Family of black man, 19, who died after being held to ground by Maryland cops slam police for arrest

EXCLUSIVE: ‘My son was George Floyd before George Floyd’: Family of black teen, 19, who died after being held to ground by three Maryland cops for six minutes in 2018 slams police for arrest

  • Anton Black’s family are speaking out about his ‘unreal and unnecessary’ death
  • Black, 19, died in 2018 after police held him to the ground for six minutes
  • His dad, Antone, said Black was ‘George Floyd before George Floyd’
  • Antone said he watched Black ‘begging for his life’ and scream out: ‘Mommy’
  • His mom, Jenell, said police wouldn’t get off of him despite her standing by
  • The family has sued cops involved over their alleged use of excessive force 

The family of a 19-year-old black man who died in Maryland police custody in 2018 says his ‘unreal and unnecessary’ death split the community along racial lines.

Anton Black died after he was chased by white police officers and held to the ground for six minutes outside his family’s home in rural Greensboro.

Now, nearly eight months after a judge refused to throw out the family’s lawsuit alleging police acted with excessive force, Black’s parents are speaking out. 

‘My son was George Floyd before George Floyd,’ his father, Antone Black, told NBC Dateline. ‘I seen him begging for his life. You know, He’s hollering “Mommy.” They never moved. They never got off of him.’ 

Dateline launched a year-long investigation into Black’s death and the parallels to Floyd’s murder. The one-hour special report, What Happened to Anton Black?, airs Friday at 10pm EST on NBC. 

Anton Black, 19, (pictured) died in Sept. 2018  after he was chased by white police officers and held to the ground for six minutes outside his family’s home in rural Greensboro, Maryland

Anton Black, 19, (pictured) died in Sept. 2018  after he was chased by white police officers and held to the ground for six minutes outside his family’s home in rural Greensboro, Maryland

Black died on September 15, 2018 after an altercation with Greensboro police on the front porch of his mother’s home.

‘He’s at his mother’s doorstep. All he wanted to do was go home. He’s home and you don’t get off of him? That’s not right,’ Antone told Dateline. ‘He didn’t attack nobody. He didn’t rob a bank. He didn’t kill nobody.’

‘When I opened up the door, how come they didn’t let him up?’ his mother, Jenell Black, recalled. ‘I’m standing right there.’ 

Body camera footage from the incident showed former Officer Thomas Webster IV confronting the teen in response to a 911 call reporting a man roughly dragging a child down the road in a headlock.

The boy, a friend of Black’s family, told the officer that teen was ‘schizophrenic’ and had been acting strangely. 

When Webster ordered him to place his hands behind his back and told him he was under arrest, Black said: ‘I love you.’ He then turned, jogged back to his family home and got into a vehicle.

Webster smashed the car window with a baton and then used a stun gun on Black. Later, a struggle ensued on the front porch. 

Black lost consciousness as Webster and two other cops – former Ridgley police Chief Gary Manos and Centreville police Officer Dennis Lannon – tried to restrain him. Manos and Lannon were off duty when they tried to help Webster arrest Black.

‘It just seemed so unreal and unnecessary to me,’ family friend Christina Robinson told Dateline. ‘When I saw him go limp in the video, they still didn’t get off of him.’

Anton Black's father, Antone (left), recalled watching 'him begging for his life' as police held him down. Antone said: 'My son was George Floyd before George Floyd'

Anton Black’s father, Antone (left), recalled watching ‘him begging for his life’ as police held him down. Antone said: ‘My son was George Floyd before George Floyd’

Greensboro police confronted Black, 19, in September 2018 while he was in the 'midst of a mental health crisis', according to the family's lawsuit. Black is pictured left in body-camera footage from the incident

Greensboro police confronted Black, 19, in September 2018 while he was in the ‘midst of a mental health crisis’, according to the family’s lawsuit. Black is pictured left in body-camera footage from the incident 

Black lost consciousness after being restrained by three cops on his mother's front porch

Black lost consciousness after being restrained by three cops on his mother’s front porch

An autopsy report on Black’s death was released in 2019 two days after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan expressed frustration at the pace of the investigation. 

The state medical examiner’s autopsy report lists Black’s death as an accident and said Black’s congenital heart condition, mental illness and stress from the struggle likely contributed to his death.

But an expert cited in the family’s lawsuit, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins University, concluded that asphyxiation was the cause of Black’s death.

Dr. David Fowler – who was Maryland’s chief medical examiner until his retirement in 2019 and responsible for the accuracy and integrity of Black’s autopsy – also testified as an expert for the defense in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of Floyd.

Robinson blames police for Black’s death, but knows many of their white community members sided with the officers. 

‘Has it split the community?’ NBC anchor Lester Holt probed. ‘Along racial lines?’

‘It definitely did,’ Robinson responded. 

'When I opened up the door, how come they didn't let him up?' his mother, Jenell Black, recalled. 'I'm standing right there'

‘When I opened up the door, how come they didn’t let him up?’ his mother, Jenell Black, recalled. ‘I’m standing right there’

Black’s death fueled calls for an independent investigation. Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill named after Black that expanded public access to records about police disciplinary cases.

Jason Johnson, president of The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, told Dateline that although Black’s death was a tragedy, he didn’t ‘see any indication of malice’ in the body camera footage and thought it demonstrated ‘the professional standard.’

However, many have questioned Webster’s actions, especially since he had a history of using force with suspects who were already subdued.

In 2013, while working as an officer in Dover, Delaware, Webster was charged with assault for kicking Lateef Dickerson, a black man, in the face while he was already subdued. That incident was caught on dashcam video.

He was acquitted of the assault charge in 2014. Months after the verdict, Webster was given a $230,000 severance and resignation package from the city of Dover.

He also received pay and benefits, including his pension, for work missed during the case. In February 2018, Webster was hired as an officer for the Greensboro police department.

‘I could tell you with some degree of certainty that Thomas Webster should not have been a Greensboro police officer at all,’ Johnson added, after being pressed by Holt.

No charges were filed against Webster in connection to Black’s death. 

US District Judge Catherine Blake in January 2022 refused to throw out the family’s lawsuit’s claiming police used excessive force on Black.

Blake, in her 27-page ruling, said the bodycam footage 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. 

She also said a person’s mental health must be factored into the use of force by police. Black had been diagnosed with a severe form of bipolar disorder and was hospitalized less than two weeks before his death.

The Greensboro Police Department’s handbook suggests that Webster didn’t try de-escalate or avoid overreacting to somebody in the grips of a mental health crisis when he smashed the car window and used the stun gun on Black, the judge concluded. 

She said the officers can renew their requests for her to dismiss the lawsuit’s excessive force claims after they finish sharing evidence with plaintiffs.

It is unclear if Webster, Manos and Lannon have since moved forward with providing the requested evidence or renewed their motion to dismiss the suit.

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