Family seeks body cam footage, autopsy report
DENTON — Family and friends of Anton Black, the 19-year-old Greensboro teen who died in September while in police custody, spoke Monday, Dec. 17, in front of the Caroline County Courthouse, about the lack of answers they have gotten from investigators three months after his death.
Black graduated from North Caroline High School, Class of 2016. He was a star athlete, having played wide receiver for the football team and running track and field. He previously lived in Kent County and attended Kent County High School through the middle of his 10th-grade year.
At the Dec. 17 news conference, attorney Rene Swafford presented a list of the Black family’s requests, including the public release of footage from the body camera worn by a responding police officer the night Black died; the public release of Black’s complete toxicology and autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; and turning over the case from the Maryland State Police and Caroline County State’s Attorney’s Office to federal authorities.
Swafford said the family is also asking all involved police officers be placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the investigation, including state police, who the family said violated civil rights by seizing a car and a cellphone without warrants.
“My family and I have patiently been waiting for answers involving the death of our brother, son, father and uncle, Anton Black,” said LaToya Holley, Black’s sister. “It’s been 90 days and we have gotten no answers from anyone. We’ve received media-fueled stories with untruths about what happened to him, and frankly, we’ve had enough.
“We know the truth and we want the truth to come out,” Holley said. “We’re seeking justice for Anton, that’s all we want. He would not have died in vain. He was a good man. A lot of people in this community know Anton. Please help us in this fight to clear his name and see that we get justice for him.”
Brandon Jackson, Black’s brother, said he wants to know why Black’s infant daughter, who was born after he died, will never know her father.
“I would like to know why my little brother is dead,” Jackson said. “He was 19 years old, a model. He was in college. He wasn’t in the streets. He didn’t do drugs. He was a good man, and now he’s dead.
“We’ve been asking for answers, and we’ve been getting nothing,” Jackson said.
Katyra Boyce, the mother of Black’s infant daughter Winter Black read a statement with help from her grandmother Mary Boyce.
“Anton passed away two months before our daughter was born,” Mary Boyce read. “And I still have many questions with no answers.”
Mary Boyce read that Black often talked about his unborn daughter, wondering what she would look like, and about how he wanted his little family to get a place of their own.
“And I’m going to have to explain to my daughter one day why she doesn’t have a father,” Katyra Boyce said, taking over reading her statement. “Anton’s life was stolen from him, and in his absence, it was stolen from us as well.”
Mary Boyce then made her own statement. She said the town of Greensboro is like a neon sign that says “We are racist,” and that everyone involved in Black’s death should be investigated.
“Somebody needs to make a stand,” she said. “Somebody knows what really took place, and they’re too much of a coward to come out and stand for what is right.
“Justice has got to be served for this child; it’s wrong,” Mary Boyce said. “If this were a white child, I’d feel the same way. Let justice prevail.”
The Rev. Cornelius Berry, of New Beginnings United Methodist Church in Ridgely, said Scripture reminds everyone to carry each other’s burdens.
“When the family hurts, we all hurt,” Berry said. “When the family mourns, we all mourn. We have a responsibility as a community to stand behind the family and to love them, support them and hold them up during their time of grieving and during their time of protest. I stand with them and support them in their quest for justice for Anton Black.”
The initial report from the Maryland State Police, which took over the investigation, said Black was accused of trying to abduct a 12-year-old boy shortly after 7 p.m. Sept. 15. An officer from the Greensboro Police Department was dispatched and allegedly saw Black forcibly restraining a boy.
Police said Black tried to flee, and the foot pursuit ended at Black’s home in the 13000 block of Greensboro Drive, where Black jumped into the driver’s seat of his vehicle, parked next to the home.
Police said Black then tried to exit the passenger side of his vehicle, and the officer deployed his department-issued Taser, striking Black, who continued to flee. Black allegedly bit two police officers and a civilian who was trying to help police.
Police said Black eventually was placed in handcuffs and ankle restraints. Moments later, officers recognized Black was showing signs of medical distress, police said. They called for an ambulance and gave medical assistance on scene by administering Narcan and performing CPR.
Black was taken by ambulance to University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton, where he later was pronounced dead.
Black’s body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy. The autopsy did not reveal a cause of death, and no significant injuries were noted by the pathologist, police said.
The toxicology results, along with the results of additional testing of vital organs, were expected to take four to six weeks.
Caroline County State’s Attorney Joe Riley said Dec. 17 that he recently contacted the medical examiner to ask when to expect the toxicology report. He said one of the assistant medical examiners verbally summarized the results over the phone, which Riley said he then shared with Swafford and Greensboro’s town attorney, but a written document detailing the complete report has still not been received by the state’s attorney’s office.
Riley said he did not know when that report was expected to be made public.
Riley said Black’s family’s attorneys also have viewed the footage from the body camera of Greensboro Officer Thomas Webster IV, and while that footage is not public, Black’s family is welcome to view it too.
Webster is a former Dover, Del., officer, released by that city’s police depart- ment in 2016, three years after a dash cam captured footage of Webster, who is white, kicking Lateef Dickerson, an unarmed black man, in the face and breaking his jaw, and two months after a jury acquitted Webster of a resulting assault charge.
The City of Dover agreed to pay Webster $230,000 over six years after his release from the police department on the condition he never again would seek employment there and paid Dickerson $300,000 to drop a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.
Webster was hired by Greensboro’s department early this year and began patrolling in April, amid protests from town residents.
When questioned at the Oct. 4 Greensboro Town Council meeting as to why Webster was still on duty during the investigation, Town Manager Jeannette DeLude said the town attorney advised them not to put him on leave.
Black’s family issued a news release announcing their planned appearance at the courthouse Dec. 17. In addition to calling for the release of the body camera footage, the family stated in the release that they wanted to address inadequate and false information being spread by unnamed police sources through the media about Black’s death and make the public aware of what they say were numerous violations of constitutional and civil rights by the Maryland State Police during their investigation.
“The family wants the lies to stop and the release of Officer Webster IV’s Body Worn Camera footage to the public,” they said in the release.
Black’s family said Maryland State Police wrongfully seized the involved vehicle, which belonged to Black’s father, and Black’s cellphone without a warrant, and refuted details in the police report.
The family said the vehicle was returned to the family, having been “ransacked” during the investigation, but the cellphone has not. They are asking for the cellphone back.
The family said the unnamed police sources in the Maryland State Police’s preliminary incident report gave false statements in an attempt to demonize Black and cover up his wrongful death, which subsequently were reported by local media.
“The pain of demonizing Anton Black by unnamed police officers through the media, with the media then reporting to the public fake news, continues to haunt the family, who already are trying to deal with Anton’s death and the recent birth of his daughter, Winter Black, who will grow up not ever being held by her father,” the family said in the news release.
The family said reports in the initial autopsy finding no significant injuries to Black’s body are uncorroborated.
Once the Maryland State Police has completed its investigation, the Caroline County State’s Attorney’s Office is slated to review the report and decide if charges are warranted.
“What happened to Anton Black is incredibly tragic,” Riley said.
Family and friends of Anton Black gather Monday, Dec. 17, in front of the Caroline County Courthouse to speak about the lack of answers received in the three months since Black died in police custody. From left are Denton Town Council member Doncella Wilson; LaToya Holley, Black’s sister; Antone and Jenelle Black, Black’s parents; and Katyra Boyce, the mother of Black’s daughter, who was born after her father’s death.