Scores mourn slain DSS worker governor orders 'security survey'

June 25, 1991|By Robert Hilson | Robert Hilson,Evening Sun Staff William Thompson contributed to this story.

Before funeral services for Tanja Brown-O'Neal, Mayor Kurt Schmoke quietly embraced Brown-O'Neal's son, Marcus, for several seconds.

The boy bravely returned to his seat and listened intently as his mother was remembered.

"He needs love now," Schmoke said. "He is all of our sons now and he needs our love."

To many mourners yesterday at Bethel A.M.E. Church in West Baltimore, Tanja Brown-O'Neal was "Min," an ambitious, lively and slightly eccentric young woman who had set definite career goals and made sure she was on track to fulfill them.

Colleagues described her as the "nerve central" among co-workers at the Rosemont office of the Department of Social Services, where she was killed last week by a knife-wielding client.

Meanwhile, Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday directed Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Bishop Robinson to initiate a "security survey" of all state offices used by the public. He said he wants a preliminary report of the survey, which is to focus on the safety of state workers and their clients, within 45 days.

At Brown-O'Neal's funeral, one colleague described her as a bushel of "bubbling brown sugar" who cared about her clients who needed assistance who and spent long hours to ensure their needs were met.

But Marcus was her main focus in life, according to those who knew her.

"That boy was really her life," one friend said. "When there wasn't a time she was talking about him, she was getting ready to talk about him."

Hundreds of mourners overflowed the church -- including friends, DSS workers, the governor, and Mayor Schmoke.

Brown-O'Neal, 29, an income maintenance worker, was repeatedly stabbed in the chest and shoulder on June 16 by a man she was interviewing about problems getting food stamps, police said. A security guard saw the attack, shot the suspect in the shoulder and detained him until police arrived. The victim died shortly afterward.

Arnold Bates, 34, of the 1900 block of W. Fayette St., has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond at the City Jail. Bates, a convicted felon with a history of mental illness, was on probation for a 1989 assault and robbery at the time of the attack on Brown-O'Neal.

Brown-O'Neal was a 1989 graduate of Coppin State College who majored in psychology. Friends said she had planned to attend the University of Maryland at Baltimore to obtain a master's degree in psychology or public administration.

She had worked at the Rosemont office of the DSS for only seven months.

"She came to work with lots of love and joy," said Mildred Bradshaw, who worked alongside Brown-O'Neal and delivered a eulogy. "She's at a place now where food stamps are not needed, a place where she made reservations at the age of eight."

Near the end of her remarks, Bradshaw asked all DSS workers in the church to stand, and hundreds rose to their feet.

"We stand in solidarity against the system who allows sick and mental [patients] to be released," Bradshaw said. "We stand today to say farewell and that your life was not in vain."

Friends have established a trust fund for Marcus Brown-O'Neal. Donations may be sent to the Tanja Brown-O'Neal Foundation Fund, in care of Cora Vaughn, Harbor Bank of Maryland, 21 W. Fayette St., Baltimore 21201.

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