110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted May 13, 2013 - 2:56:53pm
County Council Vice Chair Joyce Cusack has organized a meeting at Greater Union First Baptist Church at 6 p.m. today, Monday, May 13, to discuss the relationship between members of DeLand's African-American community and the DeLand Police Department.
The death of Marlon Brown, whom a DeLand police vehicle hit and killed after an attempted traffic stop May 8, has renewed anger in the Spring Hill community, Cusack said.
"My phone is ringing off the hook with that," Cusack said.
She described the relationship between police and the African-American community as "very, very contentious."
"We need a dialogue with people to say justice will be done," Cusack said.
Unless something is done to calm the waters, tensions could escalate, she said, and she hopes that as a member of the African-American community, and as the at-large member of the County Council, she can help with that.
She also plans to watch the investigation and the Police Department, she said.
"I have a responsibility as a member of the council to try to address the concerns of my community," Cusack said.
She is a member of Greater Union First Baptist Church of DeLand, which is at 240 S. Clara Ave.
For many Spring Hill residents, Brown's death reignited anger and distrust of police that flared after the death of Trevon Lacy, who, like Brown did, fled after police attempted to stop him for a seat-belt violation in September, Cusack said.
Lacy crashed his vehicle and died.
Police state Brown, with two DeLand police vehicles behind him, turned from Beresford Avenue onto South Delaware Avenue around 12:30 a.m. May 8. He came to a stop at a field where South Delaware dead-ends, and fled his vehicle on foot, according to the Highway Patrol report.
The second police car, driven by Officer James Harris, hit Brown and ran over him.
Brown, a barber, was a father of two.
He had been arrested more than a dozen times and charged with drug-related and other offenses. Brown's driver's license was suspended at the time of the incident.
Cusack said there is a sentiment in the African-American community that African Americans are treated differently — more harshly — than are whites.
"Folks are very angry," she said. "We have got to do better in our relationships."
Cusack said she wants the results of the Highway Patrol investigation. In the meantime, she wants to prevent any escalation of tensions between police and the African-American community.
While DeLand police were not specifically invited to attend the community meeting, they are aware of it, Cusack said. She didn't know if any representative of the Police Department would attend.
A Beacon inquiry to the police has not yet been answered.
Meanwhile, the story of the crash posted on the Beacon website May 8 brought out concerns about police actions.
"Does the DeLand Police Department allows his officers to drive their patrol vehicles through our backyards and run over our fences?" one commenter wrote.
Bishop Garry Tyson, former pastor of Greater Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church of DeLand, wrote, "Did they have to run him over, he wasn't the Boston bombers are you serious smh ISAD. Praying for his children and family."
Another commenter said she had been pulled over two nights before Brown's death, "for absolutely nothing," but police said it was for the tinted windows on her car. The police officer followed her for more than a mile-and-a-half, as she drove to Winn-Dixie to get ice cream for no other reason than he saw black people in the vehicle, the writer stated. The officer snatched open the back door, frightening her two children.
Other commenters said Brown set the whole chain of events in motion by fleeing law-enforcement officers, and race wasn't the issue.
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