Dr. David Fowler, the chief medical examiner of Maryland, is set to testify in George Floyd’s case for justice. Sadly, in 2018, he had declared that Anton Black’s killing was “accidental,” despite striking similarities between his killing and that of George’s.
In fact, there are many similarities between the lives of George Floyd and Anton Black.
They were known for having big dreams. When 46-year-old George Floyd was a teenager, he wanted to be a pro athlete. He was already a star athlete in high school. Similarly, 19-year-old Anton Black was a champion athlete in his high school. But what he wanted to do most was to model and act. He was young and had many interests. His possibilities were endless.
Children looked up to George Floyd. He was a mentor in his community. While his life had ups and downs, he learned from his mistakes. People respected him more because he overcame obstacles.
Anton Black was great with kids too. In fact, his young nieces and nephews adored him. He had a child on the way and would’ve made a good father. George Floyd was a father, too.
Most importantly, George Floyd and Anton Black were loved.
In a chillingly similar fashion, their lives were stolen from them. Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pinned George Floyd down, placing his knee on Floyd’s neck. Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who reviewed medical records in George Floyd’s case, testified that there was virtually no way George Floyd could breathe properly. It came to the horrific point that Floyd used his fingers and knuckles as a last resort to try to get air. This lasted for 9 minutes and 29 seconds until he was killed.
In Anton Black’s case, then-Greensboro Police Officer Thomas Webster IV, Centreville Police Officer Dennis Lannon, Ridgely Police Chief Gary Manos, and a white resident pushed their weight on his slight frame while he was facedown for six minutes until he was killed. They pressed on his face, chest, and stomach. Like George Floyd, he struggled to breathe.
In the end, the white man’s weight on Anton Black and the ways they restrained him caused him to die of positional asphyxiation. Anton’s case is an eerily, and terrifyingly, similar police killing to George Floyd’s.
In their last moments, George Floyd called out to his mother and Anton Black cried for help from his mother. With his last breaths, Anton told her that he loved her. Black’s mother watched her son die on her front porch.
An unfortunate parallel in their lives, brought forth by reporting from The Intercept, is Dr. David Fowler who ruled Anton Black’s killing an “accident,” falsely claimed that a heart condition caused his death, and even went as far as to say that Black’s bipolar disorder was a contributing factor, rather than the actions of the officers making it impossible for him to breathe.
This same white man is now an expert witness in Floyd’s case for justice against Chauvin, expected to testify that Floyd was not killed by police. Again, he absolves the police, despite excruciating video evidence to the contrary.
What is important to note here is that, in both Anton and George’s deaths, there is video footage showing these police officers killing them. Yet, even though the world saw what happened, there are still extensive court hearings, debating, trying to excuse and cover up police responsibility for killing these men.
But even as Dr. David Fowler again defends the indefensible actions of police, in Chauvin’s trial, he is being sued by Anton Black’s family for his false autopsy report.
The police killing of Anton Black is part of a broader pattern of lack of accountability and systems of oppression that kill Black and Brown people. The Intercept reports that between 2013 and 2019, the Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner classified 30 percent of deaths involving a law enforcement officer as “accidents,” “undetermined,” or due to “natural causes.” This is a startling fact that puts all of those reasons for death into question.
Far too many Black and Brown lives are cut short because of a racist, oppressive system that is being allowed to continue. Policing must be reimagined now. It cannot continue like this. George Floyd and Anton Black’s lives mattered.
Whether it be in the courts or in Annapolis, the community is advocating for change to save Black lives.
Rene’ C. Swafford, Esq. is the legal counsel for the Black Family. Art by Lori Yates.