U.S. investigators opened a civil rights probe into last month’s fatal shooting of a Black teenager by a U.S. Park Police officer in Washington, they said on Wednesday, a day after body camera footage prompted the victim’s family to call for the shooter to be prosecuted and fired.
Dalaneo Martin, 17, was shot after officers from the Park Police and D.C. Metro Police responded to a report of a stolen vehicle on March 18. A youth, later identified as Martin, was asleep in the driver’s seat of the parked vehicle when officers arrived, police said.
Bodycam footage, released by police on Tuesday, showed officers approaching the car to pull the driver out. One of the Park Police officers jumped into the back seat and yelled, “Police, don’t move. Don’t move. Don’t move.” The driver then took off with the officer in the back seat.
“Stop man, just let me out. Let me go,” the officer is heard saying. “Stop. Stop or I’ll shoot.” Gunshots are heard hardly a second later.
Police said the driver died at the scene and a gun was recovered inside the vehicle. The car crashed into a nearby house and the officer jumped out of it, the footage showed.
The officers’ faces were blurred in the video and none of them were identified by police.
“The loss of a life is always tragic but is especially heartbreaking when it involves a child,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said in a statement announcing the federal investigation. It described the bodycam footage as “extremely upsetting.”
The D.C. Metropolitan Police directed inquiries to the Park Police, which could not be reached immediately for comment.
In another violent confrontation captured on body-cam video, Memphis police officers on Jan. 7 pummeled a Black motorist, Tyre Nichols, with kicks, punches and baton blows after a traffic stop. Nichols later died from injuries sustained in the beating.
That attack reinvigorated the national soul-searching about police brutality and race that accelerated after the killing of George Floyd three years ago. Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground with a knee for more than eight minutes.
Jade Mathis, an attorney for the Martin family, told the Washington Post that their initial reaction to the footage was tears that quickly turned to anger.
“But it was also relief because they have more answers than they had before,” the newspaper quoted Mathis as saying.
The attorney said the family wants the officer who shot Martin to be identified, prosecuted and terminated.