A jury in Missouri found that a Black man died by violence and not suicide — as authorities had previously determined.
The shooting of Derontae Martin, 19, of Park Hills, on April 25 was scrutinized by a six-person jury during a coroner’s inquest Friday.
Martin was at a birthday party at a home near Fredericktown, which is about 90 miles south of St. Louis, before he was found dead in the attic. Police and a forensic pathologist had determined that he fatally shot himself.
Activists and Martin’s relatives questioned the initial findings, which were evaluated during the coroner’s inquest by a jury consisting of a Black man, a white man and four white women, according to NBC affiliate KSDK of St. Louis.
Martin’s family could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The jury, which did not offer a determination of who was responsible for Martin’s death, ruled in about two hours last week that Martin died by violence. It could have determined that his death was a suicide or an accident or that he died from natural causes, KSDK reported.
Madison County Prosecutor M. Dwight Robbins told KSDK he likes to ask Coroner Collin Follis to call an inquest if there is uncertainty about a death. Inquests occur in counties that do not have medical examiners, KSDK reported.
Robbins could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. It was unclear how the case will proceed.
“We don’t have answers to who, who did it? We don’t have answers to why they did it. But … God ain’t through yet,” Martin’s grandmother Kimberly Robinson told KSDK.
Martin’s mother, Erica Lotts, told the station that she was relieved and elated after the jury’s finding.
“They saw the truth that my baby did not kill himself,” she said.
Lotts danced in the courthouse after the decision before she briefly collapsed in a chair and cried.
Dr. Russell Deidiker, the pathologist who performed the autopsy, testified that Martin died from a gunshot wound to his head that was fired at close contact. A second autopsy, commissioned by Martin’s family, determined that the gun was fired from farther away.
Toxicology results found that Martin had drugs in his system. KSDK reported that three Missouri Highway Patrol troopers testified that they believed Martin took his own life.
Others who testified said that Martin was acting paranoid and that multiple people may have been involved in his death.
The home where the party occurred is owned by a man with a history of bigoted social media posts. He testified that he had used racial slurs in the past and on social media but that he did not kill Martin. He has not been charged with a crime.
He could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.