The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said that it will investigate an incident in which a police officer fatally shot a black teenager who was seated behind him and driving a stolen vehicle.
While announcing the probe on Wednesday, the DOJ said: “The loss of a life is always tragic but is especially heartbreaking when it involves a child,” the BBC reported.
“In coordination with the FBI Washington Field Office, the US 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 announcement comes a day after US Park Police and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department published bodycam footage of the March 18 tragic confrontation on Tuesday.
According to police, Dalaneo Martin, 17, of Washington, D.C., was sleeping in a parked, stolen car on March 18 when cops unlocked the door.
The video shows police officers debating how to arrest Martin.
They describe sawing through plastic film used as a makeshift glass in the car and holding him before he could drive away.
A Washington police officer can be heard in the video advising Park Police: “Please don’t get caught inside (the vehicle).”
Footage then shows the teen driving away, leaving an officer in the backseat.
“Stop man, just let me out! Let me go!” the officer is heard shouting.
“Stop. Stop or I’ll shoot!” he says seconds before firing multiple times.
The automobile collides with a house seconds later, and officers are seen treating the adolescent on the front yard.
Martin died at the site, according to US Park Police, and a pistol was found inside the car.
While the Department of Justice termed the bodycam footage “very disturbing,” Kenneth Spencer, leader of the US Park Police union, praised the officer who shot the victim.
In a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday, Spencer said: “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 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, has sparked nationwide scrutiny of police use of force.