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Hairston apartment residents angered by detention of boys by police

by Jordan Green

Trevon Jennings (left) and Marque Stimpson were among five teenage boys who were detained by Greensboro police on June 26 in an incident that caused anger to flare among residents of JT Hairston Memorial Apartments. (photo by Jordan Green)

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India Raley, a resident of JT Hairston Memorial Apartments, described the line of Greensboro police officers on Marsh Street on the night of June 26 as “like a wave,” with a line of angry residents facing them. The police, she said, “were walking up like they’re ready for war.”

That night, residents say, five teenage boys were handcuffed and detained. As residents gathered around, including mothers and other family members of the boys, they became outraged and challenged the police’s judgment. The police appear to have been caught in a standoff for a time as they attempted to contain the crowd. Finally, the boys were driven to the parking lot at nearby St. James Baptist Church and released without charge.

“I had to tell everybody to go home,” said LaTonya Stimpson, a Hairston resident and mother of four, who is the aunt of one of the boys who was detained. “I said [to the police]: ‘Y’all are making the situation worse. These people are in an uproar because of what you’re doing to minors.’ They said, ‘You’re being belligerent.’ I told them: ‘This community is so oppressed.’” Several residents have been embroiled in a dispute with Hairston apartments, which is owned by a nonprofit associated with Shiloh Baptist Church and operated by Westminster Co. The city recently settled a civil discrimination lawsuit with Hairston apartments and Westminster Co. that was filed on Stimpson’s behalf. Residents complain that the apartments lack adequate play areas for their children, several units are infested with bedbugs and management imposes draconian rules that make it easy for residents to rack up violations and face eviction. Several residents have filed complaints with the city’s fair housing office and obtained findings of discrimination on familial basis against management.

Tension between residents and police officers assigned to patrol the apartment complex falls along similar lines, with residents complaining that the police seem to turn a blind eye to lawbreaking while harassing residents who aren’t doing anything wrong.

The tensions that erupted on June 26 unfolded from a series of events that appears to have begun with a fight near Florida Grocery, a store in the Freeman Mill Shopping Center adjacent to Smith Homes. Hairston apartments is located just north of the much larger Smith Homes, which is owned and operated by the Greensboro Housing Authority. Marsh Street divides the two public housing communities.

LaTonya Stimpson said she learned from one of the officers that the police witnessed the fight at the store, in which “a number of boys had one boy squashed down on the ground.” As the officer described it to Stimpson, “We literally had to peel the dude off the ground.”

LaTonya Stimpson said she received a phone call at 10:31 p.m. notifying her that her nephew, 15-year-old Marque Stimpson, had been detained. Marque Stimpson identified the two officers as McPhatter and Caviness. LaTonya Stimpson said she believes they were assigned to work off-duty at Hairston apartments that night. Apparently, the officers thought Marque was the boy who administered the beating in front of the store, because they released him and told LaTonya they had the wrong person. LaTonya said she pointed out another boy who was shirtless and walked through the housing complex acting belligerent to the police, but they did not take any action. She went back to her apartment, she said, assuming that the incident was over.

