10 community heroes recognized for work to improve neighborhoods

Ceremony takes place on 1-year anniversary of arson that killed family

October 17, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Police Department ceremony held yesterday recognized the contribution of an East Baltimore family killed in an arson last year after battling local drug dealers and honored 10 residents for their community work.

"Because of what you do in your communities, it encourages us to do more," City Council President Sheila Dixon told the honorees. Dixon and other city leaders spoke of the heroism of Carnell and Angela Dawson, who repeatedly called police to report drug dealing on their East Baltimore street corner. A year ago yesterday, a drug dealer set fire to the Dawsons' house, killing the couple and five of their children. The killer, Darrell L. Brooks, pleaded guilty in August and was sentenced to life in prison.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, a former New York police commander, spoke of his first visit to Baltimore when he was being courted to take over the top police job by Mayor Martin O'Malley. The mayor took Clark to Federal Hill and both took in the view of the Inner Harbor.

"I thought it was a beautiful city," Clark said.

O'Malley then took Clark on a tour of Baltimore's rougher neighborhoods and pulled up to the charred remains of the Dawsons' East Baltimore rowhouse. When Clark asked why they had stopped at the house, O'Malley explained what happened to the Dawsons and said simply: "It is the beginning or the end."

That moment and the magnitude of what happened to the Dawsons, Clark said, has stuck with him.

Standing before those honored for their community work yesterday, Clark linked them to the efforts of the Dawsons and others who helped police fight crime.

"This is what I like to see, our friends and best supporters, the people on the front lines with us," he said.

The Police Department selected 10 people from across the city to receive awards yesterday for works ranging from helping root out drug dealers to attending and organizing community meetings.

Among those honored was Betty Bland-Thomas, 53, who has worked to improve her Sharp Leadenhall neighborhood near Federal Hill by winning community grants and organizing youth sports programs.

"I couldn't just go inside, close the doors and close my eyes," Bland-Thomas said.

Others honored were: Myrtle "Mama Myrt" Howerton, who died in August of respiratory failure, for her work in the Central District; Melissa Techentin, Southeastern District; Janice Jacobs-Hudson, Eastern District; Rita Church, Northeastern District; Robert Nowlin, Northern District; Novella Gaskins, Northwestern District; Elaine Green, Western District; Helen Quill, Southwestern District; and Josh Levinson, Police Headquarters.

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