As the world awaited the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial, dozens of activists gathered at the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro on Tuesday to advocate for justice for Marcus Deon Smith, who was killed by Greensboro police in 2018. During the press conference, community members brought forth a new report that re-confirmed Smith’s death as a homicide.
“It is my opinion…that Marcus Smith died as the direct consequence of being forcibly restrained in the prone position after a period of intense physical activity and furthermore hog-tied to such an extent that his respiratory ability was compromised…,” writes Dr. Kris L. Sperry, a retired chief medical examiner for the state of Georgia in the new report. “I concur that the manner of death should be classified as a homicide.”
In 2018, Smith was killed by police officers after he was found wandering in and out of traffic during the Folk Festival in downtown Greensboro. During the interaction, Smith was hogtied and forced onto the ground for several minutes, chest first. A subsequent report by the state medical examiner at the time found Smith’s death to be a homicide due to prone restraint. This prompted the Smith family to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against city including the officers and paramedical staff involved. The lawsuit has been ongoing for more than two years and has resulted in the city spending more than half-million dollars for its defense.
During the press conference on Tuesday, activists called for accountability.
“We are standing here in Greensboro with the same hurt and pain for over two years,” said Rev. Wesley Morris of Faith Community Church. “And anywhere justice is delayed, that is justice being denied.”
The activists also tied the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis just last year to Smith’s case from 2018.
“The city council who would never say that George Floyd’s death wasn’t caused by the Minneapolis police are bending over backwards to avoid accountability for Marcus Smith’s death and I have to ask why?,” said activist Casey Thomas. “I think the answer is power. I think it is that the narrative of George Floyd’s death has more political power than the narrative of Marcus Smith’s death here because they believe that the people who care that the police killed Marcus Smith do not have the power to unelect them.”
The press conference also comes in the wake of a revelation that one of the police officers who was involved in Smith’s death, Douglas Strader, has been hired by the Graham Police Department. In response to Strader’s hiring, two civil rights complaints have been filed with the state department of justice as well as the federal department of justice.
[Photos by Todd Turner]