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Heroes

A Miami police officer becomes a mentor to the teen who attacked him at a BLM protest

A Miami police officer becomes a mentor to the teen who attacked him at a BLM protest
via Julian Stroleny

Seventeen-year-old Michael Marshall had never been to a protest before, but on June 10, his mother dropped him off at Bayside Marketplace in Miami, Florida to join Black Lives Matter in their call for justice.

"It was important to me as a young Black man to go out there and stand with my people," he told The Miami Herald. "It was important to represent something way bigger than me."

The protests turned violent when demonstrators began vandalizing statues of Juan Ponce de León and Christopher Columbus. This resulted in the Miami Police Department deploying a response platoon against the demonstrators.


This caused a melee in which the 6-foot-4, nearly 300-pound Marshall whacked officer Raymon Washington in the head with his skateboard.

Boy, 17, faces charge after video shows him hit officer with skate boardwww.youtube.com


Soon after Marshall struck the officer he had deep feelings of remorse. "When I was going home, I looked around and realized this took a hard curve and it wasn't for me," he said. Marshall, a standout Northwestern High football player, had never been in any trouble before or had any encounters with the police.

As Black man, Washington understood the protestors' rage.

"The uproar — I understood it because I'm Black myself," Washington said. "I still get stopped in my neighborhood in my car by the police. I get it. There is change that needs to happen but tearing up the city is not one way."

Washington didn't immediately realize he had been struck, but after things calmed down in downtown Miami, he vomited and was sent home. "I took a shower, ordered a pizza and slept for three days," Washington said. "I woke up to my brother kicking in my front door. They thought I was dead."

Washington was concussed by the blow. This added to the lingering effects of multiple concussions he received as an athlete in his youth.

After video of the teenager striking the officer spread online, Marshall turned himself in to authorities and was charged with aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer.

Julian Stroleny, the teenager's lawyer, got to work on a plea deal that would spare Marshall a mark on his clean record and impede his promising football career.

"I had seen the pictures distributed by the media, I had seen the video, but the young man before me was kind, timid, humble, and incredibly remorseful," Stroleny said. "He had no priors, excellent grades, and was a star athlete. Not even a detention at school."

As part of the deal, he proposed a meeting between Washington and Marshall to reconcile.

However, Washington was hesitant.

"I was like, 'No.' I didn't really have a good understanding of the juvenile justice system," Washington said. "I'm used to dealing with adults — do the crime, do the time type of thing."

But after Washington learned about Marshall's athletic aspirations he agreed to meet with the teenager.

The two, along with members of Marshall's family met in a State Attorney's conference room where Washington read Marshall's three-page letter of apology. The letter brought him to tears.

"I was that kid — a high school athlete, wanted to go to college. Had offers on the table. I was like, I don't want to screw this kid up. If I can change one life, and that's it, then that's it," Washington said. "I should have been dead three times this year. For some reason, God was like, you're here for a reason."

Marshall was devastated after learning the officer's history with concussions.

The police officer then did something extraordinary. He gave the teenager his cellphone number and arranged for him to receive tutoring and offered him rides to and from football practice.

The two are now in regular communication through text messages and Washington has become a mentor to the teen.

Recently, Washington visited the teenager's home and was in the stands for Northwestern's game against its rival, Central High.

"We won. I played great," Marshall said. "I played amazing. He was so proud of me."

"The divide between police and the communities they service isn't good for anybody," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. "This is a shining example of how we can overcome the tense relationships that exist. It's a beautiful story."

Marshall's attorney has reached a plea deal with the state that includes Washington's blessing. If he completes his probation and volunteer hours at the Miami Police Department, his record will be expunged at the age of 19.

Marshall is a senior looking to graduate this June. He has already received a few scholarships offers and hopes to play for a Division 1 team.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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