Man’s death during police encounter leads to $5M settlement

Aug 7, 2022, 11:27 PM | Updated: Aug 8, 2022, 11:48 am

Relatives of a 19-year-old Black man who died during a struggle with police officers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore have reached a $5 million partial settlement of their wrongful death lawsuit, an agreement that also requires improvements in police training and policies, family attorneys announced Monday.

The family’s federal lawsuit accused police of using excessive force on Anton Black after they chased him and tried to restrain him outside his family’s home in rural Greensboro, Maryland, in 2018. Officers handcuffed Black and shackled his legs before he stopped breathing.

The lawsuit also accused police of trying to cover up an unjustified killing, falsely claiming that Black was high on drugs and exhibiting “superhuman” strength.

Black’s death fueled calls for an independent investigation and inspired legislative reforms. A state law named after Black expanded public access to records about police disciplinary cases. It took effect last September.

The lawsuit’s settlement resolves the family’s claims against three Maryland towns — Greensboro, Ridgely and Centreville — and several individuals: former Greensboro Police Officer Thomas Webster IV, former Greensboro Police Chief Michael Petyo, former Ridgley Police Chief Gary Manos, Centreville Police Officer Dennis Lannon and former Greensboro Town Manage Jeannette Cleveland.

The $5 million settlement amount includes attorneys’ fees and costs, according to a family lawyer. The agreement requires the three towns to update their policies governing police officers’ use of force, to provide officers with mental health training and annual training on “implicit bias” and de-escalation techniques.

Black had been diagnosed with a severe form of bipolar disorder. He was hospitalized less than two weeks before his death after his father called police, concerned that his son had been acting strangely at home.

The agreement doesn’t resolve the family’s claims against former Maryland chief medical examiner David Fowler and the state medical examiner’s office. The medical examiner’s autopsy report listed Black’s death as accidental and said a congenital heart condition, mental illness and stress from the struggle likely contributed to his death.

An expert for the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins University, concluded that asphyxiation was the cause of Black’s death.

“There was nothing accidental about it,” family attorney Rene Swafford said at a news conference on Monday.

A police body camera captured parts of Black’s encounter with police on Sept. 15, 2018. The video shows Webster confronting Black in response to a 911 call that a man was roughly dragging a child down the road in a headlock.

The boy, a friend of Black’s family, told the officer that Black was “schizophrenic” and had been acting strangely. When Webster ordered Black to place his hands behind his back and told him he was under arrest, Black said, “I love you,” and then turned and jogged in the opposite direction.

Manos and Lannon were off duty when they tried to help Webster arrest Black.

After Black jogged back to his family’s home and got into a car, Webster used a baton to smash a car window and then used a stun gun on Black. Later, during a struggle on the porch of his family’s home, Black lost consciousness as Manos, Lannon and Webster tried to restrain him.

“Even after Anton was handcuffed, the officers ignored the danger they were causing and kept Anton in a prone restraint for approximately six minutes as he struggled to breathe, lost consciousness and suffered cardiac arrest,” the lawsuit says.

Black’s mother stood nearby, yelling his name and begging for him to respond. Black later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

“They had to know that he was dying,” said Anton’s father, Antone Black. “They killed my son for no reason.”

In January, a federal judge refused to throw out the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake said body camera video of the deadly encounter doesn’t conclusively contradict the family’s claims that police used excessive force on Black. The judge concluded that a reasonable jury “could reach more than one conclusion” about whether officers used a reasonable degree of force against Black.

A county prosecutor didn’t ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges in Black’s death.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland are among the attorneys representing Black’s family.

Attorneys for the three towns and other municipal defendants didn’t immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment on the settlement.

The family and the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black filed their lawsuit in December 2020. The suit said Black died in a “chillingly similar manner” as George Floyd, the Black man whose May 2020 killing by a Minneapolis police officer led to global protests against racial injustice and police abuses.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo from Flickr...
Associated Press

Respite center opens to families of those who died in combat

A respite center for families in the United States who have lost loved ones in combat since 9/11 will open Friday on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula.
13 hours ago
Downtown Vancouver Washington Photo from Flickr...
Associated Press

Vancouver City Council bans large fossil fuel facilities

The city council in Vancouver, Washington, has approved a permanent ban on new fossil fuel developments after years of temporary moratoriums.
13 hours ago
This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four others charged ...
Associated Press

Ex-Oath Keeper: Group leader claimed Secret Service contact

WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told a member of the extremist group before the 2020 election that he had a contact in the Secret Service, a witness testified Thursday in Rhodes’ Capitol riot trial. John Zimmerman, who was part of the North Carolina chapter, said Rhodes told him that Rhodes had a […]
13 hours ago
The symbol for Twitter appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tu...
Associated Press

Musk lawyers say Twitter refusing new $44B bid for company

NEW YORK (AP) — Elon Musk’s lawyers said Thursday that Twitter is refusing the Tesla billionaire’s renewed $44 billion bid for the social media company and have asked a Delaware court to halt an upcoming trial. Musk made a renewed offer to take over to company earlier this week to end a protracted legal dispute […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Philadelphia apologizes for experiments on Black inmates

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The city of Philadelphia issued an apology Thursday for the unethical medical experiments performed on mostly Black inmates at its Holmesburg Prison from the 1950s through the 1970s. The move comes after community activists and families of some of those inmates raised the need for a formal apology. It also follows a […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Prison reform advocate gets 40-year sentence in jail scheme

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A longtime prison reform advocate was sentenced to 40 years behind bars on Thursday following his conviction for hiding guns, ammunition, handcuff keys and hacksaw blades inside the walls of Nashville’s new jail while it was being built. Judge Steve Dozier sentenced 53-year-old Alex Friedmann after a jury found him guilty […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Man’s death during police encounter leads to $5M settlement