she/ella) is a production assistant for Reveal. She studies audio and photojournalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She is also a Greater Good Science Center reporting fellow, focusing on Latino well-being.

Martínez was the 2020-21 Toni Randolph reporting fellow at Minnesota Public Radio, the 2019-20 New Economy Reporting Project fellow and the former director of KGPC-LP FM, Peralta Community Radio. Her work has appeared in El Tecolote, The Oaklandside, MPR News, National Public Radio, Outside Online, Talk Poverty, New Life Quarterly and Making Contact.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in Raza studies and political science from San Francisco State University.

Kevin Sullivan is the executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Sullivan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Ike Sriskandarajah

Ike Sriskandarajah is a senior reporter, producer, and fill-in host for Reveal. He has worked on projects that have won an Emmy, two medals from Investigative Reporters and Editors, and awards from Third Coast, the Education Writers Association, and the New York Associated Press Association. He was a narrative audio producer at The New York Times, making investigative episodes for "The Daily." Sriskandarajah is from Wisconsin and reports from New York City.