The senseless, brutal end of a foot soldier for God

February 14, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Mourners packed Jones Tabernacle Baptist Church Friday night, pouring out the door, standing along the walls and forming a serpentine line that wound its way around the church so all could get a final look at Laroy Keith Hopkins.

Hopkins, a city public works employee and part-time security guard at the Phase III nightclub in Waverly, was gunned down Feb. 5 after he ordered the driver of a double-parked car to move. The tragic irony of Hopkins' death is that he worked with the Rev. Willie Ray's "Stop The Killing" campaign. Ray addressed mourners Friday night and praised Hopkins as a man of God who loved his family, community and children.

I met Hopkins back in 1980, when he was a powerful 167-pounder for Walbrook High School's wrestling team. Greg Brown, a boyhood friend, and I attended the Maryland Scholastic Association wrestling tournament -- one of our passions. Hopkins also was a karate champion nicknamed "Powerhouse," but Brown and I went for linguistic efficiency and simply called him "Hop."

In his semifinal match, Hop was disqualified when he injured his opponent after slapping a hold on him that looked suspiciously like a full nelson, which is illegal in amateur wrestling. In the stands afterward, Hop claimed it wasn't a full nelson.

"It kinda looked like a full nelson to me," I volunteered, but hastily added, "Not that I'm arguing with you, Hop." I didn't want to rile the guy. He clearly didn't know his own strength.

Later, after his wrestling skills won him a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, Hop turned to something other than physical strength. His spiritual strength led him to join the New Life Baptist Church, where he stayed until he joined Jones Tabernacle in September of 1985. He also worked with St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church's "We Care To Get Involved" Program.

"This was a good man here," Eric El-Amin said outside the church, as mourners continued their steady stream inside. Eric El-Amin was there with his brother Earl. Both had known Hop and his brother "for years," according to Eric, when they grew up in the Sandtown-Winchester community. Eric, co-host of a radio talk show with his brother on WEAA, spoke calmly. But I got the feeling there was an undercurrent of rage in his voice, as well there should have been.

"I issued a challenge to all those Million Man March brothers to start defending their communities," Eric said. "I got quite a few calls about it." Both Eric and Earl are members of an orthodox Islamic sect headed by Wallace Mohammed, who did not endorse the Million Man March. Imam Mohammed figured the march wasn't necessary. It certainly wasn't for Hopkins, who had already done his marching as a foot soldier for God. Last Friday, Eric El-Amin implied that if men like Laroy Hopkins can be gunned down in the street, the march wasn't very effective.

"When are black men going to say 'Enough is enough' "? Eric lamented. Some of us already have, by supporting the "three strikes and you're out" provision of the crime bill. But others consider "three strikes and out" anti-black and question the racial loyalty of those who support it. Mind you, the racial loyalty of the muggers, robbers and rapists who prey on black people daily has never been questioned.

"Three strikes and out" won't work for black people, critics say. But if it keeps a Nathaniel Dawson and his group of thugs off the streets so that 10-year-old Tauris Johnson is not gunned down as he plays football in November of 1993, hasn't it worked? It it keeps someone from killing a Laroy Hopkins, hasn't it worked?

(Police have not arrested Hopkins' killer, but if and when he is apprehended and convicted and it comes to light that the miscreant has a prior record, a certain columnist at a certain Baltimore newspaper is going to go totally ballistic.)

Hop's daughter, Whitney Nicole, wrote a poem for her father and read it at the funeral. She ended the poem with, "My daddy is with God, and God is taking care of him." But I'm sure her daddy would have preferred to be around to see her off to her senior prom and attend her high school graduation.

Today Rev. Willie Ray will hold a candlelight vigil for Hopkins from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the corner of 32nd Street and tTC Greenmount Avenue. The truly disgusted among us might do well to show up and demand that we no longer have tolerance for murderers and reprobates.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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