Michael Marshall, a 17-year-old high school football player who stands six feet, four inches tall and weighs nearly 300 pounds, had never been in trouble before he decided to participate in an anti-police protest outside Bayside Marketplace on June 10, the Miami Herald reported.
Marshall said he didn’t know anyone who was attending the event, but that he had grown increasingly concerned about alleged police brutality issues after hearing about instances of suspects being killed by law enforcement throughout the summer.
“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.”
During the mayhem that ensued, rioters spray painted historic statues, damaged a patrol vehicle, blocked traffic on an interstate, and brawled with police, WTVJ reported.
One of the Miami officers dispatched to the scene of the rioting was 27-year-old Officer Raymon Washington, a former high school and college football player who comes from a tight-knit law enforcement family.
He and his twin brother, fellow Miami Police Officer Jayson Washington, followed in the footsteps of their father, a retired Broward sheriff’s deputy, and their grandfather, who served the New York Police Department.
Videos of the chaos showed rioters jumping on a patrol car while at least one member of the group slammed a skateboard against the vehicle.
Officers raced to hold back the mob while other officers wrestled with a rioter on the ground.
Officer Washington was struggling with a suspect when Marshall, wearing a white t-shirt and black backpack, suddenly stepped into the frame and slammed a skateboard down onto the distracted officer’s head, the video showed.
The teen later said he immediately regretted his action and left the riot, the Miami Herald reported.
“When I was going home, I looked around and realized this took a hard curve and it wasn’t for me,” he told the paper.
Officer Washington said that in the midst of the chaos, he didn’t initially realize he’d been hit on the head.
Later in the night, his head started throbbing and he vomited, he told the Miami Herald.
It wasn’t until a fellow officer sent him footage of the attack several hours later after seeing it circulating on social media that Officer Washington recognized he was suffering from a concussion – something he’d also experienced on multiple occasions during his years as a football player.
Officer Washington said he went home, “took a shower, ordered a pizza, and slept for three days,” the Miami Herald reported.
“I woke up to my brother kicking in my front door,” he recalled. “They thought I was dead.”
Police later released photos of Officer Washington’s attacker and received a tip about his identity.
Marshall soon turned himself in on a charge of aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer, according to the Miami Herald.
According to Marshall’s attorney, Julian Stroleny, the teen is a star athlete with excellent grades who had no prior offenses and had never even had to serve a school detention.
Stroleny decided to make a huge request – he asked for Officer Washington to meet with Marshall face-to-face.
Officer Washington, who has grown accustomed to dealing with repeat offenders, was initially against the idea, the Miami Herald reported.
“I was like, ‘No,’” he told the paper. “I didn’t really have a good understanding of the juvenile justice system. I’m used to dealing with adults — do the crime, do the time type of thing.”
But when he learned about Marshall’s plans to continue his education and to work towards potentially obtaining college athletic scholarships, he recognized some parallels.
“I was that kid — high school athlete, wanted to go to college. Had offers on the [table],” Officer Washington said. “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.”
Marshall and Officer Washington sat down together with prosecutors and Marshall’s mother and sister on Oct. 12.
Before the meeting even started, the officer walked up to the teen and asked to sit beside him, then warned him that he’d be able to tell if Marshall was lying to him about anything, the Miami Herald reported.
Marshall burst out sobbing as he read the officer a three-page apology letter, according to the paper.
They discussed responsibility and consequences, and Officer Washington told him about his prior head trauma.
“It was a shock,” Marshall told the Miami Herald. “I didn’t know he had a bunch of concussions through the game of football. When he said that, I was devastated.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Officer Washington made a huge leap of faith.
He gave his attacker his personal cell phone number, offered to help arrange tutoring, and told him he would give him rides from school to football practice.
Officer Washington has since become a mentor to Marshall, and the two often text about life, family, and football, the Miami Herald reported.
He’s even sat in the stands with the teen’s family and watched him play.
Officer Washington ultimately gave his approval for a plea agreement that resulted in Marshall being placed on probation until he turns 19, the Miami Herald reported.
He will also be required to volunteer his time at the Miami Police Department.
If he successfully completes probation, the charge against him will be dismissed.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the relationship between Officer Washington and Marshall stands as “a shining example of how we can overcome the tense relationships that exist,” the Miami Herald reported.