Anton Black (274782)

A state’s attorney said Thursday he will not pursue criminal charges in the death of Anton Black, a 19-year-old Maryland man who died in September after a foot chase and struggle with police, reports NPR (National Public Radio).

The state’s attorney also said he wouldn’t ask a grand jury to investigate the case, despite the wishes of Black’s family. Police in Greensboro, near the Eastern Shore of Maryland, approached Black on Sept. 15 in response to reports of a kidnapping. Black had been seen with a 12-year-old child, who family later said was a friend of Black’s. Video released Thursday by the Greensboro Police Department, and obtained by the Baltimore Sun, shows that when Officer Thomas Webster IV asked Black to put his hands behind him, Black took off running.

The video shows the chase, struggle and ultimately futile attempt by officers and emergency medical workers to save Black’s life. Black’s family says that his life should never have been put in danger in the first place. An editorial Thursday by the Baltimore Sun said Black never should have been arrested.

“Mr. Black ran for reasons that only he would know,” the editorial board said. “Maybe he was scared of what would happen to him in a justice system that has failed African-American men more times than we can count.” Further complicating the matter is that Office Webster, who tased Black and helped hold him down, has previously come under scrutiny for using excessive force. Webster was arrested in 2015 when a grand jury found it likely he had committed a crime when, as an officer in Dover, Delaware, he kicked an unarmed man in the face.

The victim was Black. Court document released in 2015 showed that he had dozens of ide-of-force reports in his personnel file. Webster was found not guilty of assault. Greensboro hired him last year to become the town’s fourth police officer, over the protests of several Greensboro citizens who “worried about the message the town was sending to people, especially people of color,” local media reported at the time.

While Black’s death is tragic, it wasn’t criminal, said Caroline County State’s Attorney Joe Riley. The state attorney’s office “is not empowered to prosecute tragic acts,” Riley said in a statement released Thursday. Riley cited the autopsy, which found Black suffered “sudden cardiac death” caused by a congenital heart defect. The medical examiner’s report “does say that it is likely that the stress and the struggle with law enforcement in conjunction with his mental health status and his congenital heart defects contributed to his death.”

The report also makes it clear that Black was never choked, “physically struck” by the officers, or “had force applied to his neck,” Riley said. Webster was justified in arresting Black, Riley said. Webster stated that he had seen Black “dragging the younger male down the road,” holding him in a “half nelson” and pinning him against the hood of a car. “On the body cam footage, the juvenile is clearly in distress and denies that Anton Black is his brother,” Riley said in his press release.

The Black family released the State Medical Examiner’s autopsy on Thursday, which documented at least 43 blunt trauma wounds across his body. The toxicology screen did not find any controlled dangerous substances, the family said in its statement. The state medical examiner’s office, which ruled the death an accident, “”lets the police off way too easy,” the Sun wrote in its editorial. “Even without the meticulous cataloging of the 43 cuts, bruises and abrasions on Black’s body that his family’s attorneys compiled from the autopsy, we can say that had police done their jobs responsibly, he would be alive.”

In its statement, the Black family said there was no good reason for officers to use the degree of force they did: “There was no reason to tase him. There was no reason for the officer to tackle him, restrain him and shackle him. There was no reason to inflict 43 blunt trauma wounds on Anton Black. There was no reason for Anton Black to die.”

At a community meeting earlier this month, former Washington, D.C. police officer Trevor Hewick, who was working as a private investigator for the family, said that after examining the video he had concluded that Black was killed with a chokehold. “I can stand here and tell you I am very confident in what happened to Anton,” said Hewick, according to Maryland Matters. “They killed him and it’s murder.