Ahead of Dateline NBC's upcoming episode on August 5, 2022, it is time to explore the brutal murder of Anton Black in another shocking case of police brutality against African-American citizens in the United States. In a similar fashion to George Floyd's murder, a tragedy that sparked international attention, 19-year-old Anton was a victim of restraint and neck compression while authorities tried to subdue the teenager and shackle him.
The cause of his death was initially ruled out as "undetermined" by former Maryland medical examiner David Fowler. The Black family from Maryland’s Eastern Shore later filed a federal lawsuit against the officers, the state medical examiner, the three towns where the officers served, and the two involved police chiefs. A white civilian was also involved in the sour struggle that killed the young man.
Before Dateline NBC covers the case in detail in its upcoming episode, here are five facts from the case that shook the small town of Maryland.
Five quick facts about the murder of Anton Black
1) The entire ordeal began when a passing car reported an incident to the police
On September 15, 2018, a couple passing by the Choptank River Bridge in Greensboro, MD allegedly noticed an older boy forcefully dragging a young kid on a rural country road. After their initial interference failed, the woman from the car called 911. She described the intervention by her fiance as follows:
"threatened him and challenged him … if nothing, to get him to stop,...But that didn’t work. He just stared straight ahead like a zombie. Not even a peep. You would expect somebody to [say] get out of my face! — especially since this is a black teenager and it’s a white guy yelling at him. He’s gonna say something! But no, not a word."
2) The officer involved in the case already had a history of racism
Thomas Webster IV, one of the main intervening police officers, was already a controversial figure when he was placed in the Greensboro Police Department. He was previously a Dover police officer who was unable to work due to a 2016 legal settlement involving an African-American suspect in his custody.
Webster's appointment drew a sharp response from Greenboro's African-American community when he was transferred there.
3) Anton Black had recently been diagnosed with severe mental disorders
Months before the incident took place, 19-year-old Anton was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder. He also reportedly had schizophrenia. Anton was even hospitalized two weeks before his death after his father called the police out of concern for his son's "strange" behavior.
4) The state medical examiner at the time was accused of attempting to cover up the crime
Former Maryland medical examiner David Fowler allegedly claimed that the cause of Anton Black's death was "undetermined," citing several other factors like underlying health conditions in the "accidental death" of the young man.
Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Floyd, however, stated that the death was a homicide. David Fowler was among the people being sued for the murder of Anton.
5) The family of Anton Black filed a federal lawsuit in 2020
Nearly two years after the tragic murder of Anton, his family filed a federal lawsuit against the officers, the medical examiner, and the two police chiefs who overlooked the incident. The lawsuit said:
"Anton Black died because police employed excessive force, laying him out prone on his stomach, lying on top of him for approximately six minutes and approximately five minutes after he was handcuffed, and folding his legs towards the sky in a manner that further compromised his ability to breathe."
Black's family was joined by the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black, a collective formed after the young man's death.
Tune into Dateline NBC on August 5, 2022 for more details about the case.