Hundreds attend vigil for slain church helper

Politicians, neighbors decry violence in wake of shooting of beloved 70-year-old volunteer

August 02, 2010|By Jonathan Pitts, The Baltimore Sun

She didn't know him personally, but any time Sonia Moyd was "doing God's business," all she had to do was stand in front of The Ark Church and call Milton Hill's name.

"Brother Milton! Brother Milton!" she'd cry if her arms were too full of groceries or other goods to distribute to the poor, and he'd come running from his next-door apartment to help.

When Moyd called his name Monday night, she was in tears. She was one of 500 people from across Baltimore who filled the street in front of The Ark Church on East North Avenue to sing hymns and salute the life of Hill, a volunteer caretaker and habitual good Samaritan who was shot and killed late Thursday or early Friday.

Many also made a defiant, if familiar, vow: never again.

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," said state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden in a frustrated speech at the vigil. "Something is wrong with our criminal justice system. In this, the most civilized country in the world, we can — we must — do better."

Hill was the city's eighth homicide victim in a week of bloodshed that also claimed the lives of a Johns Hopkins researcher who was stabbed in Charles Village and a 19-year-old who was stabbed in a fight in Northeast Baltimore. But in a city that at times seems to have grown numb to violent crime, the contrast between Hill's quiet virtue and the brutality of his death touched an especially deep nerve.

"To take his life was sick and senseless," said Carolyn Taylor, a member of The Ark Church whom Hill assisted during regular visits to a food bank. "He was a man who stood for God."

Many recounted seeing Hill pick up the trash, cut the grass, fix the furnace and keeping watch over the children, women and even pastors who came and went from the church, a congregation in the Oliver neighborhood.

"He was a quiet man, but he spoke with a very loud voice," said Cora Carter.

Residents and officials on hand from Charles Village, Waverly, Barclay and many other parts of Baltimore fulfilled a goal of City Councilman Carl Stokes, who in organizing the event hoped to "strike a theme of solidarity against this act and all violent acts."

"Violent crime knows no boundaries," said Stokes, whose district includes the Oliver neighborhood.

The gunman who took Hill's life, evidently for the green electric scooter he often rode, is still at large, and speakers, including Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, asked residents to tell police if and when they know anything about violent crimes.

The commissioner said the scooter had been found a few blocks from the church. "The evil is here. … We need to stop making excuses for the vile creatures and snakes that infest our community," Bealefeld said, to loud applause.

Some found at least a measure of hope for justice — providing that fellow residents can muster the courage necessary.

That included Hill's daughter, Tracey Hill. "I want some help," she said. "If you know something, come forward and tell it. There isn't anything that's too good for my father."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

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