Political feud erupts over police shooting Snowden, DeGraff critical of each other after Sept. 3 protest rally

September 29, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A political feud has erupted between two potential mayoral candidates in the aftermath of a police shooting in Annapolis this month that left one man dead, sparked a community protest and raised charges of police racism and brutality.

Aldermen Carl O. Snowden and M. Theresa DeGraff have sharply criticized each other's stances on the Sept. 2 shooting in the Robinwood community in letters to the editor and in interviews.

Some political observers blamed the bickering on election year politics. DeGraff has said she will run for mayor next year and Snowden said he is exploring a run for the office. He has raised $72,000 in campaign contributions.

"They're all running for election and slinging mud," said Bertina Nick, a Clay Street community activist "They have to realize the issue isn't about them."

Police are investigating the shooting, in which 18-year-old Cochise Ornandez Daughtry died and Vernon Eugene Estep Jr., 19, was critically wounded.

Police, who believe the incident began over a drug debt, said Officer David W. Garcia was trying to stop the two men from beating and slashing Carlester Jackson, 40, of the 1400 block of Tyler Ave., with a broken beer bottle.

The day after the shooting, community residents staged a protest, accusing Garcia, who is on administrative leave, of reacting violently. The protesters also called the city police force racist.

Snowden and Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins were the only city officials to appear before the crowd.

DeGraff threw the first punch a few days later when she wrote a letter to The Sun and The Capital criticizing elected officials who "felt compelled to join a protest rally condemning Officer Garcia's actions."

"It is one thing to ask for justice," DeGraff wrote in the letter that appeared in The Sun Sept. 22, "but it is an entirely different thing to give in to the mob mentality of the Wild West."

Without naming Snowden, she asked why "an elected councilman (would) stand before such an enraged mob and ask it not to forget all the other black youths murdered by our 'racist' police department."

Snowden responded with his own letter to The Capital, which had said in an editorial that his presence at the protest gave "the complaints a gloss of legitimacy."

He and Hopkins "did not instigate a protest, did not set an agenda, and did not incite what was cavalierly and irresponsibly labeled a mob by editors and an alderman who were not even there," Snowden wrote. "What we did was listen."

In an interview Friday, Snowden called DeGraff's letter "an unfortunate attempt by her advisers to exploit this unfortunate tragedy for political reasons. The charges she made were completely unsubstantiated, and in fact, just not true."

DeGraff, however, maintained her opinion and insisted there was nothing political about her criticism.

"I don't care what he says and what his intentions were," she said. "His actions were irresponsible, and if he was offended, then maybe he should rethink his actions."

While other political observers declined to comment, Dennis Callahan, a former mayor who has been keeping a close eye on the mayoral race, believes both aldermen have a point.

"Someone had to speak out and ask people not to rush to judgment," Callahan said. "But, do I think Carl and the mayor were right to show up? Yes."

Callahan said that if he were the mayor or alderman representing the ward where the shooting occurred, he would have done the same thing. "In the end, people will decide on who made the most sense over this issue," he said.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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