Rally erupts at teen's funeral

Hundreds turn out for memorial of boy slain by police officer

August 19, 2006|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

The funeral for a 14-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a Baltimore police officer turned into a rally yesterday as the boy's grieving mother told an emotional congregation that she would not rest until the truth about her son's death was revealed.

"Justice will be done," cried Greta Carter, the mother of Kevin Cooper, who was shot Aug. 12 by a police officer who responded to a 911 call from the family's Southwest Baltimore home.

Carter stomped her feet to make her point: "This will not happen to anybody else's child."

Hundreds filled the pews at Unity United Methodist Church in the 1400 block of Edmondson Ave., with many people forced to stand at the back or in the aisles of the sanctuary.

"This is a lightning rod," said attorney A. Dwight Pettit, who is representing the family and who called for an investigation of the boy's death by an "independent grand jury and independent prosecutor. ... We want some answers."

Accounts of Kevin's final moments differ.

Carter says she called police because she and her son were arguing. Police say the mother told them Kevin was assaulting her. Carter says her son was holding a dustpan when he was shot in the shoulder, but police say the youth threatened the police officer with the jagged edge of a broken broom handle.

The officer who shot Kevin, Roderick Mitter, has been on the force for a year and recently completed his probationary period. He has been put on desk duty until an investigation is complete.

Kevin had no juvenile arrest record, but police say he did have disciplinary problems in the classroom.

A former teacher told police and The Sun that Kevin had been expelled from New Foundations School in Baltimore in 2004 after he threw a desk at a male teacher and injured him. The school educates emotionally disturbed children in elementary through high school grades.

Family members have declined to disclose the name of the school where Kevin was enrolled most recently. They have said only that the school was nonpublic and located in Baltimore County.

Kevin's mother, a state correctional officer, has disputed descriptions of her child as angry or violent.

Pettit, her attorney, said that Kevin might have suffered from mild depression - an older brother and several other relatives were killed in a car accident several years ago - but maintains he was not a threat.

Pettit scolded the news media yesterday for trying to make Kevin out to be a "bad boy." "This is a good young man," the attorney said. "This is a good family."

At the funeral, Kevin was remembered as a religious youth who was also a stand-out athlete and savvy entrepreneur.

His pastor, the Rev. Roger Johnson, said he called Kevin "altar boy" because the youth would linger at the front of the church after services.

Friends remembered a boy who always had the latest video games and who liked to make frozen juice cups and sell them for 25 cents.

"He was like a brother," said friend Tamara Alston, 19. "We're not going to let this slide."

While many at the funeral faulted the officer who shot Kevin, they also said they supported the Police Department as a whole, and depended on the city's officers to keep them and their homes safe.

"Law enforcement is on our side," said the Rev. Willie E. Ray, a West Baltimore pastor who attended the funeral. "We just have a few problems."

Ray is organizing a vigil in front of the youth's house in the 300 block of Font Hill Ave. at 5:30 p.m. Monday, five days before what would have been Kevin's 15th birthday.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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