Media Contact

Meredith Curtis Goode, 443-310-9946, media@aclu-md.org

January 25, 2019

Group Calls for an Independent Investigation by State Prosecutor or U.S. Department of Justice

GREENSBORO, MD – After viewing the disturbing police body camera footage of the death of Anton Black, and reading how the autopsy pushes a narrative of accidental death despite listing of nearly 50 injuries inflicted on the young man, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland is calling for an independent investigation by the Maryland State Prosecutor or the U.S. Department of Justice. The video shows a lack of proper investigation by officers from the beginning, followed by an inappropriate chase and excessive force against a young Black man who never should have been arrested in the first place. It is not illegal to run from the police, and does not constitute probable cause for arrest.

It does nothing to relieve growing suspicion that the Caroline County State’s Attorney has refused to honor Anton Black’s family’s request to convene a grand jury to more fully and independently investigate this case. Statement of Anton’s family: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-anton-black-documents-statement-autopsy-20190124-htmlstory.html

The ACLU is outraged by the gross delay in the handling and release of information related to the autopsy and police body camera footage, which raises significant red flags that local law enforcement agencies have something to hide in Anton’s death. The autopsy report was completed on September 16, and the cardiac consultation was dated November 1. But the autopsy was not released until a huge public outcry demanded it – on January 23, 115 days after Anton's death. In addition, the body camera footage was withheld from the family and the public until the massive public outcry demanded it, which included a demand from Governor Larry Hogan.

The ACLU is deeply troubled by the excessive force and brutality in Anton’s death. At nearly every step in the encounter, the police reacted with greater suspicion and force than necessary, which points to racial bias in the handling of the situation. The autopsy details severe blunt force trauma suffered by Anton prior to his death. He suffered a massive list of wounds inflicted by the police, who also smashed the window of the car where he was seeking refuge from being chased. Then police tased him with no justifiable grounds for doing so.

It is painful even to watch the video, as multiple officers and civilians join together to chase a young Black man when there was no basis for pursuit. It is not against the law to run from police when you did not commit a crime. The ACLU believes the entire encounter never needed to escalate at all, because it was clear that no abduction was taking place, whether or not Anton Black and the younger boy were brothers, which seems to be the only question the police ask before seeking to arrest Anton. No meaningful investigation actually occurred, and the younger boy did not appear to be in any distress.

The ACLU is also alarmed by the false claims made by police at the scene and in the media while the investigation was under way and while information was being withheld from the family and the public by the police. The medical examiner claims that Anton suffered from bipolar disorder, without examining him while he was alive. Smears by police included claims that Anton was using drugs – a claim clearly refuted by the autopsy that was negative for drugs. Police also claimed that Anton was schizophrenic without any medical training to make such a diagnosis. If the police actually believed Anton was having a mental health episode, then beating and tasing him clearly should not be the approved protocol for dealing with people with mental illness, especially those who are unarmed, cornered, and no imminent danger to themselves or others.

Finally, the ACLU is disgusted by Officer Thomas Webster’s comment after the killing that it was “a real show” – this coming from a man who has had repeated, serious complaints of misconduct against him. In fact, Greensboro decided to hire Webster even after he was caught on video breaking a teen’s jaw and was dismissed from employment in Dover, DE.

There must be justice for Anton Black.

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