Harris' friends, family welcome news of arrests

November 15, 2008|By Gus G. Sentementes and Annie Linskey | Gus G. Sentementes and Annie Linskey,gus.sentementes@baltsun.com and annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Keith Covington heard the news at about noon yesterday, and he was ecstatic. A friend told him that Baltimore police had made arrests in the killing of his close friend, former City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who was fatally shot in an early-morning robbery at Covington's jazz club in September.

Covington, who fired at the three robbers as they fled through the club's rear door, said he never lost hope in the police.

"It's a tremendous day," said Covington. "I've always been confident that police would make arrests."

Harris was a well-respected community leader in North and Northeast Baltimore who was a city councilman from 1999 to 2007, when he lost a bid for council president. He regularly rolled up his sleeves to help communities, particularly with crime.

"He understood the meaning of community and people working together," Annette Harris, the former councilman's wife, said at a news conference yesterday. "I stand here on behalf of the Harris family when I say that I want justice to prevail, not only in Kenneth's case, but for every citizen of Baltimore City who has lost a loved one."

Sylvia Harris, the councilman's mother and a vocal critic of the Police Department, later expressed some satisfaction with the arrest. "There's no excitement for me other than the fact that hopefully they got the right guys and they're off the streets and can't harm anyone else. I pray for their families," she said.

Many in the neighborhoods around the Northwood Shopping Plaza remembered Kenneth Harris' efforts to improve security at the retail center.

"Everybody's been like, 'Please, get them suckers,' " said Jimmy Seward, 67, a retired firefighter who said he was relieved police made the arrests.

The slaying sparked an outcry in the neighborhoods around the plaza for more policing. Last week, City Council members asked police for an update on the case and on a backlog of unsolved murder cases.

Councilwoman Agnes Welch said she was pleased by the arrests, but wished all Baltimore murders could get the same attention that Harris' did.

Detectives arrested two suspects, Charles Y. McGaney, 19, and Gary Collins, 20, at a house in the 1600 block of Pentwood Road, about a mile from the shopping center. A third suspect remained unidentified.

Shirl Byron, NorthEast Development Alliance executive director, called the news a "great relief." "Too many times," Byron said, "the enemy lives among us."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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