When TaiJoh’e Scott first learned of her brother’s death on Feb. 28, she had just picked up her mother Alanta Scott from work. Both were making their way back home after a long day.
However, within seconds of speaking with a relative on the phone, the mother and daughter made their way down to the 4300 block of 3rd Street in Southeast where officers on the scene would tell them the unfortunate fate of their brother and son, Alaunte Scott — and nothing more.
On the evening of Feb. 28, just one week before TaiJoh’e Scott’s birthday, officers from the U.S. Marshals Service shot and killed Alaunte Scott while executing a warrant. A Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) spokesperson would later say that Alaunte Scott wielded a weapon during the chase, which compelled a U.S. Marshal to shoot him in the back seven times.
The identity of the federal law enforcement official who shot and killed Scott has yet to be revealed.
By the time Scott’s family arrived on the scene on Feb. 28, much of the perimeter surrounding the scene of the shooting had been blocked with tape.
As TaiJoh’e Scott recounted, dozens of federal and local police vehicles converged on the 4300 block of 3rd Street in Southeast. MPD”s investigative unit had also set up shop. Meanwhile, local law enforcement officers stood in front of the apartment building where the warrant had been executed questioning passersby about whether they lived there.
TaiJoh’e Scott said that around the time of his death, Alaunte Scott was searching for a stable job, even going as far as entering a program that eventually lost funding.
In the days leading up to her birthday, TaiJoh’e Scott and other family members revved up efforts to secure body camera footage and learn the identity of the officer who shot and killed her brother.
However, she said they have yet to receive any of what they had been requesting several weeks after the fact.
“Since my brother’s killing, we have gone down to the court building, protesting and screaming at the top of our lungs asking for information,” TaiJoh’e Scott told the Informer.
On Wednesday, Alanta Scott, TaiJoh’e Scott, and another Scott sibling stood alongside family members of other police shooting victims, advocates and retired U.S. Marshal Chief Deputy Dr. Matthew Fogg in front of the U.S Department of Justice headquarters in Northwest to demand that President Joe Biden (D) and Attorney General Merrick Garland strengthen federal law enforcement accountability measures.
While Fogg, executive director of Congress Against Racism And Corruption in Law Enforcement, commended Biden for signing an executive order aimed at increasing police accountability, improving investigations and disciplinary measures for police misconduct, and boosting police abuse prevention, he said that that the gesture needed to be more effective.
That’s why the coalition that includes Fogg and the Scott family put forth seven resolutions, including: complete the investigation into Alaunte Scott’s fatal shooting and release the body cam footage of the incident; meet with Fogg and others who filed a class-action discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service; take corrective action against U.S. Marshals Service career managers to prevent internal bias; stop the weaponization of the IRS against Black whistleblowers, set limits on qualified immunity that shield police officers from civil liability, and create independently operational federal civilian review boards.
For TaiJoh’e Scott, it’s imperative that the U.S. Marshals Service is no longer able to hide behind its federal authority to sweep her brother’s death and that of other Black people under the rug.
“It makes no sense that every single life that’s been lost to police brutality has vanished with no trace,” she said. “It’s been more than 90 days and I have no clear understanding about what happened to my brother. We all deserve answers. I’m demanding someone tell us something.”
Civilians and Law Enforcement Unite for a Common Cause
The U.S. Marshals Service hasn’t been in communication with the Scott family, a spokesperson told The Informer.
The spokesperson also said that the U.S. Marshals Service is following policy in not releasing the names of deputies and task force members involved in the Alaunte Scott shooting. They also said there’s no body camera footage for the incident because the personnel on the scene of the shooting have not yet been initiated into the body-worn camera program.
On Feb. 28, the U.S. Marshals Service called MPD to the scene shortly after its officer shot Scott. Once local law enforcement arrived on the 4300 block of 3rd Street in Southeast, members of MPD’s internal affairs unit launched an investigation, a process that included communicating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia didn’t respond to an inquiry about the status of the investigation.
Meanwhile, an MPD senior official speaking on background said that MPD wasn’t at the scene of the shooting and doesn’t have any footage related to the U.S. Marshals Service’s interaction with Scott. Because an MPD officer didn’t shoot Scott, MPD isn’t obligated to release body camera footage, the senior official told The Informer.
Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices, signed on the second anniversary of the George Floyd police-involved murder, includes a provision that compels heads of federal law enforcement agencies to assess whether their policies delay investigations into deadly use of force or deaths in custody.
Through another provision, Attorney General Garland works with the FBI and all the U.S. attorneys to collaborate with the internal oversight bodies of federal law enforcement agencies to ensure the preservation of information needed for timely and thorough deadly use of force investigations.
Others who joined the Scott family and Fogg outside of the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday were Marion Gray-Hopkins, executive director of the Coalition of Concerned Mothers and mother of Gary Hopkins, Jr.., a young man shot and killed by the Prince George’s County Police Department in the late 1990s.
Kimberly Muktarian, founder of Save Our Sons, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based organization advocating for criminal justice policy changes, also spoke about her efforts to force the launch of a police accountability board in her city. Moments earlier, Tom Devine, an attorney and advocate for whistleblower rights, explained the limitations of Biden’s executive order as it relates to protecting those within police departments who speak out against their colleagues.
While standing in front of the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday, Fogg recounted an incident where the white members of his team abandoned him during a mission in Baltimore that almost turned deadly. He said that incident inspired the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission class-action lawsuit he filed alleging racism in hiring, promotion and assignments at the federal agency in the U.S. Marshals Service.
Fogg said that his pursuit of justice led to negative attention, including audits by the IRS.
In a 2021 letter, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit encouraged members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to act on concerns about racial discrimination in the U.S. Marshals Service. Earlier this year, Fogg emailed Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and the Congressional Black Caucus, asking them to address what he described as threats to national security and public safety.
Fogg said that communique went unanswered. For him, this juncture of a movement to hold police officers accountable at the federal level requires further collaboration between law enforcement whistleblowers and civilians.
“Very seldom do you get law enforcement and civilians together,” Fogg said. “We must have protections for people. Why do officers need full qualified immunity? You should be able to sue reckless officers. The police have been known to protect each other and plant drugs and guns. We’re saying as law enforcement that that’s not right.”
Applying Federal Pressure for Local Results
By the time Biden issued the Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety on May 25, 2022, efforts to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act fizzled.
While the legislation passed through the House, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate side couldn’t seal a deal. Had the bill passed, it would’ve made it easier for the federal government to prosecute police misconduct cases, end racial and religious profiling, and stop qualified immunity. It would’ve also banned the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level.
In her remarks, Muktarian said that state and local police departments follow the lead of the federal government when they abuse their power with impunity. She also blamed the Department of Justice for what she described as an abject failure to protect people and hold police officers accountable, noting that it significantly affects Black people — no matter where they live.
“We can’t continue to put tax dollars behind a failed system,” Muktarian said. “Police should be held accountable to the highest level. We have a systemic problem across our land; it’s like a cancer. Mothers shouldn’t have to wait months before seeing camera footage. We’re paying for cops and if you can’t get cops to do their duty, just get them off the squad. Don’t send another dollar [to those departments].”