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Federal civil rights investigation opened in the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old in Washington, DC

<i></i><br/>US Park Police and Washington
US Park Police and Washington

By Mary Kay Mallonee, CNN

The FBI and federal prosecutors have opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly police shooting of 17-year-old Dalaneo Martin by an officer in Washington, DC, last month after the teen was found sleeping in an allegedly stolen vehicle.

The announcement came after US Park Police and Washington Metropolitan Police released body-worn camera videos Tuesday showing the fatal encounter on March 18.

“The loss of a life is always tragic but is especially heartbreaking when it involves a child,” the US Attorney’s Office in Washington said in a statement, calling the bodycam video “extremely upsetting.”

“In coordination with the FBI Washington Field Office, the United States Attorney’s Office has opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances leading to Mr. Martin’s death. That investigation — which we are committed to conducting diligently and thoroughly — is ongoing,” the statement said.

The release of the videos comes amid nationwide scrutiny of police use of force, sparked by the release of bodycam footage in several cases where an interaction with police resulted in death or injury, including the fatal February shooting of Alonzo Bagley in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the beating death of Tyre Nichols by officers in Memphis, Tennessee.

Officers from both the Park Police and the Metropolitan Police were responding to a report of a stolen vehicle just before 9 a.m. when the shooting of Martin happened, they said.

An MPD officer arrived first and “observed the occupant of the vehicle was asleep and the ignition was punched. The officer determined the vehicle was stolen and then called for additional units,” Park Police said in a statement.

Several officers from both agencies arrived and began discussing how to approach the situation, including the possibility of breaking the window and pulling the driver out.

“Once you break it, he’s gonna wake up, start it and put it in drive to go. We don’t want nobody to get hurt,” one officer is heard telling another officer in Park Police bodycam footage.

As the officers continue to strategize, an MPD officer can be heard in the bodycam footage saying, “So, here’s the plan. He’s knocked out. The back window is just a plastic. I’m going to try to cut that out quietly, unlock the door. If he doesn’t get startled, doesn’t wake up then we’re going to try to get in there, grab him before he puts that car in gear.”

The officer continues, “If he does take off, just let him go.”

Officers from both agencies eventually approach the vehicle and try to pull the driver out as the footage shows a Park Police officer jump into the backseat and yell, “Police, don’t move. Don’t move. Don’t move.”

The vehicle then suddenly drives off as the Park Police officer is still in the backseat, the footage shows. The officer yells, “Stop!” The vehicle keeps going and the officer yells, “Stop man, just let me out. Let me go!”

Then the officer then yells, “Stop. Stop or I’ll shoot!”

“The driver did not comply” and the officer “discharged his firearm,” Park Police said.

Seconds later, the vehicle crashes into a house and the officer jumps out, the footage shows.

Officers pulled the driver out of the vehicle, called for medical assistance and began administering aid, including doing chest compressions.

US Park Police said the driver, identified as Martin, died at the scene and a gun was recovered inside the vehicle. No one inside the house was injured.

The officer who shot Martin and a second Park Police officer were transported to an area hospital for treatment, the Park Police said.

“The investigation into this incident is being handled by the Metropolitan Police Department and reviewed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. An administrative review of this incident is being conducted by the Department of the Interior,” Park Police said.

Martin’s mother wants officers fired, charged

None of the officers involved have been identified by either police agency and their faces are blurred in the bodycam videos.

Terra Martin, Dalaneo’s mother, told reporters Wednesday her son should still be alive and the officer who shot her son needs to be publicly identified and all the officers involved arrested for first-degree murder.

“This pain hurts so bad. I just want justice for my son,” she said. “And I need the officer to be locked up, all of them that played a role.”

Martin said the medical examiner told her that her son was shot six times and died instantly. CNN has reached out to the DC medical examiner’s office.

She said she hasn’t been able to sleep or eat. “Seeing the video yesterday of my son being murdered — I’m lost,” she said. “The video self explains everything that they did to my son. And how can you justify this?”

Martin said Dalaneo was her fifth child and had a renewed purpose after he had his son. Dalaneo was her sunshine and protector, she added. He was very close with all nine of his siblings, she said.

Park Police would not confirm the status of the officer who shot Martin. “Pursuant to applicable law and department policy, we do not publicly disclose information about personnel actions concerning our employees,” a Park Police spokesperson told CNN.

The head of the Park Police union, Kenneth Spencer, defended the officer who shot Martin, telling the Washington Post, “There is a lawful reason for him to be in the car, the use of force was justified and the union stands behind the actions the officers took.”

The Metropolitan Police told CNN in a statement, “The preliminary investigation by our Internal Affairs Division has been sent to the (US Attorney’s Office) for their independent review.”

CNN has reached out to the Department of the Interior for comment.

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CNN’s Holmes Lybrand and Rashard Rose contributed to this report.

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