Com­mu­nity gath­ers to pay re­spects to stab­bing vic­tim

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Christina Tkacik

With ta­pered can­dles and lit­tle pa­per cups to catch the drip­ping wax, it might have been a hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tion. But in­stead, the peo­ple gath­ered in the cold Thurs­day night were there to pay re­spects to a woman stabbed over the week­end — and to speak out against the level of crime in Bal­ti­more.

Po­lice said Har­ford County res­i­dent Jac­que­lyn Smith, 54, was fa­tally stabbed about 12:30 a.m. Satur­day after giv­ing money to a woman in the rain at Val­ley and East Chase streets in John­ston Square.

In a mu­nic­i­pal­ity with the high­est homi­cide rate of any big city in the United States, Smith’s death has been seen as par­tic­u­larly egre­gious.

“We have reached rock bot­tom,” Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, a former NAACP leader, told a hand­ful of peo­ple gath­ered near the steps of the Sweet Prospect Bap­tist Church, about a block from where Smith was stabbed. “We can­not do any worse than we’re do­ing right now.”

In an im­pas­sioned speech, Chief Melvin Rus­sell of the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment de­manded an­swers on the killing. “Cry out. My phone is open,” he said. To the per­pe­tra­tor, he said: “Turn your cow­ardly self in.”

Oth­ers struck a softer tone. Tushina Ya­meny, pas­tor of Sweet Prospect Bap­tist, said her con­gre­ga­tion or­ga­nized the vigil, out­side the old pink church in East Bal­ti­more, to re­mind res­i­dents of the need for for­give­ness. “We can­not al­low the act of one per­son to hin­der us from do­ing the work of the king­dom,” Ya­meny said. She praised Smith’s ef­forts to help some­one in need.

At­tendee Adonna Black said she wor­ries that peo­ple will start to view home­less peo­ple as the prob­lem, and look past the larger con­cerns of crime and poverty in the city. “This tragedy does not rep­re­sent all of the home­less in Bal­ti­more, said Black, a project man­ager for the Real Care Providers Net­work.

Vi­o­lence has touched count­less fam­i­lies in the Bal­ti­more area, and their pain is es­pe­cially acute over the hol­i­days, said Sonya Chap­ple, 59. Her daugh­ter, In­dia Chap­ple, was stabbed to death in 2014.

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