• DCP Entertainment

Say Their Name: The Story of Archie (“Artie”) Elliott III

Disclaimer: In our exclusive series, Say Their Name, DCP Entertainment takes a deeper look into the impact of the assault and killing of unarmed Black people by the police and in ‘Stand Your Ground’ states. We share the stories of families who have been negatively impacted by these situations, as well as memorialize the lives of the individuals who were victimized. We did not talk to officers or governing bodies—just the families and their support systems. We are not the court of law, nor do we try to be. For legal purposes we are not here to presume guilt or innocence for anyone, because, quite frankly, we do not want to be sued. We simply want to give the families a voice, while examining what happens when the hashtags stop and the news unfortunately moves on to the next big story. All we want is to give the families the opportunity to control their narrative and share ways we can all help. While also raising money for the families highlighted in the series.

Note: Archie Elliott Jr. is the father of Archie (“Artie”) Elliott III. We’ll refer to Archie Elliott III as “Artie” throughout this post to avoid confusion.

“Artie used to joke and dance. And he was such a shy little boy growing up.”

That’s how Dorothy Copp Elliott remembers her son, Archie (“Artie”) Elliott III, who she lost to police brutality in 1999.

“He liked to catch a baseball. He loved riding his bike. He loved doing what the typical kids do…And he liked talking about Black history because they had to do projects when they were in school…And I used to do a lot of reading to [Artie and his brother John] when they were small.”

Artie’s parents, Dorothy and Archie Elliott Jr. met at Virginia State University (then Virginia State) in the late 1960s.

After graduating, Archie Jr. served in Vietnam for a year. But he knew he had to leave the military after MLK was killed. At the time he was the Assistant Provost Marshal at Fort Bragg.

“So they gave us a job of riot control, crowd control, building confinement areas on a temporary basis,” explains Archie Jr. “Wherever the federal troops or the military was, we’d be called. I started thinking about it and I said, ‘I’m on the wrong end of this playing field…’ I believed in what they were doing, the protestors. I wanted to be with them.”

Archie Jr. left the military and started attending North Carolina Central Law School, which was predominantly Black. His goal was to become a civil rights lawyer or criminal lawyer.

Archie Jr. was in law school when Dorothy learned she was pregnant with Artie. “He was our pride and joy,” says Dorothy.

Artie nearly died of a burst appendix when he was just a few years old. Thankfully, he survived and would go on to make a full recovery.

But a year or two later, Dorothy and Archie separated. Artie’s father stayed in Portsmouth, Virginia pursuing his legal career, while Artie’s mother became a high school teacher and moved with her son Artie to the Washington D.C. area, where her two brothers and sister lived.

Archie Jr. established a law firm in Portsmouth, VA—the first Black lawyer in the city for 25 years, he said. Archie Jr. served on the city council and was active in politics. He soon became a judge.

As Archie Elliott Jr. became Judge Elliott, his workload allowed him to see his son Artie once a month, although Artie spent most of his childhood with his mother Dorothy in the Forestville, District Heights area of Maryland. He lived with his dad for the last two years or so of high school.

Artie graduated and decided to put off college for a while. He did construction work and learned masonry. He had his sights set on becoming a bricklayer, and eventually wanted to build his mother a new home.

Eventually, though, he did decide to attend college, choosing his parents’ alma mater, Virginia State University. He majored in business administration for a short period of time, and eventually moved back to the District Heights/Forestville area of DC.

“I didn’t see my son the night before he was killed because he was planning my birthday party the next day, with a friend of his who lived in the district,” recalls Dorothy.

Artie was killed at the age of 24 by officers Jason Leavitt and Wayne Cheney of the District Heights, Maryland police department on June 18th, 1993. The officers fired 22 shots at Artie at point blank range while he was sitting handcuffed in the front seat of their patrol car.

Dorothy remembers getting the call from police, ‘You have a son named Archie?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘We’re [the police] coming over.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘We're coming over.’ And I said, ‘He’s dead, isn’t he?’ And I just knew, and I think I started screaming.”

After Artie’s death, his father, Judge Archie Elliott Jr. left his home in Portsmouth, Virginia, to spend two to three weeks in Prince George’s County, Maryland, conducting his own investigation into what happened to his son.

And the inconsistencies in the police narrative became very clear.

“Well, it wasn’t like it is today,” says Archie Jr. “Today we have cameras, videos. Back then we didn’t have that, back in the early 90s. So, we went door to door in the community and the people in that area were afraid of the police and they didn’t trust the police.”

When Artie was killed, the officers, Leavitt and Cheney, said that he had pointed a gun at them, and that they found the gun on the floor by the passenger seat near Artie’s feet with blue fiber on it matching the jeans Artie was wearing.

Though for some reason, they didn’t find that gun until another officer showed up at the scene at least a half an hour later.

Artie’s mother Dorothy and his best friend Dave said Artie had never owned or handled a gun. And even if he had, not even the police refuted that Artie was handcuffed with his hands behind his back when they alleged he pointed a gun at them. But the officers were able to prepare their own narrative leading up to the grand jury.