In observing the two-year anniversary of Marqueese Alston’s police-related death, his mother has taken her crusade against the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to another level with a $100 million wrongful-death lawsuit.
The suit aims to hold the officers involved in Alston’s death accountable. To this day, much to the chagrin of Alston’s family and local activists, MPD hasn’t released their names or body camera footage from the evening in question.
“It’s been two years since police killed my son and they still haven’t publicly released the bodycam footage or got their story straight about what happened that night,” Kenithia Alston, Marqueese’s mother, said Friday. “Nothing they have told me adds up. They can’t just get away with killing Marqueese by refusing to release evidence.”
The lawsuit, recently filed on her behalf by Georgetown University Law Center’s legal clinic, comes amid a local and national movement to defund police departments and curb officer use of force.
In 2018, MPD officers shot and killed Alston, one of several young men they chased during a patrol of Washington Highlands in Southeast. Department officials announced the recovery of a gun and ammunition at the scene.
Days after the incident, MPD Chief Peter Newsham told reporters that the 22-year-old father, wearing an ankle monitor at the time, fired at the two officers pursuing him.
Months later, the department denied the Alston family’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the footage, on the grounds that the investigation is ongoing.
Since her son’s death, Kenithia Alston has been a prominent voice in the local debate about police overreach and accountability. In October, she testified before the D.C. Council Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary about the need for transparency in MPD’s body camera program.
Days before the council unanimously passed emergency legislation mandating the immediate release of body camera footage in excessive force cases, Alston spoke before a large crowd group of go-go fans dancing alongside a parade float making its way downtown to what had been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.
In what many people heralded as a clever response to President Donald Trump’s pushback against White House protesters, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) commissioned the painting of a “Black Lives Matter” mural along a two-and-a-half block portion of 16th Street leading to Lafayette Square and the White House.
While the project created a safe space for protesters, sparked the creation of similar murals across the world, and even inspired a conservative preacher to file a lawsuit against Bowser, it also elicited criticism — and certain alterations to the art — by members of Black Lives Matter DC.
On Sunday, a Black Lives Matter DC press statement — released after the group painted “Defund the Police” to the end of the now-world-famous mural — evoked the legacy of Alston and other Black men killed during encounters with MPD.
In taking legal action against MPD, Alston also has affirmed a desire to effect change in the District government’s treatment of Black people.
“We got ‘Black Lives’ spray-painted across Lafayette Square,” she said. “Do Black lives really matter? If your accounts are true about what you said my son did, release the bodycam [footage].”