Park Police body-cam footage shows officer shooting Dalaneo Martin

Park Police body-cam footage shows officer shooting Dalaneo Martin

The U.S. Park Police released body camera footage Tuesday showing an officer fatally shooting a 17-year-old last month after the officer climbed into the back of a vehicle to stop the teenager and was still inside when he drove away. .

The officer, from the back seat of the vehicle, asks Dalaneo Martin to stop for about 13 seconds, then pulls out his gun and says, “Stop, stop, or I’ll shoot,” the footage shows. Barely a second later, he fires what sounds like five shots into Martin’s back.

The chilling footage, along with video from body cameras worn by D.C. police officers at the scene, add significant detail to the public’s understanding of the March 18 encounter — revealing not only the moment Martin was shot, but also the officers who strategized how to catch him. into custody while he was sitting, apparently asleep, in the front seat of a vehicle they believed to be stolen. Before officers launch a plan to sneak into the vehicle and restrain the teenager, a D.C. police officer tells the group, “If he takes off, just let him go,” the footage shows.

The Martin family viewed the body camera footage two hours before it was released Tuesday, said Jade Mathis, an attorney for the family. Mathis said Martin’s mother, Terra Martin, is calling for the Park Police officers to be publicly identified and for whoever killed her son to be prosecuted and put to death. “Their initial reaction was tears and then it turned to anger, rightfully so,” Mathis said of the family’s reaction to the video. “But it was also a relief because they have more answers than they had before.”

The US Attorney’s Office in D.C. said in a statement Tuesday that prosecutors were still investigating the incident, adding that “the body-worn camera footage that was just released of his death is extremely disturbing.” The Interior Department is also conducting an administrative review of the incident, Park Police said.

The president of the Park Police Union on Tuesday defended the officer, who officials have not named. “There is a legitimate reason for him to be in the car, the use of force was justified and the union stands behind the actions the officers took,” said Kenneth Spencer, union president.

Experts said Tuesday’s release marks one of the first times they can recall a federal law enforcement agency making public body camera footage of a fatal shooting, which they called an important step toward transparency. in police. Martin’s family and Spencerhad requested that the video of the incident be made public, though it was unclear whether the department would release it.

D.C. police footage, compiled from four body-worn cameras in a roughly 11-minute video, shows two officers and two sergeants responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle parked at 34th and Baker streets NE. Officers found the vehicle shortly before 9 a.m. that Saturday with the engine running and a driver, later identified as Martin, apparently asleep inside, footage shows. Officers call for backup after running tags and determining the vehicle was stolen. Two Park Police officers respond to that call.

At the scene, body camera footage shows DC police officers and Park Police officers discussing how to remove Martin from the stolen vehicle — planning to quietly cut the plastic wrap that serves as a replacement for one of the vehicle’s windows and then unlock the door and grab the teenager by his hands.

“If he doesn’t freak out and wake up, then we’re going to try to get in there, catch him before he puts that car in gear,” a DC police officer tells the group.

The officer notes that the teenager has one hand “inside his waist,” adding, “I don’t see anything there.” A phone, he says, is lying on the teenager’s chest and his right hand is “actually turned”.

“If we can grab that hand, grab that other one, we’re good to go,” the officer says. “But let’s wait and see if he’ll be surprised after I wait, try to unlock the door. If it does, if it gets up, just let it go. But don’t get in that car until we do, you know.”

“I have to wait, make sure he doesn’t freak out, then quietly unlock him,” the officer later adds. “If he doesn’t freak out then and he still knocked the hell out, then I can open the door and make an entrance for whoever gets in there and get him as quickly as possible.”

Body camera footage shows a DC police officer unlocking the back door of the vehicle without waking Martin. Two Park Police officers then enter the vehicle through rear doors on each side and grab Martin’s hands, waking him up in the process, the footage shows.

“Police, don’t move, don’t move, don’t move!” multiple officers can be heard shouting.

A brief struggle ensues, an officer swears, and then a sound is heard – possibly a vehicle starting to move. About two seconds later, a Park Police officer jumps out of the driver’s side while the vehicle is in motion, shows the DC police video, and falls onto the road.

The second officer is still in the back seat of the vehicle as Martin continues to drive, the footage shows.

“Stop, man, just let me out,” the officer says from the back seat.

Martin continues to drive.

“Let me go,” says the officer.

Three seconds later: “Stop! Stop or I’ll shoot!”

Almost immediately, the officer fires his gun. The bullets appear to hit Martin in the back, and the vehicle soon crashes into a nearby home about two-tenths of a mile from where police first found him.

The Park Police body camera footage ends with officers rendering aid to Martin, who can be seen lying on the grass next to the white vehicle.

Police then discovered a firearm inside the vehicle. Senior DC officials said the officers did not know about the weapon until after the vehicle had crashed.

Discussing police tactics Tuesday, senior D.C. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing criminal investigation, said a preliminary investigation found that the four D.C. police officers on the scene acted according to training and procedure of the department. As of Tuesday, senior officials said those officers had retained their full status.

Officials defended the D.C. police strategy. They said DC officers are trained, under most circumstances, not to block vehicles to avoid collisions with their cruisers. They said D.C. officers are also trained not to enter vehicles like Park Police officers did — their policy says police “will avoid tactics that could put them in a position where a vehicle could be used against them” — and they can’t speculate why an officer got in the back seat. Asked about a DC police officer who told the group, “we’re going to try to get in there, get him before he puts the car in gear,” they said they believed he only meant for the officers to open the door and pull over the driver. out.

Asked about city officials’ characterizations of the incident, a Park Police spokesman said: “The administrative investigation being conducted by the Department of the Interior will look at whether the officers acted in accordance with policy.”

D.C. police routinely release footage of encounters when their officers shoot people — in this case, they said they were ordered to do so by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) even though no city police officers fired shots. Federal agencies have lagged behind local forces in the widespread use of body-worn cameras. It wasn’t until 2019 that the Justice Department launched a pilot program to allow officers in federal task forces to wear body cameras, and it wasn’t until May that President Biden signed an executive order requiring all federal law enforcement agencies to adopt and publicly post body camera. policies. Park Police, a federal law enforcement agency that is not part of the Justice Department, implemented the technology in D.C. late last year.

“This is one of the first times we’ve seen federal law enforcement release video of an officer-involved shooting,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said of the Park Police footage. . “The video raises a number of issues that investigators need to look into regarding the tactics the officers used.”

Park Police began using body cameras in D.C. about five years after two Park Police officers chased and then fatally shot an unarmed driver, Bijan C. Ghaisar, in Northern Virginia. The incident brought into focus the federal department’s lack of cameras.

Temporary legislation passed in 2020 — which House Republicans are seeking to overturn — requires D.C. police to release body camera footage within five business days of an incident involving a serious use of force. But there are no regulations mandating the law enforcement arm of the National Park Service to do the same.

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