RANDALLSTOWN, Md. – A throng of protesters took to the streets to express outrage that an African American teen, accused of beating on an off-duty police officer’s front door and causing damage, died after being chased down and beaten during a fight with the Baltimore County officer.
The state medical examiner on Thursday afternoon notified Baltimore County police that 17-year-old Christopher Brown, of Randallstown, died of asphyxiation. The death has now been ruled a homicide and the officer has been charged with manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter and placed on administrative leave. The teen’s supporters are incensed that the officer was not charged with second-degree murder, but Baltimore County prosecutors said there was no evidence of an intent to kill Brown.
County police identified the officer on Friday as James D. LaBoard, a nine-year veteran assigned to the Woodlawn Precinct.
Roughly 50 close friends, family and concerned citizens showed up to say they believe the charges should have included second degree murder, which carries a stiffer penalty. They also were angry that Laboard was able to walk free on the very day he was charged without posting a penny of bail.
“The law applies to everyone, including law enforcement,” said Russell Neverdon, the attorney for the dead youth’s mother, Chris Brown, at the July 2 demonstration, told afro.com. “If this had been a case with a private citizen, this man would have been charged with second-degree murder, if not first-degree murder.”
Neverdon is advocating for a charge that carries a significantly more severe prison sentence.
Although manslaughter is in the same category as murder, he said, “It’s the bottom of the rung.” Authorities said they charged Laboard with the lesser offenses because there is no proof that he intended to kill Christopher.
“In a county that statistically elects to pursue the death penalty more than any other, this officer has been allowed to give the death penalty himself on the street,” said Tony Garcia, co-counsel with Neverdon. “When you choke someone you are looking into their eyes as their life leaves their body. That’s deliberation, that’s cruelty, that’s intent.”
“I am so tired of African American youth, and specifically African American men, being taken down in the streets by people who are charged to protect and serve,” said the Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, president of Baltimore’s chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). “It is open season on African American men in this town. We need to send a clear and distinct message that we will not tolerate it.”
Some are also tired of black leadership who illustrate deafening silence in the face of black teens and young adults who murder each other in the streets of urban areas in Baltimore and other major metropolitan cities, especially Chicago, where the weekly murder rate is astronomical and jarring.
— terry shropshire