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The family of 20-year-old Karon Hylton holds the Metropolitan Police Department responsible for his death and demands accountability. They see his death as a result of police targeting Black men.
The family, along with their supporters, protested outside the Fourth District police station in Brightwood Tuesday evening to call attention to Hylton, who was killed in a vehicle collision after police say they attempted to make a traffic stop on Oct. 23. Demonstrations escalated: Protesters reportedly smashed a squad car and police reportedly fired pepper pellets and stun grenades at the crowds of people.
According to an MPD report of Hylton’s death, officers tried to stop the young man after they saw him riding a Revel Electric Moped without a helmet on the sidewalk. Officers turned on their emergency lights to make a traffic stop, the report says, and then Hylton collided with a passenger vehicle. An internal investigation is underway.
But witnesses say Hylton was killed in a police pursuit. “I saw Karon stop at the intersection of Fifth Street and also ask them, ‘why are y’all still chasing me?’” a friend of Hylton tells DCist. “They chased him. They chased him to death.” Another friend of Hylton tells DCist the officer involved in the alleged chase has a reputation of harassing community members.
Police Chief Peter Newsham tells the Post that officers are not allowed to pursue vehicles for traffic violations. He says internal investigators would have to decide whether officers were chasing Hylton or trying to stop him for a traffic citation.
It is unclear when MPD will publicly release body-worn camera footage associated with the incident. The D.C. Council passed legislation over the summer that requires MPD to release footage in an “officer-involved death” within five days of the incident. In a statement via MPD on behalf of the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and Justice Roger Mitchell, the city “engaged directly with the next of kin about their ability to view the body-worn camera footage” in coordination with the Department of Behavioral Health. MPD also says “The BWC video will be forthcoming on MPD’s Community Briefing Video page.”
The confrontation between community members and police came after the Hylton family visited the police station to obtain BWC footage and the accident report, according Janeese Lewis George, a candidate running for the Ward 4 Council seat. George, with help from Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, helped to coordinate a family viewing of the BWC footage.
“Once the mother saw some portions of the video, she was obviously in even more pain,” George tells City Paper. “What she saw was very disturbing for a mother to have to witness.”
Hylton’s mother joined community members to protest outside the police station after viewing some of the BWC video. Video shared with City Paper appears to show police macing Hylton’s mother during the protests. George did not see police use chemical irritants on Hylton’s mother but did see her eyes burning. She, along with violence interrupters, had to run to a nearby McDonalds for water to quell the sensation.
“You start to feel like ‘oh my god, I’m in the middle of a war zone. Like why am I in the middle of the war zone?’” George says of the scene. “It was just scary.”
“Having to see another Black mother—family—mourn for the loss of their son is obviously difficult and just very traumatic,” she adds. “So much of this is rooted in the lack of accountability that has persisted over the years.”
In a statement to City Paper, MPD says protesters “began to engage in unlawful behavior such as throwing projectiles, rocks, bricks and improvised explosive devices at officers and the station.” Police deployed munitions and OC spray after protesters “set fires, smashed storefront windows, and pulled bricks from sidewalks to be used as projectiles.” The spokesperson declined to comment on whether Hylton’s mother was maced.
Six officers were injured and one person was arrested and charged with Destruction of Property/Resisting Arrest Tuesday night, according to MPD.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
This post was updated to include further comment from MPD.
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