GREENSBORO — Thomas Webster IV, the Greensboro police officer involved in the death of 19-year-old town resident Anton Black in police custody nearly a year ago, has been decertified by Maryland’s Police Training and Standards Commission and is no longer employed by the town.
Greensboro Police Chief Eric Lee announced Thursday, Aug. 1, at the town’s meeting that Webster was no longer with the town force but declined to give further details, citing legal privacy issues.
Renata Seergae, of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which includes the commission, said in an email the commission had decertified Webster effective Friday, July 26.
Webster’s certification in the state was called into question in February, when the state department learned Webster’s full history — including 29 “use of force” reports from his career as an officer in Dover, Del. — was not disclosed in the application for his certification in Maryland, submitted in early 2018 by Michael Petyo, Greensboro’s police chief at the time.
Petyo only included Webster’s 2015 acquittal on assault charges, stemming from a 2013 incident in which a dash camera recorded Webster kicking an unarmed black man in the jaw while trying to arrest him in Dover.
The additional “use of force” reports came to the commission’s attention through news reporting.
Online minutes from the commission’s April 10 meeting show, in a closed session, the members voted to hold a decertification hearing on a future date.
Webster had been placed on administrative leave by the town’s mayor and council in January, after several months of pressure to do so from Black’s family and supporters.
In March, Black’s family and supporters asked the mayor and council to terminate Webster, for allegedly violating the town police department’s guidelines for responding to someone in a mental health crisis; Black recently had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he died in police custody.
Webster’s hiring by the town in early 2018 was criticized by several residents due to the 2013 incident in Dover.
Though Webster was acquitted on the assault charges, the City of Dover had to pay the injured man, Lateef Dickerson, $300,000 to drop a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, and $230,000 over six years to Webster after his release from the police department on the condition he never again would seek employment there.
On Sept. 15, 2018, Webster responded to a 911 call reporting a young boy possibly being abducted by an older teen, later identified as Black, in Greensboro.
After a brief foot pursuit that ended in front of Black’s family’s home on Greensboro Road, Webster used his baton to break the window of a car parked outside the home, which Black had jumped into. Webster then tried to use his Taser on Black, still in the car. Black left the car, and Webster, along with two off-duty officers from Ridgely and Centreville and a passing civilian, restrained Black on a handicap ramp leading into the home.
Black became unresponsive after the struggle to restrain him. Officers and, later, emergency medical services personnel administered life-saving services, but he was pronounced dead at the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton.
In January, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Black’s autopsy revealed his death was accidental, a sudden cardiac arrest caused by a congenital heart defect. The autopsy noted the stress of the struggle with police likely contributed.
Caroline County State’s Attorney Joseph Riley said based on that evidence, he would not seek an indictment against any of the involved officers.
Attorneys representing Black’s family then announced they would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct its own investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union also said it will call for an independent investigation by the Maryland State Prosecutor or the U.S. Department of Justice.