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.”
“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.
The officers were never charged.
Archie Jr. describes the nepotism and embedded racism in police departments, the “blue wall of silence” in law enforcement, the scourge of police misconduct, and the power of police unions.
“They are not going to say nothing about each other because your day will come and you’re going to need us to talk to save you,” says Archie Jr. of police departments. “And they still have that blue wall, even in cities with Black chiefs…And these are those old nepotism people, granddaddy, cousin, uncles, who’ve been in the police departments…And they are just used to doing it the racist way. And they don’t want to change.”
The Elliotts tried to get Artie’s case reopened, soliciting the help of the NAACP and even Rev. Jesse Jackson, to no avail. Then they reached out to Washington DC radio talk show host and activist Joe Madison to draw attention to Artie’s case.
Madison helped organize protests, drawing elected officials, state representatives, state delegates, state senators, and high-profile figures including Dick Gregory, Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III.
“We took turns getting arrested,” says Madison. “We would demonstrate, and then we would participate in civil disobedience, by either blocking the front of the courthouse, and we would get arrested. We did that for months.”
Still, they were met with opposition from community members, including local ministers, who Joe Madison says resented the demonstrators for challenging County Executive Jack Johnson, who they supported (and who, notably, later went to prison for accepting bribes).
As the Elliott family was still reeling from the loss of Artie, their wounds were reopened 20 months after his death, when they learned that officer Cheney, who killed Artie, had killed another unarmed person during a traffic stop.
The Elliotts are still trying to get justice for Artie. Dorothy Elliott’s fight to keep Artie’s name alive continues to be her life’s work, even beyond having the case reopened.
“Artie was not just a statistic. He lived and he should’ve continued living, so I’m going to talk about it.”
Artie’s life mattered. We must never stop saying his name.
Here’s how you can help keep Artie’s name alive:
Get involved with the Coalition of Concerned Mothers, a collaborative dedicated to building partnerships with families who have been affected by senseless killings, police brutality, and mass incarceration.
Sign the petition to reopen Artie’s case at https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/justice-for-archie-artie
Get involved with Mothers’ United Voices, a group for bereaved mothers supporting each other in advocating for justice and for a humane response and recognition from fellow citizens.
Donate to Dorothy’s scholarship fund in the memoriam of her son Artie - CashApp - $ARTIESSCHOLARSHIP.
Get involved with (Eliminating, Racism and Inequality Collectively, aka Garner Way Foundation), which provides ongoing support and education to victims of violence and to families who are suffering with tragedy and loss.
Help elect local and national officials who will stand up for the rights of all people—not just those that donate to their campaigns.
Donate to the Say Their Name Memorial Fund to benefit all the families highlighted in the Say Their Name series.