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Civil Rights Probe Launched After Park Police Killing of a Teenager

The Justice Department opened a federal civil rights investigation after a U.S. Park Police officer fatally shot a 17-year-old who drove off with an officer in the back seat after the teenager was found asleep in a suspected stolen car. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., launched the investigation this week after federal officials released body-worn camera footage showing the officer fatally shooting Dalaneo Martin last month, reports the Associated Press. The police video is one of the first released by the National Park Service under a 2022 order by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland requiring the agency’s 3,000 law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. It is one of the first times body-worn camera footage has been released by a federal law enforcement agency. Martin’s death comes amid an ongoing national reckoning over authorities’ use of force and months after the beating death of Tyre Nichols by police in Memphis,


The March 18 encounter began around 9 a.m. when two Park Police officers were called by a local D.C. officer who was responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle. Several officers surrounded the car, saw Martin asleep behind the steering wheel, and told dispatchers that the ignition of the car was “punched,” a sign the car might be stolen. Footage showed officers opening the back passenger’s side door and a Park Police officer climbing into the back seat. Martin woke up and started to drive away, briefly dragging another officer outside the car. As Martin continued to drive, the officer drew his gun and called out, “Stop. Stop or I’ll shoot.” About a second later, the officer fired repeatedly, striking Martin in the back multiple times. The car crashed into a house after Martin was shot. He he was pronounced dead at the scene. “The loss of a life is always tragic but is especially heartbreaking when it involves a child,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said. Park Police officers regularly patrol the Washington area, where the Park Service has a large footprint. Under the law, those federal officers have the same policing powers in the capital as city police officers. The Park Police Union said the officer inside the car was at “immediate risk of death” when he fired his weapon, and that the officer outside the car hit his head on the pavement when he fell free of the fleeing car. The union said that officers followed all policies and laws.

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