Questions abound nearly ten months after the untimely death of 16-year-old Damain Jordan Martin, who drowned in a shallow canal in Broward County while trying to escape Sunrise police last March. Now civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump is demanding answers.
Crump — best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown Jr., and Tamir Rice — is expected to hold a news conference this morning in Lauderhill to announce he and his co-counsel, Sue-Ann Robinson, will take on Martin's case. Martin's mother, Tequila Waters, and members of the Broward chapter of Black Lives Matter are expected to attend.
"As [Damain] struggled for breath, police stood on the bank and watched him die in the water while preventing other residents from entering the canal to save him. Attorneys Crump and Robinson are demanding answers from the police department," a media release says.
Martin was one of four teens who fled from a stolen vehicle after being stopped by Sunrise police last March. The ensuing foot chase led Martin to a canal more than a half-mile away. After jumping into the water and beginning to swim away, Martin suddenly disappeared. A witness said he surfaced twice, screaming for help that never came. He did not come up a third time.
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Sunrise officials were quick to rule Martin's death an accidental drowning, but that account didn't sit well with his family, who knew Damain to be a strong swimmer. Certain facts about Martin's case beg for further scrutiny.
A recent probe into the teen's death by journalists with the Intercept and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting detailed discrepancies between Martin's autopsy and the medical examiner's determination that his death was accidental. At the center of the controversy are a few small cuts found on Martin's lifeless body after a rescue diver recovered it from the canal. Though officials dismissed the wounds as "faint" and "superficial," an expert consulted for the short documentary Drowning by Sunrise believes they could have been caused by a Taser.
Sunrise police fired two Taser probes at Martin while chasing him. The first was located roughly 30 feet from the canal bank. The second was never recovered. Crime scene photos displayed in the documentary show a Taser cartridge lying roughly five feet from the seawall.
Dubbed the "Black Lives Lawyer" by New York magazine, Crump has also handled the high-profile cases of Alesia Thomas and Terence Crutcher, black adults who were unarmed when police killed them.