Tensions flare at rally to protest police shootings

Participants block in state trooper's car, but violence averted

November 28, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Protesting the latest killing by police of an unarmed man in Baltimore, several hundred angry people gathered at the site of the Thanksgiving Day shooting yesterday afternoon to demand justice.

Just before 12: 30 p.m., a crowd of nearly 300 people held hands and formed a circle at West North Avenue and North Dukeland Street, where 17-year-old Eli McCoy was shot three times on Thursday by Housing Authority of Baltimore City police Officer Kenneth M. Dean III.

The rally was organized by the All People's Congress.

The event -- which drew members of local churches and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as well as a few public officials -- was marked by chants of "No justice, no peace."

Some signs read: "I am afraid," "RIP Citizens of Baltimore," and "Disarm the police."

The event, which lasted nearly two hours, was monitored by a dozen uniformed officers from the Southwestern District, who stood watching from a block away.

The demonstration became tense when a Maryland State Police trooper -- on his way home from a class at Coppin State College -- tried to drive through the rally and was surrounded by more than 50 angry people.

About two dozen city police officers rushed to help the trooper, some of them drawing their nightsticks.

About 15 minutes later, as protesters pounded his cruiser, the trooper was allowed to pass.

While some organizers were convinced that his presence was an intentional provocation, authorities said the unidentified trooper had no knowledge of the rally and was simply trying to get home.

Said Major Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman: "That's the way he goes home. He did not intend for that to happen."

As tensions rose, McCoy's family left the rally -- some in tears -- and walked past a memorial of stuffed animals, balloons, candles and handwritten notes attached to a fence at the site of the shooting.

They returned about 20 minutes later to a more subdued observance.

Throughout the event, the victim's father, Elton McCoy, stood on a sidewalk behind the rally, crying quietly.

"How would you feel if that was your son?" he asked. "I want justice, so that my son does not die in vain."

One speaker addressing the crowd likened the situation in the inner city to "a war for survival."

Although police were careful yesterday not to fan residents' anger, one state senator lending support to the protest described the situation as delicate.

"A lot of this could be avoided if the police and the community [worked more closely on neighborhood problems]," said state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a Democrat from West Baltimore.

In addition to the shooting of McCoy, participants also protested the death on Oct. 7 of 21-year-old Larry Hubbard, shot in the back of the head by city police after he fled a stolen car.

Police say Hubbard was reaching for an officer's gun when he was shot by Officer Barry W. Hamilton. Six investigations, including one by the U.S. Justice Department, are under way regarding Hubbard's death.

"There should have been provisions in place to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Baltimore police Sgt. Richard Hite, president of the Vanguard Justice Society, which represents African-American police officers.

It was during the rally that Hubbard's mother, Deborah C. Carr, 40, met Elton McCoy.

Said Carr to McCoy before they exchanged phone numbers: "Another black man is killed on the street like an animal. That's why I am here."

In the McCoy shooting, police showed up in the 1700 block of N. Rosedale St. about 10: 30 a.m. Thursday after a woman said she was robbed of $20. Baltimore police drove the woman around the neighborhood to look for the suspect. She pointed out McCoy.

Witnesses said McCoy had surrendered and had his hands in the air when he was shot by Dean in the 2700 block of W. North Ave.

According to police, McCoy ran from three officers. Police said the teen-ager refused to stop or put his hands in the air and was shot while reaching into his pocket. He was unarmed.

An autopsy report, released Friday, states that a bullet struck McCoy's left hand while it was in his pocket. Police said they found a $20 bill in McCoy's left pocket. The youth was also shot in the upper chest and abdomen.

"His hands were up," said Erika Duncan, 25, who attended the rally and said she witnessed the shooting. "I think they are trying to cover it up."

The Rev. John L Wright, a civil rights activist and pastor of the First Baptist Church of Guilford in Howard County, agreed.

"The police are going to cover themselves," he said. "Does that mean if I see a police officer I have to take my hands out of my pocket?"

McCoy's funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.

Sun staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.