Marchers take message to governor

They seek reopening of 1993 police shooting

August 14, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

More than a hundred area residents took off work and skipped summertime activities yesterday to begin a protest march from Lanham to Annapolis -- and highlight a long-ignored case of alleged police brutality they feel has not been justly resolved.

The 23-mile march along Routes 450 and 50 comes after 16 weekly protests at the state's attorney's office in Prince George's County, and nearly six months of a fast by a local activist who is demanding that the 1993 death of Archie "Artie" Elliott III be reinvestigated.

Protesters are expected to arrive at the governor's mansion this afternoon to deliver a petition asking that Gov. Parris N. Glendening recommend the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the case.

For marchers, many of whom have followed the case for years, the event underscored an issue that has garnered national attention in recent months: police brutality and racial profiling. Elliott was black.

"I'm out here because police injustice has been going on too long -- it's time to stop," said Will Vernon Brown, 42, a paint warehouse worker from West Baltimore. "It's just getting out of hand."

A handful of local politicians and prominent activists, including radio talk-show host and former state senator Larry Young, state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, comedian and activist Dick Gregory and Baltimore Del. Salima S. Marriott, joined the march. Elliott's mother, Dorothy Elliott, led the group, joined by organizers Joe Madison -- the WOL-AM radio talk-show host who is on a liquid fast -- and the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, a former Congressman.

Though yesterday's hazy, 90-plus-degree weather and moderate traffic jams threatened to hamper the 150 or so marchers, state police reported no incidents. "It was orderly," said Pete Piringer, spokesman for the state police. "Pretty uneventful."

But marchers hope their peaceful protest will create some momentum for an investigation.

Elliott, 24, was stopped by Prince George's County police in the late afternoon on his way home from work at a construction site June 18, 1993. Accused of driving erratically, officers decided he was intoxicated and arrested him.

Elliott was handcuffed behind his back and placed in the back of the police cruiser of Officers Jason Leavitt and Wayne Cheney. The two later said Elliott pointed a gun at them through the closed car door; they opened fire, shooting him 14 times. The officers found a small-caliber handgun at the scene. Some in the community have questioned the officers' account.

Elliott died instantly.

A grand jury did not indict exonerated the officers. Since then, Dorothy Elliott has repeatedly asked public officials, including Prince George's County State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson, to re-examine the case. They have refused.

Tuesday, Madison and Fauntroy asked Johnson to appoint a special prosecutor to convene another grand jury in the case. "He said he wanted time to think about our call for his endorsement of the special prosecutor," Madison said. "We will wait for his call."

Asked what he thinks might come of the meeting, he said, "Nothing, in a word."

Johnson was out of town yesterday and his spokesman was not available for comment.

Some marchers lamented that it has taken six years for the public to become outraged about the shooting death. "We're sorry this community did not get around to this sooner," said Mark Thompson, chairman of the police task force of the Washington branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "But we're here now."

Elliott nodded and clutched an enlarged photograph of her son at the beginning of the march.

"For the love of Artie and justice for Artie, thank you all for showing up," she told marchers. "This is not only for Artie. It's for many, many others like him."

Pub Date: 8/14/99

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