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ACLU Requests Body-Cam Footage in Teen’s Death

More than four months ago, 19-year-old Anton Black died while in police custody in the small town of Greensboro on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but requests by Black’s family, members of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black and local press for the release of available police body camera footage have gone unanswered.

In response to law enforcement’s continued silence and delay in the face of growing demand for answers, the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Maryland chapter intervened, offering the Black family its support.

On Saturday, the ACLU of Maryland launched an online petition drive calling for immediate disclosure of the footage from body cameras worn by police during the incident.

Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said the petition gathered more than 1,000 signees in its first 24 hours.

“This late in the day, the lack of transparency in the case of Anton Black is highly aberrational when compared with other jurisdictions in Maryland and across the country,” Jeon said. “Months have passed since Anton’s death, and still his family is being kept in the dark, when numerous police agencies — and even outsiders — have been allowed to watch the video that shows how their loved one died. It’s unconscionable.”

Jeon cited a police-involved shooting in Tempe, Arizona, last week in which a 14-year-old was killed and footage was released in a matter of days.

Richard Potter, a leader of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black, said the support of the ACLU of Maryland demonstrates a growing awareness of and support for the case.

“The ACLU has a larger base to draw from, and their partnership has enabled the request of the family of Anton Black to reach their members on the Eastern Shore and Western Shore,” said Potter, a former educator in Washington who now works in higher education. “Support of the ACLU signifies there are other individuals who care about taking up the cause of seeking justice for the family and the community who knew Anton. We are seeking to understand what happened to Anton and the continuing withholding of information makes it hard for us to understand.”

Body-Cam Footage in Delaware

In early January, Greensboro Police Officer Thomas Webster IV was placed on administrative leave, nearly four months after contact with Anton Black on Sept. 15, 2018. In the immediate aftermath of Black’s death, body camera footage, reportedly more than a half-hour long, was shared with a private citizen in Caroline County and legal representatives for the Black family, but has not yet been shared with family members.

While an officer with the Dover Police Department in August 2013, Webster was captured on dash-cam footage kicking an African-American man, complying with orders to get on the ground, in the face. The man’s jaw was broken.

According to news reports, following then-Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s failure to secure a grand jury indictment against Webster, a judge in a civil rights lawsuit ruled in May 2015 that video capturing the event could be released publicly. Within a week of the video’s release, newly elected Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn secured a grand jury indictment. Webster was charged for assault and subsequently acquitted in December 2015.

In early 2018, Webster was hired by the Greensboro Police Department, despite a formal petition from the African-American community and citizens expressing their objections to the town’s elected leadership and police commissioner. The 2013 video, available on the YouTube channel of the Dover Police Department, has been viewed more than 180,000 times, with other online versions of the incident viewed tens of thousands of times.

To sign the ACLU petition, go to
https://action.aclu.org/send-message/md-community-needs-answers-anton-black.

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