'Why him? Why anybody?' Slain officer mourned Jones remembered as 'a good person'

June 02, 1993|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

Under a sparkling June sky, the powerful voices of a choir rose outside the Little Ark Missionary Baptist Church in East Baltimore. Hundreds of somber-faced police officers lined the south side of the 1200 block of E. North Ave., and scores of residents pushed closer from the other side of the street as the casket was carried toward the hearse.

The funeral of Officer Herman A. Jones Sr., who was fatally shot May 26 during a robbery in an East Baltimore Chinese carryout, punctuated the neighborhood yesterday with the stirring sounds of a bagpipe, the wails of mourners and the voices of everyday citizens calling for justice.

Charged as adults with first-degree murder and handgun violations in the officer's death are Herbert "Squeaky" Wilson, 17, of the 2100 block of E. Biddle St.; Clifton "Chip" Price, 17, of the 1600 block of N. Montford Ave.; and Derrick N. Broadway, 16, of the 1800 block of Aiken St.

Along with anguish from Officer Jones' family and fellow officers, there also was a mounting sense of frustration among the residents of the North Avenue community, weary of the violence and fearful for their children's safety.

"They ought to crank up the gas chamber over at the pen for all this killing going on," said an elderly onlooker wearing a straw hat and a bow tie.

"This guy they killed here, he was so tall you could see him walking toward you from blocks away," a woman said, her arms folded and staring at the front of the tiny church. "He had such a nice way with kids, people. Why him, why anybody?"

Officer Jones, 50, was eulogized yesterday in the community where he grew up and received much of his schooling. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Comptroller Jacqueline McLean spoke highly of the slain officer while other city dignitaries paid their respects to family members during the four-hour service.

Officer Jones was one of the founders of the Vanguard Justice Society, a group of black city officers, and later served on that organization's board of trustees.

He was an honorably discharged Army veteran and earned an associate of arts degree from the Community College of Baltimore in 1976.

Though dedication to his family and the city was important to Officer Jones, several of his close friends said, he was talking more and more about retiring.

"He was always outgoing, made you laugh," said Robert Lowman, a field supervisor for the state Department of Parole and Probation who grew up with Officer Jones in East Baltimore.

"He was giving more thought to retiring because these young kids today on the street have no value for human life," Mr. Lowman said.

There were people at the funeral who had played stickball with Officer Jones in an alley behind his home on Wolfe Street. Others remembered him as the lanky receiver on City College's Maryland Scholastic Association championship football team in the early 1960s.

Many of his fellow officers praised him as a compassionate officer who loved walking a foot post rather than being detached from the public inside a patrol car.

Others, including Gary Mosby, knew Officer Jones from his regular contact with the public. Mr. Mosby, a baggage handler at the Greyhound-Trailways bus station in the 200 block of W. Fayette St., said he enjoyed their conversations.

"I saw him the day before he was killed," Mr. Mosby said. "He seemed to enjoy talking about his children a lot.

"He was a good person, really," Mr. Mosby said. "Not perfect, but he respected people and they respected him. He carried himself proudly."

John Pittman, 33, sat on the steps of his home at 1246 E. North Ave. and cursed the murder of the officer and the lack of values among some of today's youths.

"He was a pretty nice guy, and because of that we taught our children to respect the police," said Mr. Pittman, who works nights as a janitor. "I worry where we're all going. The parents are not taking care of their kids, making them go to school."

Del. Clarence Davis, D-Baltimore, a childhood acquaintance of Officer Jones, said, "Nearly the whole old neighborhood made it today for Herman. Everybody knew him, and it's a big loss, because he really cared."

Detective Arnold Adams knew Officer Jones during the slain officer's entire 23-year police career, going from stumbling rookies to veterans. They started working the streets together and grew to be close friends.

"He spent his entire time in the Central District," Detective Adams said. "Loyalty was the big thing for Herman. He knew his city, its history and the people in it. He always loved City College, where he played ball. I don't think he missed one City-Poly game on Thanksgiving Day.

"He was just that kind of person."

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