Reports are surfacing about the death of a Black man in Washington D.C., amid suspicions of police brutality.
According to Reuters, the man, Alonzo Fiero Smith, 27, was found handcuffed in the custody of special officers (which could include, for example, security guards, hospital guards and campus police). In a statement from the Metropolitan Police Department, after responding to a report of an assault, officers found Smith unconscious and not breathing in a residential building. Police attempted to give Smith CPR and called medics. The man was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead at 5:08 a.m. on Sunday.
According to Fox 5 in Washington, D.C., the family’s attorney said the special police who held the man in custody were security guards for an apartment complex and therefore private employees not affiliated with the D.C. police. The attorney also noted that Smith was unarmed and that a witness heard Smith running down the hall yelling “Help! Help! They’re going to kill me!” It is unclear who Smith was referencing.
The family’s attorney also told Fox 5 that she has not able to examine the body or access the autopsy report, but says Smith was beaten. Additionally, she said that based on the eyewitness account, she believes Smith “was very much alive before the special police got to him.” Smith’s distraught mother does not understand what happened and wants to know why the police report lists her son’s killing as a “justifiable homicide.”
Smith was a teacher working with special needs children at a Virginia private school for the past three years. He also worked as a portrait model. In 2013, he wrote Lost Soul, a self-published book of poems he said were written between the ages of 14 and 22 “to show lost souls can be found and those with no soul still have a chance.” On the Amazon page for his book, Smith wrote that the book started when he was sentenced to Juvenile Life with the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Long nights, bad dreams and a temper that caused bad judgment, I was encouraged to write what I feel. It is the poems in this book that helped me through so much and allowed me to express what I feel in an exceptional way,” he said. “I never knew writing my first poem would be the beginning of a book that told a different part of my life through each page. So I wrote this book for those who don’t understand me, for others who are misunderstood, and to express what I have felt through the toughest times a teenager can imagine.”
“To dream freely with a life at my own pace, carelessly happy released of my hate, who can say they don’t wish on this star, a star so bright and promising yet so far,” he wrote in a poem, titled “The Road.”
The Huffington Post reports several of the man’s colleagues mourned him, with one writing on Facebook that Smith was “one hell of a great worker” who “kept the kids smiling, and did his job right.” A college friend wrote that while “very few people” knew Smith’s past, everyone thought the man was “destined for greatness.” His Facebook page revealed his enthusiasm for his work.
“I’m all in for these kids,” he wrote on Oct. 27. An earlier post read, “I will be at work with my smile and anxious to hear ‘Mr. Smith’ from the students. Bless my soul.”
The family of Alonzo Smith started a GoFundMe page in his name. The D.C. police have initiated an investigation, but this is only beginning, and there are far more questions than answers at this point.