BROOKLINE — Family and supporters of Juston Root gathered at the intersection of Hammond Street and Route 9 Friday — just dozens of feet from where he was killed by police in 2020 — calling for an independent investigation into his death.
The protest was organized by his sister, Jennifer Root Bannon, who has been calling for further investigation for more than two years.
“We’ve always maintained that there needed to be an independent investigation,” she said. “I think right now is a real opportunity, because there are people who are shifting and changing offices this next fall.”
Root Bannon was joined by about a half-dozen people wearing T-shirts, holding banners, and carrying signs emblazoned with Root’s photo and a QR code to an online petition calling for city and state officials to open an investigation.
Root, 41, was killed Feb. 7 2020, after a Brigham and Women’s Hospital security guard called in a report of a suspicious man with a gun, claiming to be law enforcement, according to police at the time. The gun later was discovered to be a plastic paintball gun. Root’s family said he had struggled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.
Root was shot at least once outside the hospital before returning to his car and leading police in a chase into Brookline. Near the Hammond Street intersection, Root lost control of his car, which had been badly damaged after being rammed into by a cruiser minutes before, and collided with multiple vehicles before stumbling out — the incident was filmed by traffic cameras and an unknown bystander.
He made it to the edge of a nearby shopping center’s parking lot, where he collapsed, witnesses told the Globe at the time. Police arrived while Root was being tended to by a former EMT who witnessed the crash. Officers commanded the EMT to run before they opened fire.
After 31 shots fired in about three seconds, Root was dead, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed August 2020.
On Friday, Root Bannon pulled back branches to reveal the spot where her brother died.
“It’s really grown in here now,” she said. “He fell right here.”
Root Bannon filed a motion Monday with the US District Court in Boston, requesting a summary judgment in her favor. The City of Boston, five Boston police officers and one Massachusetts state trooper are all named as defendants.
The motion alleges that officers violated Root’s Fourth Amendment rights through the use of excessive force and committed assault and battery, leaving them responsible for his death.
It further claims that one of the officers, Joseph McMenamy used excessive force when he rammed Root’s car and kicked him before the shooting began, as he acknowledged doing.
“The Individual Defendants did not assess Mr. Root’s physical condition or whether he was cognitively able to understand or respond to police commands. Instead, they simultaneously yelled confusing and unintelligible commands at him and a bystander who was trying to help,” the filing reads, in part.
Root Bannon told the Globe she thinks the filing “speaks for itself.”
The Suffolk district attorney’s office declined to comment Friday afternoon, citing a conflict of interest that followed staffing changes within the department.
Root’s father, Evan Root, 79, walked between Hammond Street and the parking lot, handing out fliers and speaking to shoppers about his son. “It just keeps the conversation going,” he said.
More than two years since his son’s death, Root said he remains hopeful that justice will come, but he knows change takes time. He said there were a range of systemic factors that needed to be addressed, including mental health care and qualified immunity, which grants police certain protections from lawsuits.
“We’re not the only case,” Root said. “Let’s face it, human beings tend to hold onto the status quo, at least if it’s serving them.”
Among those who joined the Root family was Annemarie Grant, a 42-year-old Boston resident who said her brother, Thomas Purdy, was hogtied before dying in police custody on a 2015 trip to Reno, Nev. She said she reached out to Root Bannon after hearing about her brother.
“We’re stronger together, and nobody really knows what it’s like unless you’re going through it,” Grant said.
She said justice is impossible as long as police departments are left to investigate themselves.
“People need to realize that it literally could be their loved one,” Grant said. “We’re all living on an imaginary pedestal — until it happens to you.”