Greensboro, Maryland: Officials have released body camera video of a deadly encounter between police and Anton Black, a black teenager who died after struggling with officers in a town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Greensboro Police Chief Mike Petyo released the footage after a county prosecutor announced Thursday that he isn’t asking a grand jury to consider criminal charges in the September 2018 death of 19-year-old Anton Black.
Caroline County State’s Attorney Joseph Riley said in a statement that his office “is not empowered to prosecute tragic acts.” An autopsy report, signed Wednesday by the state’s chief medical examiner, says Black’s congenital heart condition, mental illness, and stress from the struggle likely contributed to his death.
Lawyers for Black’s family vowed Thursday to ask the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division to investigate his death.
Riley told The Baltimore Sun that his office’s investigation remains open.
“If I am provided new information,” he said, “that could potentially change my position.”
Family attorneys had urged Riley to convene a grand jury for the investigation. They claim police used excessive force on the teen and argue the autopsy report mischaracterizes his death as accidental.
“The autopsy raises serious questions about why such a high degree of force was used on an unarmed teenager on his own property who posed no threat to law enforcement or the public,” Timothy Maloney, one of the family lawyers, wrote in an email Thursday.
The encounter began when Greensboro Police Department officer Thomas Webster IV responded to a report of Black dragging a 12-year-old boy down a street. Lawyers for Black’s family say he merely was playing with a longtime friend and wasn’t harming the child.
The body camera video shows officers chase Black before he locked himself inside a car parked outside his family’s home. An officer used a baton to break the driver’s side window and then shocked Black with a Taser through the broken window before the teen got out and began struggling with the officers.
“Stop! You’re under arrest!” an officer yelled.
The body camera footage shows Black’s mother screaming her son’s name as she sees officers pinning him down outside her home.
“Anton, stop, baby!” she said after police handcuffed him.
“I love you!” he shouted.
“You’ll be better if you don’t fight. Calm down,” a man said off camera.
“This is a mental health emergency. We’re not treating this like a crime,” an officer says. “He’s going to be OK. We’re going to get him some help.”
About 30 seconds later, the officers turned the handcuffed teen onto his back and checked for a pulse.
“He’s breathing,” a voice says.
Nearly three minutes later, his mother points out that her son is “turning dark.” Officers removed his handcuffs and began performing CPR on him. Black later was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The medical examiner’s report says Black’s medical record shows he recently had been involuntarily hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The report describes his mental illness as a “significant contributing condition.”
Maloney and Rene Swafford, another attorney representing the family, said they are conducting an independent review of forensic and medical evidence.
“In any event, Anton Black did not die because of any mental condition,” they said in a statement.