911 calls detail fatal beating

Nervous callers reported fight outside party

`Hurry up! Hurry up!'

17-year-old's death sparks racial tensions


September 09, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Tapes of 911 calls made to police the night that Noah Jamahl Jones died reveal a chaotic scene outside the Pasadena party where the 17-year-old was beaten more than six weeks ago.

According to the tape recording, a nervous caller reported that an armed group had shown up at a house in the 700 block of 205th St. and that he had been struck on the head with a pistol.

"There are guys standing outside my house and they're fighting. ... Hurry up! Hurry up!" he yelled before his phone cut off. The caller had phoned 911 moments earlier, but that conversation was cut short when his phone disconnected.

A few minutes later, at 11:02 p.m., another person called 911 to say that someone, presumably Jones, was lying in the street and might be dead.

"He's out. He's out. ... I don't know if he's got a pulse or not," the caller said, speaking over panicked voices in the background.

The tapes, which police have declined to release but which were played for a Sun reporter by a source close to the investigation, shed new light on an incident that has stirred racial tensions in the community and prompted calls for a federal civil rights investigation.

Anne Arundel County police initially charged four white men in the death of Jones, who is black. They dropped the charges after prosecutors concluded that an autopsy of Jones was "inconsistent" with the initial police assessment.

The Anne Arundel chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People subsequently called for a federal investigation into Jones' death, saying his civil rights might have been violated. Several members of Congress backed that request.

Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee has convened a grand jury to hear testimony and determine whether charges should be filed in the case.

Transcripts of emergency radio transmissions from that night reveal that "CDS" -- a controlled dangerous substance -- was found at the scene. But the records do not show who was in possession of the illegal drugs.

Lt. Joseph Jordan, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County police, declined to comment on the 911 calls or whether drugs were found. He had no further comment about the department's work on the case.

The tape recording shows that the first emergency call to Anne Arundel County police was made at 10:56 p.m. July 24, when someone -- apparently the party's host -- called police and pleaded for help.

Speaking nervously and quickly, the caller asked for officers to be sent to an address in the 700 block of 205th St. His phone then cut out.

The dispatcher twice attempted to call back. At 10:58 p.m., she reached the caller and confirmed his address and that the situation was urgent.

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" he said, mentioning the fight before his phone cut off again.

At 10:59 p.m., the operator again tried to call him back. It was at this time -- with much prodding from the dispatcher --that the man gave more information about the altercation between party guests and a group that included Jones.

"They're standing outside with guns. ... There's like ... eight of them," he said.

After the caller said he had been struck on the head, the dispatcher asked him, "Who hit you in the head with a gun?"

"I don't ... know them!" the caller shouted.

By then, officers had been sent to investigate what the transcript called an "unknown disturbance" at the home.

At that time, the second caller reported that Jones was not responsive. The dispatcher asked how the victim was hurt, and the caller said he was not sure.

"I just got here. I have no idea. ... I'm the only one that's brave enough to call y'all," he said as the emergency operator told him how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other life-support techniques. Sirens can be heard in the background, and the caller then says he can see an ambulance approaching.

Police were unavailable to comment yesterday afternoon on whether the response times in the case were typical. Last week, the county's police department denied The Sun's oral request for a copy of the 911 tapes and has not responded to its written request, also sent last week.

Jones, who would have been a senior at Northeast High School, was killed and two friends were severely beaten when they showed up at the party. Police initially said Jones went to the party to help a friend who he thought was in trouble, but attorneys for two of the four men originally charged have said Jones' group showed up uninvited and armed.

Police initially said witnesses identified Jones' attackers as Jacob Tyler Fortney of Pasadena, Richard Elbert McLeod of Chestertown, Joshua David Bradley of Pasadena and David Michael George of Glen Burnie, who range in age from 18 to 20.

Fortney's attorney, David Putzi, has said his client acted in self-defense. George's lawyer, Peter S. O'Neill, has said his client never struck the victim.

Prosecutors' decision to drop the charges and release the men outraged the victim's family and black leaders, some of whom have labeled Jones' death a hate crime.

Deputy State's Attorney Gerald K. Anders said yesterday that prosecutors are interviewing witnesses.

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