A federal civil rights investigation has been launched following the fatal shooting of a black teenager by U.S. Park Police (USPP) in Washington, D.C., last month and the subsequent release on Tuesday of graphic bodycam footage detailing the tragic incident.
Dalaneo Martin, 17, was asleep inside an SUV that he allegedly stole when, on March 18, D.C. police responded. The ignition was running, NBC News4 reports, when members of the Metropolitan Police Department arrived on the scene.
For reasons that are unclear, the officers determined the car was stolen and called for backup. Two USPP officers responded.
On the bodycam footage, a senior D.C. police officer instructs his colleagues not to enter the vehicle, as per D.C. police training and procedure.
“If he takes off just let him go,” the officer says, “but don’t get inside that car.”
Despite the direction, a USPP officer climbs into the backseat of the SUV in an attempt to arrest Martin.
“Police, don’t move,” the officer orders Martin.
But, after apparently struggling with the officers who are outside the vehicle, Martin drives off, the USPP officer still in the seat behind him.
“Stop man, just let me out,” the officer tells Martin while reaching for his gun. “Stop. Stop or I’ll shoot!”
The officer then shoots Martin multiple times in the back, and, as the teenager and father of a five-month-old baby screams, the SUV slams into a home.
Martin was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police say they later found a gun in the vehicle but admitted the officers didn’t know it was there until after the car crashed.
According to Kenneth Spencer, chairman of the USPP union, the police acted appropriately.
“The officer had lawful reason to enter the vehicle,” he said, “and both officers involved took appropriate actions for lawful reasons.”
Understandably, Martin’s family doesn’t see it that way.
“Six shots to the back,” said Andrew O. Clarke, an attorney for the Martin family. “How can you explain that?”
After viewing the bodycam footage, the teen’s mother, Terra Martin, called it murder.
“He murdered my son and should be prosecuted,” she said.
A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office announced the civil rights probe, NBC reports.
“The loss of a life is always tragic but is especially heartbreaking when it involves a child,” the office said. “On Saturday, March 18th, 17-year-old Dalaneo Martin tragically died after a shooting involving the U.S. Park Police, and we recognize that the body-worn camera footage just released of his death is extremely upsetting. We extend our condolences to Mr. Martin’s family and friends.”
“In coordination with the FBI Washington Field Office, the United States Attorney’s Office has opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances leading to Mr. Martin’s death,” it continued. “That investigation—which we are committed to conducting diligently and thoroughly—is ongoing. As this is an open matter, we are not able to provide additional comment or release further information at this time.”
Clarke invoked the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others at a Wednesday press conference.
“Dalaneo did not have to die,” he said. “How long will they be able to hide behind their badge to justify taking a life? How long will we as a community have to continue to have the talk with our young black children because they are treated differently by police? … We will continue to pursue justice for Dalaneo with or without the help of the federal government or the District of Columbia.”
“I want the officer’s name released immediately,” Terra Martin said. “I want him arrested. I want him to stop getting paid while he murdered my son and still home with his family, not doing no work, and getting paid for murder.”
“Time and time again, I sit and I try to get my head wrapped around this,” she said, “and I can’t. I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. And justice needs to be served.”
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