Randallstown residents upset at lack of police presence at meeting about teen's death

The mother of the Baltimore County teenager who died in a physical confrontation with an off-duty officer called the lack of police representation at a Randallstown community association meeting Tuesday "a cowardly move."

Christopher Brown's mother told a crowd of about 100 residents who attended the Stoneybrook Community Association meeting that she was disappointed that police didn't send a representative to the meeting, where residents met to discuss the teen's death.

Western Patrol Division Commander Maj. Evan Cohen was scheduled to attend the event, but police spokeswoman Cathy Batton said Tuesday afternoon that Police Chief James W. Johnson spoke to Brown's mother, Chris Brown, earlier. Because he had spoken to Brown's mother directly, Batton said, the department decided not to send a police representative to the meeting. Batton said Johnson told Brown police are still working to thoroughly investigate her son's death, which takes time.

Christopher Brown, 17, died June 13 in an altercation with off-duty police officer James D. Laboard.

At the community association meeting, several residents said they were disappointed that no one from the Police Department nor any local elected official came to the meeting.

"It looks like they didn't care," Tiffany Rhibbs, who lives in the area, said of the Police Department. "I thought it [a flier passed out in the community] said a police officer was supposed to be here."

Rhibbs said she came to find out what had happened to Christopher Brown "because I have two young children and two teenage brothers, and I would hate for this to happen to them."

Some in the community attended because they knew Christopher Brown.

Romaine McDonald said her son Omar was good friends with Brown and that they were on the Randallstown High School football and wrestling teams together.

Brown "had a beautiful personality," she said. "I couldn't believe this happened to such a nice child."

McDonald said she and her son are still in disbelief over Brown's death.

"It upset him a lot," she said of her son. "He said, 'It happens in the city, it doesn't happen here.'"

McDonald also said she was surprised no police attended the meeting.

County police said they are continuing to investigate Brown's death, but Chris Brown said she's losing patience and that any other person would have faced charges almost two weeks after her son's death.

Brown wanted to attend the meeting at the Winands Road Synagogue Center on Tuesday night, she said, to hear from others in the community about what happened to her son, who was laid to rest last weekend after a two-hour service at Colonial Baptist Church on Liberty Road. Some 600 people attended the service.

This week, Brown demanded that Laboard be charged. "Nothing's been done," she told reporters Monday, saying she has been disappointed that the police have not arrested Laboard.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger met with Brown and her attorney, Russell Neverdon, the week of Christopher Brown's death to assure her a thorough investigation would take place. He said his office is conducting a fair investigation but that the process takes time.

Michael Davey, the police union attorney representing Laboard, did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

While the medical examiner's office has ruled Brown's death a homicide by asphyxiation, prosecutors must decide whether it was justified, negligent or murder.

Brown, a rising junior at Randallstown High, was out with a group of teens when one threw a rock at Laboard's home on Susanna Road. Police said Laboard ran after members of the group until he caught up to Brown a few blocks away, where Brown hid in some bushes. Laboard confronted the teen, telling him to come out. When Brown did not move, police said, Laboard pulled him out and the two struggled. Brown fell unconscious during the altercation, police said. The officer called for help and attempted to resuscitate Brown, police said.

Laboard has not been charged and remains on administrative leave.

Arland Preston, president of Stoneybrook Community Association, said he lives across the street from where Laboard and Brown fought on Starbook Road. He said he witnessed a different scene from what police described, saying the officer did not attempt to resuscitate the teen.

"The things [police] are saying don't match up," he said, and urged others who might have witnessed the incident to speak up. He told other residents to get involved and come to meetings.