Minister gets parking ticket while trying to help

Was assisting police, fire officials with grieving relatives of carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Kashi Walker, the associate pastor of the New Second Missionary Baptist Church in the 1700 block of Guilford Ave., parked at a church side entrance on Tuesday about noon to open his sanctuary to nearby carbon monoxide poisoning victims and got a parking ticket.
Kashi Walker, the associate pastor of the New Second Missionary… (Peter Hermann, Baltimore…)
December 28, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

Kashi Walker's cell phone went off shortly after noon.

A Baltimore fire commander who attends the Guilford Avenue church where Walker is an associate minister was on the line. Two people in an apartment across the street had just died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Grieving relatives had gathered.

Could he open the New Second Missionary Baptist Church as a crisis center?

Walker rushed over in the four-door Chrysler sedan the church owns. He parked on Lanvale Street, next to a side entrance, and got a dozen people out of the cold and into his warm sanctuary, where they could cry in and talk to investigators in private.

Outside, parking agent R. Jacobs was busy writing Walker a $52 parking ticket.

She slapped the fine on his windshield and drove off, leaving the minister dumbfounded and angry. True, he had parked in a restricted zone; cars are barred from the north side of Lanvale on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to make way for street sweepers.

Yes, Walker parked illegally.

But the street ahead was blocked by two ambulances, two police cars and a fire truck. Crime scene tape hung from pole to pole. Dozens of bystanders and the cameras of five television crews were in the middle of the street.

Any attempt to sweep the street would have been stymied by the crowd.

Walker couldn't believe it. He rushed out to yell, but it was too late. Of all the places in all the city, he said, they were hunting parking scofflaws on the very spot where two people just died and where emergency crews were tending to survivors.

"It's a real shame," Walker said.

Of course, there is another side to this story.

Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation, said that the parking agent had first spotted the church car on Monday, and noticed it again on Tuesday, before the fire call came out, and had returned around 12:30 to see if it was still there.

"The agent thought the driver was just taking advantage of what was going on," Barnes said. She noted that the agents did not ticket the three media cars parked behind Walker's car. They have press passes issued by city police allowing for temporary emergency parking at breaking news events.

Walker disputed the city's version. He pointed out that it isn't illegal to park on the street on Mondays, or on Tuesdays until 11:30 a.m. He said he came and went several times on Tuesday, to help his son, to look at another church building and to open the daycare center.

He said he returned when he got the call from the fire commander, and arrived about noon.

"I'm fighting this in court," the associate pastor said.

He might win and not even have to present a case.

As The Baltimore Sun noted earlier this month, judges dismissed hundreds of tickets when parking agents stopped receiving notifications of hearings. At the time, court and city officials were unable to say why the agents weren't getting notified.

This week, officials indicated the situation had been or might soon be resolved. A court spokeswoman said the notices are being sent to the city but might be getting lost in a shuffle between agencies.

The chief administrative judge wrote a letter to The Sun, published Tuesday, indicating that a new computer system implemented by the city to notify parking agents of hearing dates might be to blame.

A city transportation department spokeswoman said more meetings are scheduled on the issue. But a bailiff said on Monday that parking agents started returning to court the day after the Sun article appeared earlier this month.

Even so, Walker appears to have a good case, or at least a reasonable justification for illegally parking a church car on Lanvale Street: Authorities had asked him to do the Lord's work.

It will be up a judge to decide whether the Lord's work makes one exempt from the rules.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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