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The mother of Alonzo Smith, the 27-year-old black man who died on Nov. 1 after being found unconscious and handcuffed in special police custody, will call on the United Nations or the Organization of American States to conduct a “truly independent” investigation into her son’s killing. She will also request that his body be exhumed for a second autopsy, according to the group Pan-African Community Action, which held a rally in Smith’s memory last week. Beverly Smith will speak tomorrow at a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Marbury Plaza Apartments at 2300 Good Hope Road SE, where Metropolitan Police Department officers responded to an incident involving Alonzo in the early hours of Nov. 1.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, exercising her newly approved authority to disclose footage from police body cameras, released two videos depicting MPD’s response to the incident. In the video released Friday afternoon, the recording MPD officer can be heard telling two private guards who had been detaining Smith to “make sure he’s breathing.” Smith died despite MPD’s attempts to resuscitate him, as the released videos show. Last Monday, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined his death was a homicide.
“Even if he did have cocaine in his system or any other drug in his system, it does not give them the right to beat my son to death,” Beverly Smith said last week. “It’s all still a mystery, and they’re making sure that it’s a mystery, for right now,” she also said of the official investigation into Alonzo’s death.
An autopsy found that Smith’s cause of death was “sudden cardiac arrest” in addition to “acute cocaine toxicity while restrained.” “Compression of [the] torso” was ruled as a contributing factor, and the videos show at least one of the special guards at Marbury Plaza holding Smith face-down by pushing a knee into his back. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating the incident and asking the public to provide any additional information.
PACA says federal involvement won’t help; thus the need for an “independent dual track investigation into both the death of Alonzo Smith and the social and economic conditions that lead to the disproportionate stops, arrests and deaths of Black people at the hands of police,” according to a press release.
“Aside from its own history in the Black community, the [Department of Justice] has not brought justice to Black communities,” says Max Rameau in a PACA statement. “DOJ does not charge cops with murder and police departments that come out of DOJ patterns and practices investigations do not change their behavior.”
The release comes as the D.C. Council is considering legislation that would increase training requirements for special police, who are certified by MPD.
Screen shot via first MPD video