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Mans death during police encounter results in $5M settlement

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There is nothing accidental about any of it, family attorney Rene Swafford said at a news conference on Monday.

The mobile home park where 19-year-old Anton Black died after being restrained by four cops, in Greensboro, Md., June 29, 2021. Schaun Champion/The NY Times

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press

Relatives of a 19-year-old Black man who died throughout a struggle with cops on Marylands Eastern Shore reach a $5 million partial settlement of these wrongful death lawsuit, an agreement that also requires improvements in police training and policies, family attorneys announced Monday.

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

The lawsuit also accused police of attempting to hide an unjustified killing, falsely claiming that Black was on top of drugs and exhibiting superhuman strength.

Blacks death fueled demands an unbiased investigation and inspired legislative reforms. A state law named after Black expanded public usage of records about police disciplinary cases. It took effect last September.

The lawsuits settlement resolves the familys claims against three Maryland towns Greensboro, Ridgely and Centreville and many individuals: former Greensboro OFFICER Thomas Webster IV, former Greensboro Police Chief Michael Petyo, former Ridgley Police Chief Gary Manos, Centreville OFFICER Dennis Lannon and former Greensboro Town Manage Jeannette Cleveland.

The settlement requires the three towns to update their policies governing cops usage of force, to supply officers with mental health training and annual training on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques.

Black have been identified as having a severe type of bipolar disorder. He was hospitalized significantly less than fourteen days before his death after his father called police, concerned that his son have been acting strangely in the home.

The agreement doesnt resolve the familys claims against former Maryland chief medical examiner David Fowler and hawaii medical examiners office. The medical examiners autopsy report listed Blacks death as accidental and said a congenital heart condition, mental illness and stress from the struggle likely contributed to his death.

A specialist for the lawsuits plaintiffs, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins University, figured asphyxiation caused the Blacks death.

There is nothing accidental about any of it, family attorney Rene Swafford said at a news conference on Monday.

A police body camera captured elements of Blacks encounter with police on Sept. 15, 2018. The video shows Webster confronting Black in reaction to a 911 call a man was roughly dragging a kid later on in a headlock.

The boy, a pal of Blacks family, told the officer that Black was schizophrenic and have been acting strangely. When Webster ordered Black to put his hands behind his back and told him he was under arrest, Black said, I really like you, and turned and jogged in the contrary direction.

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

After Black jogged back again to his familys home and experienced an automobile, Webster used a baton to smash an automobile window and used a stun gun on Black. Later, throughout a struggle on the porch of his familys home, Black lost consciousness as Manos, Lannon and Webster tried to restrain him.

Even with Anton was handcuffed, the officers ignored the chance these were causing and kept Anton in a prone restraint for about six minutes as he struggled to breathe, lost consciousness and suffered cardiac arrest, the lawsuit says.

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

That they had to know he was dying, said Antons father, Antone Black. They killed my son for no reason.

In January, a federal judge refused to get rid of the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake said body camera video of the deadly encounter doesnt conclusively contradict the familys claims that police used excessive force on Black. The judge figured an acceptable jury could reach several conclusion about whether officers used an acceptable amount of force against Black.

A county prosecutor didnt ask a grand jury to take into account criminal charges in Blacks death.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland are on the list of attorneys representing Blacks family.

Attorneys for the three towns along with other municipal defendants didnt immediately react to a mobile call seeking touch upon the settlement.

The household 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 way of a Minneapolis officer resulted in global protests against racial injustice and police abuses.

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