“As I’m walking in my house I was about to sit down on my porch I saw people running,” LaTonya Stimpson said. “I said [to the police], ‘Call back-up, call back-up.’ I said, ‘Y’all just allowed the enemy to come in.’ I said,‘Go over there. It’s getting ready to be a bigfi ght.’ I had my baby in my hands. My sonran over there.”Marque Stimpson and his friend, 15-yearoldTrevon Jennings, said the opposinggroup was the aggressor. There were threeor four grown men and some teenagers whowere perhaps 17 or 18 years old on the otherside. One of the men, the Hairston residentssaid, was a one-legged drug dealer and memberof the Bloods street gang whose streetname is Charlie Black. LaTonya Stimpsonsaid she saw Charlie Black charging one ofthe boys with a crutch. A bystander swattedLaTonya’s 16-year-old son, Quentin Dick,out of the way to keep him from being struckby Charlie Black, she said. Marque Stimpson said the men who hangout with Charlie Black in front of the storehad complained that they were “making theblock hot” by prompting unwanted attentionfrom the police. “I had my gun on me,” Marque said oneof the men had told him. “I could have gottenarrested.”“He has one leg and he sits at the storeand sells drugs,” LaTonya Stimpson saidof Charlie Black. “It got shot off on theeast side. They ran him off. Now he’s overhere, and he’s trying to recruit little boysto be down with him, to sell drugs and killpeople…. The little boys are not followinghis orders and regulations.”Gloria Rankin, the resident council presidentat Smith Homes, said Charlie Black is wellknown in her community. “Sad to say, but because of where we’relocated and because of the activity at thestore, it fi lters down to the community,” shesaid. “It gives us a bad rep. They hang outthere and sell their drugs, and we get stigmatizedfor it. It’s not the residents. Mostlyeverything that happens is from people thatdo not live here.”Rankin said she doubts that any of themen and teenagers fi ghting with the Hairstonapartment boys were residents of SmithHomes. “I know for a fact that there’s not a rivalrybetween the two communities,” she said.“They travel through here and they havefriends here. Nine times out of 10, they’reprobably not from here.” A police incident report roughly matchingthe time and location of the second fi ght listsRicky Gerard Dawkins, 31, of High Point, asthe victim of a simple physical assault andsuffering minor injuries. The listed offi cer isMarcus McPhatter, assigned to Squad H inthe Southern Division. His supervisor is Cpl.RR Chapman.The fi ght was over in about two or threeminutes, Marque Stimpson said, and theHairston apartment boys appeared to get thebest of it. “They people was beat up bad,” TrevonJennings remarked.The boys were walking along MarshStreet, and LaTonya said she had come backfrom her apartment after checking on heryoungest children when she saw six offi cersapproaching. She said she warned the boysto stop cursing because the police wouldarrest them.Marque Stimpson said three offi cersslammed him down on a bare patch ofground between the sidewalk on MarshStreet and a parking lot on the Smith Homesside of the street.“Two of them were holding my arms,”Marque Stimpson said. “One stepped on myback. They had my face in the dirt. I couldn’tbreathe.”At one point, Marque Stimpson said,he was allowed to sit up, and an offi cerwhom he identifi ed as McPhatter steppedon his handcuffed wrists. Three days laterhe showed an indention in his wrist, whichhe said was caused by the cuffs cutting intohis fl esh, and a handful of other scratchesand bruises that he said were caused by thepolice. YES! Weekly could not independentlyconfi rm that the markings were caused bythe police incident.“When they were putting their knees andfoot on his back, I said, ‘Get off my homeboy,’”Trevon Jennings recalled. “The offi cersaid, ‘Back up,’ and I didn’t back up. Theysent another offi cer to get me.”Trevon’s mother, Tania Long, was onthe scene almost immediately, and gavethe police her son’s name, date of birth andaddress. She said that by that time there wereabout 20 police cars on the scene.“I asked the police, I said, ‘That’s mychild,’” Long recalled. “He said, ‘His ass isgoing to jail.’… He said, ‘He been fi ghting. Idon’t have to deal with it.’ I said, ‘Can I talkto him?’ I’m standing right beside the car. Hewouldn’t even let me talk to him. He asked,could I give him the information on Tre? Igave him the information.”Jamar Stimpson, 16, who is also LaTonyaStimpson’s nephew, threw his hands up insurrender.LaTonya Stimpson said she challenged thepolice’s right to detain the boys, addressing asergeant whose name she did not learn.“I said, ‘They’re not even charged withnothing, Sergeant,’” Stimpson recounted. “He asks his offi cers that are right there onMarsh Street, and said, ‘What are these boyscharged with?’ They looked at each otherdumbfounded. I said, ‘Exactly.’ The sergeantsaid, ‘Ma’am, we’re going to release them.We just got to get them to another area to getthis crowd calmed down.’”Officers reportedly involved in the incidentcould not be reached for comment. Lt.Hope Newkirk, executive assistant to ChiefTim Bellamy said the offi cers were notifi edof YES! Weekly’s inquiry into the matter andgiven the option of talking to a reporter, butall declined. “They know who the guys are who werefi ghting,” Tania Long said. “We’re saying,‘Why didn’t y’all go arrest them? They’readults. These are teenage boys. None ofthem are 17. “The police just have really nasty attitudes,”she added. “They talk down.”

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