South Florida Community Demands Accountability After Black Teen Jumps Into Canal, Dies During Police Chase

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Residents of South Florida community rallied Saturday to demand answers in the death of a local teen who drowned during a foot chase with police.

Family, friends and supporters of Damain Martin gathered for a march in Fort Lauderdale over the weekend, where they questioned officers’ efforts to rescue the young man, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

Damian Martin Protest
Dozens turned out in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday to demand answers in the death of local teen Damain Martin. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel / video screenshot)

Protesters marched from the from the African American Research Library and Cultural Center to a family member’s home several blocks away.

“The only thing I’m here for is justice, justice, and justice,” said Martin’s mother, Tequila Waters. “Nothing but justice and answers.”

“My son didn’t deserve this,” she added.

Martin, 16, was riding in a Jeep with three others when they were stopped by police in the metro Miami suburb of Sunrise, Florida, March 8, according to a police report. Authorities said the car was reported stolen out of Parkland — a city about 20 minutes north.

Martin and his friends bailed, fleeing the scene on foot. Three of the teens were caught, but officers said Martin ran about half a mile down the road before hopping a fence and jumping into a canal.

According to authorities, one of the officers fired his stun gun at the teen during the chase before he plunged into the water. It’s unclear if Martin was struck.

The young man was seen swimming away from the canal and treading water as officers shouted for him to “come back, come back,” the police report states. Martin, 16, went under about two minutes later as officers and fire rescue officials rushed to save him with ropes and other rescue devices, authorities said.

It was too late, however. Martin’s body was pulled from the center of the canal, in about 10 feet of water, just after 6:30 p.m., according to the report. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The teen’s mother has questioned officers’ account of the incident, however, and said she finds it hard to believe he could have drowned.

“He was swimming since he was 3 years old,” Waters told the Sun-Sentinel of her son. “He could swim good. That was never in question.”

She recalled the night authorities called her with news that Martin had died from drowning, a claim she immediately wrote off as “a lie.”

An autopsy performed by the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the teen’s cause of death as an accidental drowning. The report found no evidence of Martin being hit by the officer’s stun gun.

As reported by the Sun-Sentinel, a witness who lived near the canal told investigators that she saw a distraught officer on the canal bank ready to hop  in the water, out of “concern for a young man’s life.”

Waters and her family remain skeptical, however, and said they will continue pressing police for answers in her son’s tragic death.

“Every time I have a chance to march and protest and do whatever I need to do to get answers and justice for my son, I’m there,” she told the paper. “Get used to seeing my face.”

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