published Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Community activists at odds in shooting case


by Lauren Gregory
Audio clip

Mahmood Abdullah

They may both be calling for an investigation into the police shooting death of 15-year-old Alonzo O'Kelley Jr., but Timmy Sykes and Mahmood Abdullah want to make sure the community knows they're not doing it together.

Mr. Sykes, a pastor and local NAACP executive committee member, said Monday he felt the need to clarify publicly that the "glory hounds" who spoke at Mr. O'Kelley's funeral Friday were not part of his group.

"We have no affiliation with those knuckleheads," said Mr. Sykes, referring to Mr. Abdullah of the Chattanooga Community Council and another black activist, Papa Ricks.

"It's one thing being a community activist and bringing something to invest in the community," Mr. Sykes said. "It's another thing to be a community activist who is running your mouth with nothing to say."

Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ricks were not on the program at Mr. O'Kelley's service, which had been organized by Mr. Sykes and his congregation at Greater Pilgrim Rock Baptist.

But the two got an enthusiastic reaction from mourners when they launched an impromptu rally in the funeral home chapel. They alleged that Chattanooga Housing Authority police Lt. Erik Reeves murdered Mr. O'Kelley on July 1 by shooting him multiple times near the East Lake Courts housing development.

According to the autopsy report, Lt. Reeves shot Mr. O'Kelley once in the back; police say the youth raised a weapon at the officer before being shot.

The Chattanooga Police Department and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are still looking into the shooting, and NAACP branch President Valoria Armstrong announced Friday that she was launching her own probe to keep law enforcement accountable throughout the process.

Mr. Abdullah said Monday that he appreciates efforts by the NAACP, but wonders whether it will accomplish anything.

"What have they done?" he said. "If they have been doing so much, why is it that changes haven't been made? ... We're going to try to apply for a grant to show people that we can change it around because Sykes is not going to do it."

Mr. Abdullah didn't specify the type of grant he was seeking, but said he needed the money so he could spend more time dealing with those who are inciting violence and less time trying to earn a living.

"We'll go toe to toe with the young people who are doing" the violence, he said.

Nor did he say what he planned to do with any money he might receive.

Hugh Reece, director of community outreach for the nonprofit Hamilton County Coalition, said he's not surprised by the squabble between Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Sykes. He said infighting is characteristic of the local black community.

"You can't get cooperation in this area," Mr. Reece said. "With all of these organizations, it's about who's getting credit for what. ... It's like a gang mentality on a whole new level. And meanwhile, our kids are falling through the cracks."

Mr. Reece said he'd like to see black elected officials work to unify various community groups.

City Councilman Andraé McGary said it's not that simple because efforts from a council member would be fruitless without the buy-in of group leaders.

"You would hope that groups would be proactive and work together to be stronger," he said, "but it falls upon the leadership, first and foremost."

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opinionated1 said...

Why are the people of the community not demanding investigations of all of the other shootings in the neighborhood? All of the violence, gang activity, and drugs are what have lead up to the shooting of an undesirable that was shot and killed. Get a job, be productive in the community!!! Why are people of the press not showing the most recent picture of O'Kelly with all of his gang tatoos, and gang affiliation? Why are they showing a picture of O'Kelly when he was in 4th grade? Hell the kid was over 6' tall and over 200 pounds. Why is an Officer being crucified for doing his job and defending himself and others in the community? The activists are saying "We'll go toe to toe with the young people who are doing" the violence"(quoted from article abvove), Lt. Reeves did and look what happened! Stop all of the hoopla and jackjawing and look at the root of the problem. Make the judges give stiffer sentences when an undesirable does wrong. Don't just slap him/her on the hand and let them go with probation 10 times. Look in Hamilton County records and see how many people have soooo many cases of drugs and violence and serve virtually no time. Hamilton County is the joke of the state for punishment. Criminals from other areas say if you are going to do a crime do it in Hamilton County, you won't get in trouble. Go to juvenile court and see how many are let go because the Referee thinks they won't do it again? The is no consiquence for an action. Parents must get involved, I will bet that O'kellys mom was oh so involved with her son, that is why he was on the street with a gun shooting at Dodge Durangos and raising a gun to an officer. Hello.... let's look into the moms backround and charge her with child neglect for letting her son rome around the streets with a gun?

July 14, 2009 at 5:19 p.m.
itsObvious said...

Everyone already knows much of the local black clergy is financially controlled by the local power structure. Their hands so deeply in their pockets they have to say what they've been instructed to say. It was that way in Chattanooga when many of the black clergy denounced Dr. King, and it remains that way today. I wondered why the NAACP stepped forward in such a case when they rarely do and only after Mr. Abdullah's organization had already stepped in. I figured it was to better control the situation and itss outcome.

July 15, 2009 at 5:37 a.m.
itsObvious said...

misinformation, again. opinionated1. The kid was onl 5'1". He was not 6' tall.

If you're going to look into the background of the mom and charge her with neglect because her son was somehow able to get hold of a gun, don't stop there. Look into the background of parents whose children drink and drive then wreck the family vehicle when they wrapped the vehicle around a tree taking a curve too fast and killing everyone inside. Look into the background of the parents whose son, drunk driving, and continues to get caught drinking and driving, who slammed into a vehicle on or around Signal Mtn. killing one occupant and seriously injuring another. If all parents were held equally responsible for what their kids do behind their backs, they'd be a helluva lot of parents charged with neglect and spending time behind bars.

July 15, 2009 at 5:44 a.m.
opinionated1 said...

I agree with you itsObvious! There should be more put on the parents plate. They should be untimately respinsible for their child. This will help keep things in line.

July 15, 2009 at 11:14 a.m.
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