Two Caroline County police officers involved in the deadly pursuit of Anton Black have been cleared in separate investigations of whether they violated their agency’s administrative policies in the African American teenager’s death.
The officers were cleared in internal administrative investigations of whether they had adhered to department policies during their encounters with Black.
In January, Caroline County State’s Attorney Joseph A. Riley (R) cleared the same officers of any criminal wrongdoing.
“They are investigating themselves,” Richard Potter of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black said of the police.
Greensboro police and Ridgely town officials said Friday they have no plans to release the latest investigative findings to the public. They cited protections in current state law and attorney-client privilege.
“The Maryland State Police found no wrongdoing on the part of Officer [Thomas] Webster,” Greensboro Police Chief Eric Lee said of the first responding officer on the scene, who has since lost his job. “However, the Greensboro Police Department will not disclose the Maryland State Police internal investigation report, as it is a personnel record.”
Webster was stripped of his rights to work as a law enforcement agent in the state on July 31 by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission, which grants police powers in the state.
Maryland Matters informed the agency in February that key disciplinary files from Webster’s work as a cop in Dover, Del., may have been missing from his hiring application in Maryland. Former Greensboro Police chief Mike Petyo submitted Webster’s application to the state for review after he was expelled from the Dover Police Department.
Ridgely officials said an “independent, third-party law firm” was hired April 1 to investigate Police Chief Gary Manos, after the state police turned down the town’s request in March to investigate the former state trooper. Town officials hired the firm after pressure from Black’s family to place Manos on administrative leave. They asked the town to investigate whether Manos followed police department policies in his pursuit of Black, who was experiencing a mental health episode at the time.
“The internal investigation . . . was completed in May of 2019 by an independent, third-party law firm, McNamee Hosea, Jernigan, Kim, Greenan & Lynch,” according to a statement from the Town of Ridgely. “McNamee Hosea found no wrongdoing on the part of Chief Gary Manos and further found he had complied with the Ridgely Police Department’s General Orders and policies.”
McNamee Hosea is described as a business-oriented law firm that advises entrepreneurs and business owners on a wide range of issues that “drive their success,” according to its website. The firm’s services also include criminal defense, but there is no mention of law enforcement-related experience.
Manos, who went before a police trial board in 1995 for allegations of police misconduct, was accused by the Black legal team of altering the police body camera video worn by Webster on Sept. 15. But McNamee Hosea indicated its findings did not support the accusation.
“McNamee Hosea also found that the allegation that Chief Manos tampered with body worn camera video footage of the incident to be patently false,” the law firm stated.
Timothy Maloney, a former state lawmaker who is a principal with Joseph, Greenwald and Laake, is leading the Black family legal team to a possible federal or civil lawsuit. He is seeking more transparency in the investigation, which began last September.
“We call upon the Town to release the results of the investigation so the public and the family of Anton Black can judge the report for themselves,” Maloney said.
Black died of cardiac arrest after being chased by police officers and a civilian following reports that he had been dragging a 12-year-old boy down the street against his will.
It wasn’t until May 6 that the Black legal team publicly accused Manos of altering the body camera video worn by Webster. The exact date McNamee Hosea completed its investigation could not be determined.
Glynis Kazanjian is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].