Family and friends of Dalaneo “Debo” Martin march on March 26 from the 3300 block of Benning Road to the 300 block of 36th Street in northeast D.C., where a U.S. Park Police officer shot and killed teen Dalaneo Martin days earlier. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Family and friends of Dalaneo “Debo” Martin march on March 26 from the 3300 block of Benning Road to the 300 block of 36th Street in northeast D.C., where a U.S. Park Police officer shot and killed teen Dalaneo Martin days earlier. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Sign up to stay connected

Get the top stories of the day around the DMV.

More than a week after a U.S. Park Police officer shot and killed District teenager Dalaneo Martin, members of his family said they’ve yet to receive official documentation about the encounter that ended Dalaneo’s life.

Family and friends of Dalaneo “Debo” Martin march on March 26 from the 3300 block of Benning Road to the 300 block of 36th Street in northeast D.C., where a U.S. Park Police officer shot and killed teen Dalaneo Martin days earlier. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Family and friends of Dalaneo “Debo” Martin march on March 26 from the 3300 block of Benning Road to the 300 block of 36th Street in northeast D.C., where a U.S. Park Police officer shot and killed teen Dalaneo Martin days earlier. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

As family and friends of Dalaneo, affectionately also known as Debo, continue to demand information about the officers involved, they remain adamant about letting the world know the whole truth about their son, brother and nephew.

“Debo was goofy. He could get under your ski,  but he would give you his socks [and clothes] off his back,” said Dalaneo’s mother Terra Martin on Sunday at the culmination of a march that started at a Shell gas station on the 3300 block of Benning Road in Northeast and ended on the 300 block of 36th Street where Dalaneo was pronounced dead eight days earlier. 

Martin, flanked by Dalaneo’s siblings, friends, along with his significant other and their infant son, spoke about Dalaneo and his affinity for fashion, video games and swimming. 

The grieving mother also recounted her last Facetime conversation with Dalaneo, the night before he was killed, during which he told her that he would pick up his six-month old son, Jordan, from her house in the morning. “Since he had his baby, he tried to change his life,” Martin said. “It was all about Jordan. He has his baby four days out of the week and he was on it.” 

According to a U.S. Park Police spokesperson, U.S. Park Police officers arrived near 34th Street and Baker Street in Northeast at the behest of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) who received a call about a stolen vehicle. 

Soon after arriving at the scene, a U.S. Park Police officer entered the backseat of the car as Dalaneo was sleeping. 

Dalaneo woke up and pulled off, allegedly dragging another officer several feet. The car Dalaneo was driving then crashed into a house on the 300 block of 36th Street. Dalaneo, 17, was pronounced dead at the scene.  Authorities said they recovered a gun in the vehicle. 

On Sunday, family members said they learned that the officer in the car with Dalaneo shot him six times, with five of those bullets entering Dalaneo’s back. They also cited an anonymous witness who said they saw park police officers encroaching on Dalaneo as he was sleeping in the car, and one of them later choking him.   

On March 22, four days after Dalaneo’s death, MPD Chief Robert J. Contee III said that an internal affairs investigation was underway. The findings will go to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. 

The U.S. Park Police didn’t return the Informer’s inquiry about the identity of the officers involved in the shooting.

Family, and a Former Instructor, Seek to Humanize their Loved One 

For family members and friends who spoke about their lost loved one on Sunday, Dalaneo’s death incited fury about what’s been described as the emotionless and callous rhetoric used toward alleged perpetrators of crime who are gunned down by police. 

In the days leading up to the march and vigil, other people, including Katrice Fuller-Whitaker, took to social media to speak about the Dalaneo they knew. Years earlier, Fuller-Whitaker and other adults at Monument Academy Public Charter School in Northeast worked with Dalaneo, a special-needs student with a bubbly personality and love for his siblings. 

Fuller-Whitaker said Dalaneo showed persistence in the face of housing insecurity and government-mandated separation from his family. 

After Dalaneo left Monument Academy PCS, Fuller-Whitaker maintained contact with him and his family. Nearly a year ago, she saw her former student, who expressed interest in applying to a trade program that would equip him with the skills needed to financially support his soon-to-be newborn child. 

Fuller-Whitaker told the Informer that, upon learning about Dalaneo’s death, she pondered why the U.S. Park Police officer who killed him on the morning of March 18 chose not to wake Dalaneo up from his slumber. She said failing to do so triggered the trauma-induced paranoia that Dalaneo had been struggling with throughout his childhood. 

As Fuller-Whitaker and her colleagues mull over how to memorialize their former student, she continues to think about the countless other special-needs students who, because of a misunderstanding of their condition, have been funneled into the juvenile justice system or killed by aggressive police officers. 

