Anton Black, 19, died in police custody in September. His family members are expressing relief that one of the officers involved in detaining Anton when he died has been decertified, meaning he can no longer work as a police officer in Maryland. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun staff.
Anton Black, 19, died in police custody in September. His family members are expressing relief that one of the officers involved in detaining Anton when he died has been decertified, meaning he can no longer work as a police officer in Maryland. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun staff.

For months LaToya Holley refreshed the Greensboro Police Department’s webpage, wondering whether the name of a man she blames for her brother’s death would still be listed there.

Finally, she says, Thomas Webster IV’s name is gone.

Advertisement

Webster was one of the officers involved in apprehending 19-year-old Anton Black last year in what spiraled into another instance of a black teenager dying after an encounter with police.

Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services spokeswoman Renata Seergae confirmed that Webster was decertified, effective July 26. At a town hall meeting last week, Greensboro Police Chief Eric Lee announced that Webster is no longer on the force.

“My family is happy to know Webster is no longer able to act in the capacity of law enforcement,” Holley said.

Webster’s certification came into question when state officials said he failed to disclose nearly 30 use-of-force reports from his police career in Dover, Del. He declined to comment Tuesday.

The officer was controversial from the start.

Some Greensboro residents protested his hiring after learning he had been indicted on second-degree assault charges while working for a Delaware police force. Dash-cam footage showed him kicking a black man in the jaw during an arrest in 2013. Webster was later found not guilty, according to the Wilmington News Journal, and he resigned with a $230,000 severance package.

The state launched an investigation into why a complete record of Webster’s policing history wasn’t sent to the public safety department when officials were asked to consider granting the officer police powers in Maryland so he could join the force in the small Eastern Shore town.

He was put on administrative leave about four months after Black died, after immense pressure from his family.

Webster approached Black on Sept. 15, after a woman had called 911 to report a kidnapping in action. She had seen Black walking through town with a 12-year-old child who relatives would later say is a family friend.

Body camera footage shows Webster driving up to the pair and telling Black to put his hands behind him. Instead, the teen ran away. Webster and two others — members of nearby police departments, who happened to be near the scene — chased Black to his parents’ home in a trailer park, along with a passing motorcyclist who joined in, according to the video. Webster tried to use a Taser on him.

The four men then struggled to bring Black to the ground and restrained him as he tried to go up a ramp to his family’s home. Officers put him in handcuffs and leg shackles, and Black quickly began showing signs of medical distress.

He was pronounced dead at an Easton hospital.

An autopsy report prepared by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner deemed his death an accident, saying he suffered “sudden cardiac death” and that it is likely that his struggle with law enforcement contributed. An underlying heart condition and a mental illness were factors in Black’s death, according to the report.

His family disagreed, pointing to the 43 blunt trauma wounds found on his body.

Advertisement

Activists rallied around Black’s family, forming the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black. The coalition’s leader, Richard Potter, said the group won’t rest until everyone who had a hand in Black’s death is brought to justice.

“Our work isn’t done just because of this one victory,” Potter said. “There’s much more that has to be done.”

Meanwhile, the family has been in mourning for nearly a year. Holley said the grief can feel “crippling.” Black’s girlfriend was pregnant at the time of his death and since gave birth to a daughter.

The little girl was recently christened, Holley said, yet another milestone that Black missed.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement