www.baltimoresun.com/news/breaking/bs-md-christopher-brown-funeral-20120623,0,4721045.story

baltimoresun.com

Hundreds gather to mourn teen who died after fight with off-duty officer

Pastor Jamal Bryant says death is 'a wake-up call' and demands justice

By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun

6:16 PM EDT, June 23, 2012

Advertisement

As 17-year-old Bobbi Young left Saturday's funeral for the boy who used to walk her home from school and try to steal kisses, she said she wanted to change the direction of her own life.

Jahaan Shiheed remembered the way Christopher Brown would brighten her day by passing her in the hallway at Randallstown High School and paying her a compliment.

And Teneirra Connelly said Brown's life, honored by some 600 people in a two-hour service at Colonial Baptist Church on Liberty Road, was such an inspiration to her that she will use his death as an opportunity to turn toward God.

"I feel like something drove me here," said Teneirra, 17, a rising senior at Randallstown High. "I feel like something took over me. I feel lighter. I feel real blessed that I came here, a big weight lifted off of me."

Brown's loved ones billed the service as a "celebration of life." But the Rev. Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore encouraged them to shun "political correctness" and find a wake-up call in 17-year-old Brown's death, which followed a physical confrontation with an off-duty Baltimore County police officer on June 13.

"I'm mad I have to be here," said Bryant, who traveled to Florida to speak out against the death of Trayvon Martin. "On this beautiful Saturday afternoon, Chris should be able to play basketball and sit outside of his own home, yet we're here for a funeral. ...

"To all the young people, your life can be snatched before your time if people don't value your life. If we walk out of here and act like this is just another day and just another funeral, the blood will be on our hands. But if we walk out of here and say, 'Not another young man in Baltimore killed.' … His life mattered. We need to remind the state, the city, the county, we will not rest until somebody goes to jail."

No charges have been filed in Brown's death, which county police are investigating.

The teen, a junior at Randallstown High, died by asphyxiation, according to the medical examiner's office. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Police said Brown had been with a group of teens when one threw a rock at James D. Laboard's house on Susanna Road. Laboard found Brown hiding in bushes, grabbed Brown, and the two got into a physical confrontation, police said. Brown fell unconscious, and when police arrived, they found Laboard, 31, an officer with the Woodlawn Precinct, trying to resuscitate him.

Laboard, an officer with the county for 10 years, is on administrative leave. His attorney did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment Saturday.

County police had no update on the investigation.

Russell Neverdon, attorney for the Brown family, said the family is awaiting the results of an investigation by Baltimore County authorities, but they are conducting their own investigation

"We want to make sure [county police are] going to do their job," Neverdon said. "We want the facts to come out truthfully. The hurt is already there. They're making it worse by not giving us all the facts."

Neverdon said if the case had involved "Joe Citizen" as a suspect, that person "would have been booked, processed, charged accordingly."

Neverdon said he believes that Brown was not the teen who threw the rock at Laboard's house.

Brown's aunt, Charlene Harven, said the family is "overwhelmed with love and support." In a eulogy she read during the service, Harven recalled Brown as a gifted athlete who participated in football, wrestling and lacrosse. He was a member of his school's junior ROTC and an usher at Colonial Baptist. He also participated in the church's youth ministry.

Harven said Brown had sampled potential careers. He took a cooking class when he thought he might like to be a master chef, and tried his hand at deejaying when he considered working as a music producer. He also experimented with vehicle designs while he was interested in car detailing.

Most recently, Harven said, Brown was learning professional photography from Ceandra Scott, who chronicled the teen's funeral on Saturday.

"I am going to remember his handsome, loving smile," Harven said. "I am going to remember his endearing personality. I am going to remember that he loved Jesus with all his heart. … We know where he is [in heaven]. Now, we're trusting that the justice system will let us know why he got there."

ywenger@baltsun.com

twitter.com/yvonnewenger