MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The family of a South Florida teen is planning to file a lawsuit to get to the truth about how the 16-year-old drowned in a lake during a police pursuit.
Damian Martin died in March of 2019 as he and several other teens were pulled over by Sunrise police while in a suspected stolen vehicle.
Investigators said as Martin ran from the police he jumped into a canal and drowned.
On Thursday, Martin’s family marched to demand answers from police.
“He was a good kid. He did not deserve this. I want to know why he was in that,” said Tequila Water, Martin’s mother. “Why nobody didn’t do anything? Why they just saw there and watched him drown?”
To this day, she still questions why police did not jump in to save him.
“I can’t understand why people’s hearts are so cold that they would let a human being pass away,” said Martin’s great aunt. “This child had his whole life ahead of him. They could have helped him.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump is filing an “intent to sue” in an effort to get answers. He questions if race played a role.
“We have this question that we keep asking: ‘Did the police pause when they saw it was a person of color? Why didn’t they go in?'” said Crump.
In an internal affairs investigation, police reported:
“While fleeing, he decided to enter a waterway, where, based solely on his actions, became a drowning victim.”
Police said when officers saw the teen having trouble they yelled for him to come back and threw rescue devices into the water.
The report cleared the officers, stating:
“I determined the officers made the grim, yet indisputably correct decision, not to enter the water. It is clear, if they had, they would have put their own lives in peril.”
Attorneys for the family said police are trained for this type of rescue.
“Even if it was part of a chase, the issue is, once it became an emergency situation they have a duty to act and respond. They’re not permitted under their guidelines to watch someone drown,” said family attorney Ann Robinson.