State to investigate officer’s hiring
Records of Greensboro officer in Anton Black’s death were not complete
State officials will investigate the hiring of the Greensboro police office involved in the death of Anton Black, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman said Saturday.
Gerard Shields said the agency would launch an investigation into why a complete record of Thomas Webster IV’s policing history was not sent to the public safety department when state officials were asked to consider granting the officer police powers in Maryland so he could join the force in the small Eastern Shore town. The investigation will not begin until the Maryland State Police complete its probe, Shields said.
Shields said some of Webster’s personnel records — including incidents involving “use of force” — were not included in an application sent by the Greensboro police to the public safety department for certification consideration when Webster was hired. Shields said Webster was granted provisional certification in January 2018 and final approval last May.
The Maryland commission on police training will review the information and decide whether to decertify Webster, Shields said. Decertification would stop Webster from working as an officer in the state, he said. “We believe that that information should have been provided with the certification application, and that’s why we want to go back and look,” Shields said.
Webster was recently placed on administrative leave by the Greensboro police after Black’s death in police custody Sept. 15. Greensboro allowed Webster to remain on the job for almost four months after the death of the African-American teen.
Webster shocked Black, 19, with a Taser after the teen fled when Webster approached him about a report of a kidnapping. According to body-camera footage released by the Greensboro police, Webster commanded Black to put his hands behind him, but Black fled. Black ran to his parents’ home and got into a family member’s parked car, police video footage shows.
Webster is seen on the video using his baton to break the car’s window and reach in to shock Black with a Taser. After a struggle, Webster and officers who joined the chase force Black to the ground. Black then shows signs of medical distress and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the death to be an accident, the result of “sudden cardiac death.” The autopsy report says the struggle contributed to Black’s death and noted that Black had an underlying heart condition.
Shields said the personnel records supplied to the public safety department did include some of Webster’s full history. The file disclosed that Webster had been indicted on second-degree assault charges while working as an officer in Delaware. Dash-cam footage from that incident showed Webster kicking a black man in the head during a 2013 arrest. Webster was later found not guilty, according to news reports, and resigned with a $230,000 severance package.
“What the [Greensboro police] didn’t put in there was disciplinary filings in his record,” Shields said. “We found out about them after this incident happened.”
Debbie Sorrells, the mother of Amy Caprio, a Baltimore County police officer who died in the line of duty, watches a short film during the Fallen Heroes Workout, a scholarship fundraiser to honor Caprio, at Sweat Performance in Timonium.