By Steven Ceci and Shannon X
Baltimore – On the warm evening of July 2, family, friends and supporters of Chris Brown assembled on the steps of the Baltimore County Court Building to voice their outrage over the killing of her 17-year-old son, Christopher Brown, by Baltimore County Police Officer James Laboard.
Laboard claims that after he heard a rock hit the door of his house in the Randallstown neighborhood of Baltimore County on June 13, he proceeded to chase a group of boys running away from the house. He says he found Christopher Brown hiding behind bushes and confronted him. The Baltimore County coroner’s office declared the teen’s death a homicide caused by asphyxiation.
Community members expressed indignation at the county district attorney office’s failure to immediately issue charges against Laboard. Instead, charges of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter were issued two weeks after the teen’s death, following public pressure to respond to the killing. Even so the officer was released on June 27 — the same day he was arrested — without having to post bail.
Russell Neverdon, the lawyer representing the Brown family, said that at minimum Laboard should have been charged with murder: “This was not a hot pursuit. It’s not an exigent circumstance. It is no way, shape or form even a heat of passion. This person had enough time to chase somebody down and then to engage them when he found that person was cowering and hiding away.”
Double standard charged
The killing of young Christopher Brown has not only raised community awareness and outrage, but also the question of a double standard. In various media interviews, Christopher’s mother has stated that if any other person had killed someone in a similar fashion, or if her son had killed Laboard, there would have been an immediate arrest and charges brought against the perpetrator.
Community leaders responded to Brown’s call for a Justice Rally for her deceased son. Among those present at the July 2 rally were members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the All People’s Congress, the National Action Network and Occupy Baltimore.
As the community marched the perimeter of the Baltimore County Court Building, chants of “Justice for Christopher Brown, NOW!” “No justice, no peace!” and “What do we want? JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!” echoed through nearby neighborhoods and streets. The Rev. C. D. Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore chapter of the SCLC, stated, “We need to send a clear and distinct message that we will not tolerate [the killing of our Black youth by the police].”
Following the march, the group reassembled in front of the building to hear words of encouragement and testimony by supporters and family of the victim. Chris Brown spoke of the pain resulting from the unjust killing of her son and the refusal of the state to hold Laboard accountable. With her two remaining children embracing her, Brown sang a song in remembrance of Christopher, while her daughter held a sign stating, “My Brother TODAY, Your Brother TOMORROW!”
The Brown family encouraged supporters to continue with them in their fight for justice and announced their intent to hold another protest in Annapolis, Md., the following week.