Death of Va. teacher's assistant in DC remains a mystery

- A memorial service was held Monday for a man who died under mysterious circumstances while in the custody of special police officers.

Alonzo Smith was found handcuffed and unresponsive in the hallway of a Southeast D.C. apartment complex the morning of November 1. He was pronounced dead an hour later.

So far, the medical examiner has not ruled on a cause of death and Smith's family is desperate for answers.

Beverly Smith stood in the gymnasium of the Accotink Academy Learning Academy in Springfield, Virginia, and accepted hug after hug from teachers and employees who worked with her son.

All of them are devastated by her son’s death, which at this point remains unexplained.

"It was so heartwarming to hear how much the kids and faculty loved my son and how much he had helped the kids here,” Smith’s mother said.

Alonzo Smith was a teacher’s assistant who worked at the school for about three years. All of the teachers wore buttons in honor of Smith while students wrote messages to a man known as "Zo."

Over three weeks later, the grief is still so raw.

"There are no words to describe how I feel at this moment,” said Beverly Smith. “I’m already grieving over my son’s death and I haven't fully accepted his death. But not be given the cause of my son’s death, calling the medical examiner’s office and they are telling me that it’s going to take [around] 90 days?"

She said she has spoken with the funeral director and the list of injuries to his body has left her deeply shaken.

"My son’s neck is broken to the extent that the funeral director could not sit his head straight up,” said Smith. “His collarbone is broken. He has a massive bruise on his shoulder.”

Smith said both of her son’s eyes were also swollen.

From a police report and witnesses, we know Alonzo Smith was seen running through the parking lot of the Marbury Plaza Apartments at around 4 a.m. on November 1 yelling, “Help me, help me. They are trying to kill me.”

He was then seen running into one of the buildings where D.C. police found him handcuffed in the custody of two special police officers who worked at the complex.

A D.C. police report called Smith’s death a “Justifiable Homicide," but a spokesperson later said it was a mistake and was reclassified as a death report.

We also know police received three 911 calls that morning -- two for investigate the trouble and one for an assault in progress.

"I want answers,” said Smith’s mother. “I want to know what happened to my son. I want the truth to come out. I want justice."

Beverly Smith has hired an attorney and has been very frustrated that they have not been able to get any answers at all.

The attorney said that they did receive a medical report from the hospital where Smith was pronounced dead and they said he did not have any drugs on him and no weapons.

D.C. police’s internal affairs division is conducting this investigation.

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