Greensboro, MD - Greensboro police are being accused of using excessive force, after an attempted kidnapper died of a heart attack while fighting with officers (video below).
The medical examiner concluded that 19-year-old Anton Black died of sudden cardiac arrest on Sept. 15, 2018, and that his mental illness, an underlying heart issue, and the physical altercation with police contributed to the onset of his medical emergency, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Greensboro police released bodycam footage of the incident on Thursday, after county prosecutors announced that the officers’ use of force was justified, and that no criminal charges will be filed against them, CBS News reported.
“It speaks for itself. It shows proper police procedure,” Greensboro Police Department Chief Mike Petyo said of the video, according to The Baltimore Sun. “It shows genuine concern for the decedent.”
The incident unfolded after a woman called 911 to report that a man, later identified as Black, was dragging a 12-year-old boy down the street, CBS News reported.
Greensboro Police Officer Thomas Webster responded to the area, and made contact with Black and the boy.
At one point, the officer said he saw Black pinning the child up against the patrol car hood, according to prosecutors.
Black told the officer that he was the boy’s brother, but the child immediately rebuked that claim, bodycam footage showed.
“No! He’s not my brother, bro!” the boy yelled, just before he ran off towards another adult.
Black’s family later claimed that he and the boy were friends, and that they had been playing, CBS News reported.
Black continued to insist he was the child’s brother, at which point Officer Webster calmly told him to put his hands behind his back.
The suspect scoffed, then began running down the street away from the officer.
Officer Webster began chasing Black on foot, and notified dispatch that the man had tried to abduct the young boy.
The pursuit ended in a mobile home park, where Black jumped into a white car and locked himself inside.
Before Black had an opportunity to drive away, Officer Webster broke out the driver’s side window of the car.
Black moved over into the passenger seat, and the officer deployed his Taser as Black jumped out of the passenger side of the car, seemingly unaffected by the shock.
Other officers arrived at the scene and helped to prevent Black from running away again.
A motorcyclist who happened to be traveling past also jumped in to help the officers during the struggle that ensued.
Black bit one of the officers as the group wrestled him up onto a front porch, the video showed.
He refused to comply with their orders, and Officer Webster told the other officers that the suspect was schizophrenic.
The officers then restrained and supported his upper body, while the Good Samaritan eased his legs out from beneath him so he could be lowered onto the porch.
Although Black continued to struggle against them, the officers remained calm and continued their attempts to secure him into handcuffs.
Black’s mother stepped out of the residence, just as the officers finished securing his second hand with the handcuffs.
“Anton here, tried to abduct a 12-year-old, and then fled from the police,” Officer Webster explained to her.
The suspect continued to kick his legs, and his mother and another male repeatedly told him to stop fighting with the officers.
“He’s not calm. He’s having a rough time,” Officer Webster said at one point. He also confirmed with Black’s mother that Black had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“This is a mental health emergency,” he ultimately determined. “We’re not treating this as a crime. He’s definitely – he’s not with us right now….We’re going to get him some help.”
Black eventually quit responding, at which point the officers checked his pulse and breathing several times.
But as they waited for EMS to respond, Black’s condition worsened, and the officers removed his handcuffs to start CPR.
They also administered a dose of Narcan, in the event he was having an adverse reaction to a narcotic.
Black was transported to a local hospital by ambulance, where he was pronounced dead.
Caroline County State’s Attorney Joseph Riley said that he is “not empowered to prosecute tragic acts,” such as Black’s fatal heart attack, CBS News reported.
But attorneys for Black’s family said that police killed Black by using excessive force, and that his death was not accidental.
Black had 43 abrasions or contusions on his body at the time of his death, but the bodycam footage did not show him being injured or struck by the officers, the medical examiner concluded, according to The Baltimore Sun.
“In any event, Anton Black did not die because of any mental condition,” the family’s attorneys told CBS News.
They said they also plan to ask the Department of Justice to investigate the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland said that either a federal or an independent investigation needs to be opened.
“There was no reason for Anton Black to die,” the ACLU said, adding that the bodycam video “is painful to even watch.”
“The ACLU is deeply troubled by the excessive force and brutality in Anton’s death,” the group told The Baltimore Sun in a statement. “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 ACLU also expressed outrage that the video and autopsy report were not released sooner, and criticized the officers for believing Black was schizophrenic, even though his own mother had confirmed his medical diagnosis.
“Police also claimed that Anton was schizophrenic without any medical training to make such a diagnosis,” the ACLU said. “If the police actually believed Anton was having a mental health episode, then beating and tasing him was probably not the approved protocol for dealing with people with mental illness, especially those who are unarmed, cornered, and no imminent danger to themselves or others.”
The group said it is also “disgusted” by Officer Webster, who at one point said that the entire incident “turned into a real show,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
The ACLU expressed outrage that Officer Webster was hired by the Greensboro Police Department after he was charged – and acquitted – on allegations that he assaulted a suspect by kicking him in the head in 2013.
Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson declared that “there was nothing…that was threatening about Black, and that his death was “avoidable,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
Chief Petyo said he is standing behind his officers, and that they followed procedure and showed concern for Black throughout the incident.
“They didn’t go full-out use of force,” the chief reiterated. “He used a Taser. It wasn’t effective. It didn’t subdue him.”
Officer Webster was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month, but has since returned to active duty, Chief Petyo told CBS News.
He is not currently assigned to uniformed duties, does not have contact with the public, and is not on patrol, however.
You can watch bodycam footage of the officers’ encounter with Black in the video below: