Richmond, Virginia-based legal affairs writer Denise Lavoie found a fresh angle beyond spot coverage of the racial justice movement, highlighting a push from families to reopen investigations into cases where Black men were killed by police but no officers were charged.

Lavoie had developed a relationship over two years with the family of Marcus-David Peters, a man who was killed in 2018 by Richmond police during a mental health crisis. When nightly protests began in Richmond after George Floyd’s killing, she noticed that protesters made reopening the investigation into Peters’ death one of their top demands for reform.

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Thulani DeMarsay, right, aunt of Danroy “DJ” Henry Jr., who was shot and killed by a police officer, speaks as Henry’s uncle, Jamele Dozier, holds a photo of Henry during a news conference in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, April 21, 2011. Conflicting information about the Henry’s killing has emerged since he was shot by a police officer in New York State in 2010. The case, like others nationwide, has received renewed scrutiny since the killing of George Floyd.

AP Photo / Steven Senne

Additional reporting revealed at least a dozen similar calls to reopen investigations in cases around the country. Lavoie focused on three of those in different states, with victims of different backgrounds who were killed under different circumstances. Through persistent work over the course of two months, she convinced the three families to talk about their loved ones and their efforts to persuade prosecutors to reopen closed investigations.

The story received solid play, including in Oklahoma City, where one of the highlighted cases occurred, and strong reader engagement.