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David Phillips pauses for a portrait before placing a final flower bouquet on the grave of his son, Desmond Phillips, at Saint Mary Cemetery in Sacramento, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. In 2017, 25-year-old Desmond was shot and killed by Chico police at home during a mental health crisis. Phillips, who has advocated for police reform in the years since witnessing his son's murder, says he has been largely met with inaction and indifference.

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David Phillips pauses for a portrait before placing a final flower bouquet on the grave of his son, Desmond Phillips, at Saint Mary Cemetery in Sacramento, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. In 2017, 25-year-old Desmond was shot and killed by Chico police at home during a mental health crisis. Phillips, who has advocated for police reform in the years since witnessing his son's murder, says he has been largely met with inaction and indifference.

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In March 2017, officers with the Chico police department killed 25-year-old Desmond Phillips during a mental health crisis, in front of his father's eyes. David Phillips is still fighting for justice. For activists and reformers, Chico is a cautionary tale of what can happen when earnest appeals for reform are co-opted by the police themselves.


Photographed for The Guardian.

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A Chico police patrol car drives past an area known locally as “the Triangle” in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. In February, Chico police cleared out homeless encampments in the Triangle following an ordinance banning the city’s unhoused population from sheltering in public parks. Local police reform activists say that the police are ill-equipped to help solve Chico’s homelessness crisis.

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A Chico police patrol car drives past an area known locally as “the Triangle” in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. In February, Chico police cleared out homeless encampments in the Triangle following an ordinance banning the city’s unhoused population from sheltering in public parks. Local police reform activists say that the police are ill-equipped to help solve Chico’s homelessness crisis.

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David Phillips’ grandchildren Dejuan Allen, Leilanni Allen, and Donnell Allen talk and eat dinner at Phillips’ home in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Phillips says that he refuses to move from the apartment where his son Desmond was shot and killed by police until he and his family receive justice. Multiple bullet holes are still visible in the walls and furniture in his living room.

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David Phillips’ grandchildren Dejuan Allen, Leilanni Allen, and Donnell Allen talk and eat dinner at Phillips’ home in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Phillips says that he refuses to move from the apartment where his son Desmond was shot and killed by police until he and his family receive justice. Multiple bullet holes are still visible in the walls and furniture in his living room.

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Leilanni Allen, the granddaughter of David Phillips, poses for a portrait at Phillips’ home in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Allen, not yet a year old when her uncle Desmond Phillips was shot and killed by police, wears a shirt honoring him and Marc Thompson, a family relative who was also murdered in 2014.

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Leilanni Allen, the granddaughter of David Phillips, poses for a portrait at Phillips’ home in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Allen, not yet a year old when her uncle Desmond Phillips was shot and killed by police, wears a shirt honoring him and Marc Thompson, a family relative who was also murdered in 2014.

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Activist Cory Hunt poses for a portrait at Chico City Plaza in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Hunt is a founding member of Justice 4 Desmond Phillips, as well as the newly formed Defund Chico PD group. He says that he was compelled to join the demands for police accountability, having recognized many parallels between his own life and that of Desmond Phillips.

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Activist Cory Hunt poses for a portrait at Chico City Plaza in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Hunt is a founding member of Justice 4 Desmond Phillips, as well as the newly formed Defund Chico PD group. He says that he was compelled to join the demands for police accountability, having recognized many parallels between his own life and that of Desmond Phillips.

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A passerby walks through the campus of California State University, Chico, Saturday, March 6, 2021. University students were active in local demonstrations against racist police violence last summer. More recently, students have participated in “die-in” demonstrations to protest the criminalization and forced removal of homeless camps in Chico.

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A passerby walks through the campus of California State University, Chico, Saturday, March 6, 2021. University students were active in local demonstrations against racist police violence last summer. More recently, students have participated in “die-in” demonstrations to protest the criminalization and forced removal of homeless camps in Chico.

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Community organizer Rain Scher poses for a portrait in Los Molinos, Calif., on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Scher is a founding member of the Justice 4 Desmond Phillips group, which now, Scher says, is aligned with the defund the police movement.

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Community organizer Rain Scher poses for a portrait in Los Molinos, Calif., on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Scher is a founding member of the Justice 4 Desmond Phillips group, which now, Scher says, is aligned with the defund the police movement.

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Chico City Council Member Alex Brown poses for a portrait at the Fred David Municipal Center in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Brown has advocated for community engagement in the process of reviewing Chico police department’s use of force policies.

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Chico City Council Member Alex Brown poses for a portrait at the Fred David Municipal Center in Chico, Calif., on Friday, March 5, 2021. Brown has advocated for community engagement in the process of reviewing Chico police department’s use of force policies.

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David Phillips reads from a Bible while visiting the grave of his son, Desmond Phillips, who was killed by police in 2017, Friday, March 5, 2021 in Sacramento, Calif. Phillips says he refuses to move from the apartment where the murder took place until there is justice for his son.

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David Phillips reads from a Bible while visiting the grave of his son, Desmond Phillips, who was killed by police in 2017, Friday, March 5, 2021 in Sacramento, Calif. Phillips says he refuses to move from the apartment where the murder took place until there is justice for his son.

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A dead end sign is seen at dusk in Chico, Calif., on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Chico was once a sundown town, a term that comes from the practice of posting signs warning Black people to leave town by sundown. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, less than 2 percent of Chico’s population is Black.

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A dead end sign is seen at dusk in Chico, Calif., on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Chico was once a sundown town, a term that comes from the practice of posting signs warning Black people to leave town by sundown. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, less than 2 percent of Chico’s population is Black.

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Chico Police Department headquarters is seen in Chico, Calif. on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Activists say that Chico police have co-opted the movement for local police reform.

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Chico Police Department headquarters is seen in Chico, Calif. on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Activists say that Chico police have co-opted the movement for local police reform.

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