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The Journal Gazette

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards speaks with Kandell White, mother of homicide victim Dontay White, after Saturday's meeting.

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Stacey Davis, mother of Codi McCann, 22, shot and killed off East State Boulevard in December 2016, listens as David Miller, grandfather of Spencer Smith, 20, shot and killed in August at East Central Towers, says “the system is broke.”

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Lichelle Boyd (right) makes a point talking to Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards (left.) Listening is Tennille Walker-Bright, mother of homicide victim Nicholaus Scroggins, 14, and a founder of #FlipThis City.

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Lichelle Boyd, aunt of Malakai Garrett, the two year old boy who died Nov. 29 after being beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend, took her turn at the microphone at the second meeting of #FlipThisCity Saturday.

Sunday, February 04, 2018 1:00 am

Richards attends activist meeting

#FlipThisCity wants her gone as prosecutor

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Invited or not, Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards came Saturday to the second meeting called by a group that wants to remove her from office.

#FlipThisCity met at Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Warsaw Street in the heart of the city's south side, drawing a crowd of about 150 people, more than the first meeting drew Jan. 20. Once again, they were parents, relatives and friends of homicide victims who shared their heart-rending stories of murder without justice.

Richards, who announced Thursday that she will seek a fifth term as prosecutor, sat toward the rear of the church flanked by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mike McAlexander, Deputy Police Chief Garry Hamilton, Steve Godfrey, chief counsel in the prosecutor's office, and Jeff Stineburg, deputy prosecutor, and listened while a number of speakers found fault with her office.

Many family members said they know who the suspects and killers are in their cases and that there are witnesses who are willing to talk. They also say the prosecutor's office and Fort Wayne detectives do not communicate with them.

The meeting was preceded by a public unveiling Thursday of a video developed to reach out to the white suburbs to help solve inner city problems of violence.

The video, “#couldabeenme,” sponsored by the mayor's office and Fort Wayne United, a 2016 mayoral initiative, features black leaders in the city, but, according to #FlipThisCity members, the video leaves out an important constituency – the mothers, fathers and family of the homicide victims.

“We should be on that video. We are the ones who are affected the most,” said Tennille Walker-Bright, whose 14-year-old son Nicholaus Scroggins was killed in June 2016. “We are pushing our pain. That's all we have. We woke up and our babies were gone.”

Walker-Bright, a founder of #FlipThisCity, acknowledged Richards and thanked her for coming, but that didn't stop anyone's personal assessment of the state of crime and conviction in Fort Wayne.

“We need to talk to you,” Walker-Bright said from the microphone, where she had placed a red football cleat that belonged to her son. “You can't just not try a case. You have to act.”

Another founder, Stacey Davis, mother of Codi McCann, 22, killed on East State Boulevard in December 2016, said she arrived at the scene, frantic, praying and hoping that her son wasn't dead.

Police working the crime scene first interrogated her, Davis said, and said they would call her later.

“They didn't offer me a warm place to sit,” David recounted. “I just needed to know if it was him.” The shooter was taken to the hospital, while her son “was lying on the ground at the crime scene for three hours.”

Leroy Allison, father of Alonna Allison, killed at a bonfire in August 2015, criticized the culture instead of the prosecutor's office, although he said law enforcement could do more.

On Facebook and Instagram, friends of Alonna profess their love for his daughter, but of the 150 people who attended the bonfire that night, no one is willing to be a witness, he said.

After the meeting, Hamilton, the deputy chief, said one mother's suggestion that apartment buildings should be required to install reliable camera surveillance was a good idea that would have to go to the City Council.

Hamilton also said that the frustration voiced at the meeting would be taken back to the detectives.

“It was good,” he said of the meeting.

Richards gave a statement to the press that she shared the parents' frustration and that more than ever reliable witnesses were needed. Although she would like to see another homicide detective added to the staff, she said staffing was not the issue with convicting killers, but witnesses coming forward.

“We are frustrated as well,” Richards said. It takes six months to get a DNA result and finding another homicide prosecutor to add to the prosecutorial staff is not easy.

“They are extremely difficult to find,” Richards said. After her statement, she spoke informally with many of the families.

Although most of the meeting was peaceful, there were a couple of outbursts. When Tamyra Kelly, Fort Wayne United board member and spokesperson for East Allen County Schools, defended the video that she called “just a start,” she was interrupted and told the meeting was not about Fort Wayne United.

“Y'all aren't working with the right people!” community activist Roderick Parker yelled as he walked toward the front of the church. At that point, the Rev. Bryson M. Sharp stepped in to put a stop to further outbursts.

After the meeting, Jamie Rencher, who spoke on the political aspects, said the campaign may not have a candidate.

Mike Loomis, a Republican who ran against Richards twice, has not decided whether he will take on the challenge, although Walker-Bright and others have asked him to run. They want Loomis to bring back grand juries that were a part of the prosecutorial system when he was deputy prosecutor in the late 1990s.

So far, no one has filed to run in the Republican or Democratic primary in May. The deadline to file is Friday.

Grieving mothers and other family members also had their turn at the microphone.

David Miller, grandfather of Spencer Smith, 20, killed outside East Central Towers in August, said his grandson's killer murdered two people before him.

“He's still on the streets,” he said. “The system is broke. Every day I wake up, I think, 'Will I get justice today, will they arrest somebody today, will I get closure today?'”

 jduffy@jg.net