Reward increased in lawn scorchings


June 27, 2006

Howard County's acting police chief announced an increased reward last night for information leading to an arrest in the eight recent cases in which vandals scorched white supremacist symbols and words into Ellicott City lawns.

Acting Chief William J. McMahon, meeting with local civil rights leaders at the United Methodist Church's conference center in Columbia, said he had raised the reward by $500 - to $1,500 - in hopes of getting information in the incidents that are the first test of his relationships with minority groups.

About 40 people attended the meeting to discuss ways to prevent crimes related to discrimination. The group included members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, leaders from Howard's public school system, elected officials and a representative of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Howard County police have not identified a suspect in the recent cases, in which a chemical was used to etch "white power," "wp," and small swastikas on lawns. McMahon has said the defaced lawns could be a product of a juvenile prank.

Most of the session centered around ways to stem discrimination at an early age. Most of the people who spoke expressed frustration that, despite myriad initiatives to improve tolerance in Howard County, such incidents still occur.

"We need to know, `What is it that causes our young people to erupt with these feelings?'" said Natalie Woodson, education chairwoman of the Howard County branch and Maryland state conference of the NAACP.

Circuit Judge Richard S. Bernhardt proposed "community mediation" for Howard County to deal with discrimination problems with youths.

"A lot of people who do this don't understand the meaning of what they're doing," Bernhardt said. "A lot of this comes from bullying in elementary school, middle school."

Howard County police are asking anyone with information on the incidents to call 410-313- 3200.

Jorge Valencia

Baltimore: Mount Vernon

Arborist to discuss city tree initiative

City arborist Rebecca Feldberg is scheduled to discuss a plan to double Baltimore's tree canopy at the annual meeting of Friends of Mount Vernon Place tomorrow. The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. at 11 W. Mount Vernon Place. The plan is expected to be completed by 2036 and proponents say it will lower city residents' energy costs and result in cleaner air and water. The public is welcome. Tickets ($15) may be purchased at the door. A reception will follow. Information: 410-433-0354.

Anne Arundel: Annapolis

Worker electrocuted at downtown shop

A worker was electrocuted yesterday in downtown Annapolis while repairing a coffee shop's air-conditioning and heating-ventilation system, city police said.

The technician, 26, whose name was not released by authorities last night, was pronounced dead about 6 p.m. by paramedics at the scene shortly after the call came in, officials said. He was employed by a local contractor.

The accident happened on the first floor of 49 West Coffeehouse. The victim was found on top of the walk-in freezer off the kitchen, fire officials said.

The fatal on-the-job injury follows the drowning death last week of Jeb Edward Bello, 32, the cafe's former night manager.

Jamie Stiehm

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