Dalaneo Martin was fatally shot after U.S. Park Police responded to an alleged stolen vehicle. His family is demanding answers.

The police union said the officer "was at risk of immediate death" due to the 17-year's actions and "had no choice."

Dalaneo Martin and his son.
Dalaneo Martin and his son. (Courtesy of the Martin family)

A federal civil rights investigation has been opened into the death of Dalaneo Martin, a 17-year-old Black father who was shot and killed by a police officer in Washington, D.C., last month while driving a vehicle that was allegedly stolen.

On Tuesday, officials released body camera footage of the encounter that led to Martin’s death on March 18.

“I want the names of all the officers involved to be released and the officer that murdered my son to be terminated and prosecuted,” Terra Martin, Dalaneo’s mother, said in a press conference this week.

Several officers from U.S. Park Police and the Metropolitan Police Department arrived at the scene for a reported stolen vehicle and found Martin asleep inside. In the body camera footage, the officers are seen strategizing on how to arrest him.

“So here’s the plan,” an MPD officer says. “He’s knocked out. The back window is just 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. If he does take off, just let him go.”

In the footage another officer yells, “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.”

As officers tried to arrest Martin, they entered the vehicle and he resisted, according to a statement by Park Police. Two officers were able to get inside the vehicle, but Martin drove off, causing one officer to fall out and leaving a Park Police officer inside.

An image taken from police body camera video shows Martin driving on March 18 before being shot.
This image taken from police body camera video shows Martin driving on March 18 before being shot. (U.S. Park Police via AP)

“Stop! Stop, man, just let me out. Let me go,” the officer yells from the back seat. “Stop. Stop or I’ll shoot!”

That's when the officer shot Martin multiple times in the back and the vehicle crashed into a nearby home. An attorney for the Martin family says the interaction was a complete “ambush.”

“It's poorly strategized and disorganized,” attorney Jade Mathis told Yahoo News of the officers’ plan. “Mr. Martin is completely knocked out [asleep], and then it goes haywire.”

Mathis says the family heard five consecutive shots in the body camera video. However, the medical examiner found six bullet wounds in Martin’s body, according to his mother.

“Clearly, they were valuing property over a human life,” Mathis said. “Even if they determined that it was stolen, was [the vehicle] worth more than his life?”

A statement released Thursday by the Fraternal Order of Park Labor Committee said the officer “was at risk of immediate death due to Martin’s actions. … The vehicle continued to accelerate at uncontrollable speeds. [The officer] had no choice.”

How does that equate to a death sentence?Attorney Jade Mathis

But Mathis argued that the statement is “full of fallacies.”

“It says that he [the Park Police officer] was potentially in danger or in fear of his life, but it does not say why or what type of fear. It says that he was kidnapped. And quite frankly, the legal definition of kidnapping is that someone takes you against your will. This officer got into the back seat,” Mathis said.

The names of the officers involved have not been released, and the police union says the killing was justified. “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,” Kenneth Spencer, chairman of the union, told the Washington Post.

Another image from police bodycam video shows the scene after the shooting.
Another image from police bodycam video shows the scene after the shooting. (U.S. Park Police via AP)

While some agencies say the killing was justified, the U.S. attorney's office in Washington called the bodycam footage “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,” the office said in a statement.

This footage comes as several other Black people have been killed following encounters with law enforcement. According to Mapping Police Violence, police have killed 23 Black people in the United States this year alone, and Black people are nearly three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.

“The system wasn’t built to protect Black people,” Karundi Williams, the CEO of Re:power, a national organization that helps Black people on a path to political leadership, told NBC News. “And until we get to the root cause of policing and police brutality and the differences in the way police treat Black folks versus white folks, we’re not going to get to change.”

Mathis says that regardless of whether someone is committing a crime, their interactions with police don’t warrant a death sentence.

“Sleeping in a vehicle, even if it's alleged to be stolen, does not equate to a death sentence. That is UUV: unauthorized use of a stolen vehicle. In a lot of jurisdictions it's a misdemeanor. How does that equate to a death sentence?” he asked.

Martin leaves behind a 7-month-old son.

“My son should still be here,” said Terra Martin. “Time and time again, I sit and try to get my head wrapped around it, and I can’t.”