County NAACP promotes `healing' at town hall meeting

Forum convened in wake of death of Pasadena teen

Anne Arundel

October 05, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Responding to the recent beating death of a black Pasadena teen and burning of a memorial cross at the spot where he died, the Anne Arundel County branch of the NAACP held a town hall meeting last night to promote "the beginning of healing."

"What this is about is bringing the community together," said moderator Carl O. Snowden, an assistant to the county executive and longtime civil rights activist who asked fr prayers for Noah Jamahl Jones, who died July 24 during a brawl between black and white groups outside a house in Pasadena.

Event organizers said they hoped the meeting at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Glen Burnie also would encourage those with information about the 17-year-old's death to step forward and help with the investigation.

"We want you to speak out, we want to hear your concerns," said Gerald Stansbury, president of the chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Of the 50 people who attended the meeting, most were African-American and in their 50s or older. Noticeably absent were young people.

Stansbury told the gathering he was disappointed that other ethnic groups were not represented. "Justice is for everyone," he said. "In order for a healing process to take place, it takes both sides."

The victim's mother, Robin Jones, said she was pleased with the turnout. She said she would like to see more community meetings in the Green Haven neighborhood of Pasadena, which has a history of racial tensions, according to the NAACP.

Last month, a makeshift memorial cross for young Jones near the site of the brawl was burned.

His mother was critical of State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee's handling of the case, saying that his office had botched the investigation. She said the grand jury process has allowed Weathersbee's office to "clean up the messes they made" and give defendants time to get their stories straight.

Weathersbee has denied such charges and said he is committed to seeing justice done.

Those who attended the meeting said they would keep a close watch over the case to ensure that those who killed Jones are prosecuted.

"Murder is murder; we will not relent until justice is served and until it is served we will agitate, agitate, agitate." said Ida Plummer, a chapter member.

Stansbury said the NAACP group will schedule more meetings to discuss the case as it progresses through the legal system. He said he would invite a representative from Weathersbee's office to the next meeting, adding that no one from the state's attorney's office was invited to last night's gathering.

Within days of Jones' killing, police charged four white men - Pasadena residents Joshua David Bradley, 20, and Jacob Tyler Fortney, 18, and David Michael George, 19, of Glen Burnie and Richard Elbert McLeod, 18, of Chestertown - with murder, alleging that they beat Jones.

But almost immediately, lawyers for Fortney and George contended the black youths came to the house looking for a fight and armed with a handgun, taser and hammer.

There was also talk that the white men who beat Jones may have been upset over interracial dating and friendships.

On Aug. 18, prosecutors dropped the charges just before they would have had to take them to a grand jury for possible indictment or to a judge in a preliminary hearing.

Preliminary autopsy information and the initial police account were at odds. Jones' family said they were told he died of a fractured skull caused by a fall.

Prosecutors said they were buying time so that police could continue their investigation. An inquiry by a grand jury is ongoing. However, the delay outraged the victim's family and friends.

Within days, the Anne Arundel branch of the NAACP, supported by elected officials, asked the U.S. Department of Justice for an independent civil rights probe. The department agreed late last month to investigate.

Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

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