“Because we’re in the population, we’re thinking of SPED (special education) first,” Fuller-Whitaker said. 

“When a child matriculates [to school] with disabilities that manifest [in different actions,] nobody thinks about how that ends up in a situation when cops shoot first and ask questions later,” she added. “We are quickly penalizing these children because we don’t want to do the work.” 

Helping Pro-Police District Residents See a Pattern 

Dalaneo’s death counts among the latest in the string of police-involved killings that have taken place over the last few years. 

Last year, MPD shot and killed Kevin Hargraves-Shird and Lazarus Wilson in two separate incidents. In 2021, An’Twan GIlmore, like Dalaneo, was killed by police after they found him sleeping in a car. 

During the earlier part of March, MPD Sergeant Enis Jevric was charged with a federal civil rights violation and second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Gilmore. 

Months earlier, in October, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia had also dismissed 90 gun and drug cases involving seven members of a crime suppression unit who are currently under investigation.

Contee recently told the Informer that improper searchers, what he described as Fourth Amendment violations, only tell part of the story about why cases don’t lead to prosecution. He said that there are other situations where victims of crime are unable to properly identify their alleged perpetrator. 

However, when officers don’t correctly execute searches, MPD confers with the D.C. Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia to identify opportunities for retraining. 

Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), Contee and leaders of other local agencies have collaborated to expand the presence of District police at Metro stations and nightlife corridors. 

Much to the chagrin of local activists, some D.C. council members have followed suit with the introduction of legislation that reverses the reduction of school resource officers, increases the local police force and creates economic incentives for police officers. 

Bowser’s FY 2024 budget proposal also allocates funds for an additional 200 officers. 

In this climate, some activists, like April Goggans, said that she and her comrades face an uphill battle in rallying support for victims of police-involved shootings. 

Earlier this year, Alaunte Scott, a 22-year-old Black man, faced a fate similar to Dalaneo during a situation involving local and federal law enforcement officers. During an on-foot pursuit in February, officers of the U.S. Marshals Service shot and killed Scott on the 4300 block of 3rd Street in Southeast. 

In a statement, MPD said that Scott wielded a firearm during the chase, which compelled officers to shoot him. 

In the aftermath of Scott’s deadly encounter with U.S. Marshals and MPD,  Scott’s family members hosted a vigil and balloon release at Ft. Dupont Park in Southeast. They later protested in front of D.C. Superior Court on Indiana Avenue in Northwest in demand of accountability for the police officer who shot and killed Scott.  

All the while, Goggans, a core organizer with Black Lives Matter DC, has counted among those who’ve stood on the front lines in solidarity with Scott’s family. 

Activists Continue to Raise Awareness 

Over the last decade, Goggans and her comrades — some of whom have since formed other groups — have made similar moves on behalf of other Black people shot and killed by local and federal police forces in the District. 

While there had been much enthusiasm for the cause in the aftermath of George Floyd’s 2020 murder, Goggans noted the increasing difficulty these days in garnering local support for those who die during encounters with MPD.  

She said that people who are frustrated and desperate for immediate solutions for violent crime often have not only dismissed victims of police-involved deaths as troublemakers deserving of their fate, but fallen victim to talking points circulated by Bowser and Contee. 

“The word that comes out of Mayor Bowser and Chief Contee’s mouths is guns,” Goggans said as she described what she called Bowser and Contee’s strategy to avoid public scrutiny. “People assume that if a person got shot, they deserved it; they were doing something they weren’t supposed to do. There’s no vigil that the community comes to for people killed by police. It’s just families and activists,” she added. 

“It’s rarely folks who live in D.C. Even if they do come to the vigil, they likely won’t come to the protest. It’s wild to me because if you’re a Black person born and raised in D.C., you know there are jump outs and things that have been happening  for generations.” 

With Congress’ recent bipartisan takedown of the Revised Criminal Code Act and ongoing efforts by House GOP members to reverse local police accountability measures, Goggans said that Black residents’ rights have been further jeopardized. 

That’s why Goggans has her sights set on educating residents about how the infusion of local and federal police negatively affects majority-Black communities. She said she wants to build an infrastructure that includes a large number of community members who are immediately and continuously responsive to acts of police brutality. 

For Goggans, it’s a matter of countering Bowser, Contee and the rise of an ultraconservative, pro-police constituency that wants to penalize Black people. 

“Chief Contee and Mayor Bowser are banking on people grieving and people scared as a result of community violence so they can have the same talking points and push out harmful stuff,” she said. “There’s a moral dilemma [people have] that if they’re fighting police violence, that somehow they’re saying that community violence is not important.”

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *