Greensboro, MD — On September 15, 2018, the family of 19-year-old Anton Black watched in horror as Greensboro police officers chased their son to the door of their home, held him down and kneeled on him for 6 minutes until he went unconscious and eventually died. Since that fateful day, nearly four years ago, no one has been held accountable for his death.
This week, the taxpayers of Maryland were told that they would now be held liable for the acts of the officers involved — to the tune of $5,000,000.00. A federal lawsuit was recently settled by Black's parents, claiming that their son's in-custody death was discriminatory and unconstitutional. It also charges that the state medical examiner conspired with police to cover up the "wrongful actions by officers."
Less than a year after he was killed, the officers involved were cleared. Now, the family hopes their son's death is not in vain and will lead to changes in all the departments involved in Black's death.
"It's a good ol' boy thing. No charges," said Black's father, Anton Black. "They killed him -- not even a misdemeanor charge. (If) they do a dog like they did my son, somebody (would) be charged, somebody would be in jail. These fellas should be under the jail."
Though the autopsy claimed Black suffered a "cardiac event," Renee Swafford, one of the attorneys for the family, said Anton Black suffered 43 blunt trauma wounds during his altercation with police officers. The medical examiner said this did not play a role in Black's death.
Despite the state originally claiming Black was high on drugs, no drugs or alcohol were found in his system.
According to the The New York Times:
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The lawsuit also contended that the officers tried to cover up an unjustified killing by claiming that Mr. Black was under the influence of marijuana laced with another drug and had exhibited “superhuman” strength.
An autopsy report released four months later by the state’s medical examiner at the time, David Fowler, blamed congenital heart abnormalities for Mr. Black’s death and classified the death as an accident, saying there was no evidence that the police officers’ actions had played a role. The litigation by Mr. Black’s family against the medical examiner’s office and Mr. Fowler — also defendants in their lawsuit — is continuing.
Judge Catherine Blake of U.S. District Court in Maryland said in a ruling earlier this year that the video evidence from Mr. Black’s encounter with the police “is not so conclusive as to ‘clearly contradict’ and outweigh the plaintiffs’ allegations” of excessive force, which dealt a setback to the Police Departments’ case.
On the day he died, Black was horsing around with his cousin when someone called police to report a kidnapping. When police showed up, Black — who suffered from bipolar disorder — was getting into a car, at which point officer Thomas Webster smashed the window and then tasered him.
Black jogged away slowly back home before he was caught and pinned down on the porch of his own home — held there by three officers and a civilian — until he stopped breathing.
Family members said Anton Black pleaded "Mommy, help" as officers pressed his face, chest and stomach to the ground for six minutes. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
As part of the lawsuit, the department's involved in Black's death will be required to provide more resources for police officers who encounter mental health emergencies, de-escalation training, lessons on implicit bias and transparency with hiring — something Black's parents hope will protect other teenagers from the same fate
"There are no words to describe the immense hurt that I will always feel when I think back on that tragic day, when I think of my son,” Jennell Black, Black’s mother, said in a statement to the Times. “No family should have to go through what we went through. I hope the reforms within the Police Departments will save lives and prevent any family from feeling the pain we feel every day.”