The attorney representing the family of Dontae Martin and a local civil rights leader Wednesday questioned the Montgomery County sheriff’s account of what led to the shooting death of the 34-year-old at the hands of two deputies.
“There are multiple questions this family needs to be answered. Was Dontae targeted? How many contacts did these two officers have with Dontae prior to this fatal shooting?” Michael Wright of Wright & Schulte asked.
He was surrounded by Bishop Richard Cox, president of the Dayton chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and members of Martin’s family.
Wright also questioned why deputies did not turn on the overhead lights of their cruiser after responding on a 911 call and on a dark street during the early morning hours of July 23.
Wright’s questions came six days after Sheriff Phil Plummer said in a news conference that no audio or video existed because “it’s not protocol” to use lights and sirens in response to a one-vehicle crash. The use of lights and sirens activates audio and visual recording.
“Why did the officers respond to this call and not have their overhead lights on? We know that when the overhead lights are not on, the dash cam is not operating,” Wright said.
Plummer’s office, reached later, declined to respond to the questions.
Plummer has said deputies recovered a 20-round FN Five-seveNCQ semiautomatic pistol weapon after the shooting. The sheriff said the two deputies ordered Martin several times to drop the weapon after they approached the vehicle Martin was driving.
Deputies Gus Teague and Joshua Haas came in contact with Martin, who Plummer said might have been intoxicated, after responding to a 911 call that a woman had placed about a vehicle that had driven off the side of Springbrook Boulevard and into another car that was parked in a driveway.
“We’re approaching the vehicle thinking it’s a single-car crash, so we’re there to help the guy” Plummer said at his news conference. “As they approach the car and they look in closely with the flashlight, the gun is pointed at them, so immediately, it escalates into a deadly force situation.”
Martin, a fiancé and father of six children, was pronounced dead at 1:34 a.m. at Grandview Medical Center.
“Dontae Martin died from multiple gunshot wounds originating from opposite sides of his vehicle,” said Ken Betz, director of the county coroner’s office.
Teague and Haas are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Plummer also said Martin was a felon.
“We believe that the sheriff has told us a lie. We believe that the sheriff deliberately said bad things about Dontae to cover up for the officers that murdered him,” Cox said.
Montgomery County Common Pleas records show that Martin received intervention in lieu of conviction for a 2007 felony case in which he was charged with possession of cocaine and heroin. This newspaper’s background search on Martin showed that most of Martin’s documented interaction with law enforcement had been traffic-related.
“This community and SCLC is upset because (the sheriff’s office) painted a bad picture of Dontae,” Cox said.
Wright said Martin was shot in the head and from behind. He added that none of the witnesses said they saw Martin with a gun.
“So why was he shot and killed?” he asked.
Chief Deputy Rob Streck said declined to address those statements when contacted by this newspaper.
“We’re in the middle of the investigation now. We have the criminal part to go through, the internal part. We’re not going to make any statements right now other than what the sheriff’s already made,” Streck said.
Haas was involved in a shooting that happened late last year.
A Montgomery County grand jury returned a “no true bill” against Haas, meaning they found no probable cause to criminally charge him for shooting James A. Wright, 21, on Dec. 27 during a standoff at the Speedway gas station on North Main Street in the township.