Howard NAACP hosting town hall in response to fatal shooting in Columbia

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

The Howard County NAACP chapter will host a town hall May 23 focused on promoting awareness of community resources such as youth programs and mental health and substance abuse services to Harper’s Choice residents.

The chapter has decided to host the event “in response to recent occurrences of crime in the community,” including the fatal shooting of Columbia resident Ronald Carolina Jr., according to chapter President Willie Flowers.

On March 28, Carolina was found suffering from gunshot wounds in Columbia’s Harper’s Choice Village Center. Carolina, 27, was transported to Howard County General Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police have said they believe the incident was drug related.

“With the resources we have in Howard County, he [Carolina] should be living,” Flowers said. “As a community, we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Witnesses told Howard police they saw two men approach Carolina, followed by two or three gunshots. Police arrested two Columbia men in April. They are being charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and related charges, police said.

“How can you take a life like that? It hurts me really bad,” Hope Jackson, Carolina’s mother, said through tears. “[They] took my son’s life for what … he was taken for what? For what?”

After graduating Howard High School in 2008, Carolina, known as Ron Ron, began abusing pills, going in and out of rehabilitation clinics throughout his young adult life.

But in January 2018, “He started getting his mind right,” said Jackson, who is a paraeducator at Featherbed Lane Elementary School in Gwynn Oak.

He had received an apprenticeship to become a plumber three or four days before his death.

“Ron Ron was going through his battles, his struggles, and he never gave up. Even through his struggles, he would have a smile on his face when I picked him up off the streets,” Jackson said.

“I used to tell my son, ‘Don’t be ashamed, hold your head up high.’ And I would play his favorite song, it’s a spiritual song [called] ‘He Saw the Best in Me.’ ”

Other topics to be discussed at the NAACP event are public safety, housing options and educational opportunities.

The event is at 6:30 p.m. at Harper’s Choice Middle School, 5450 Beaverkill Road in Columbia.

Ron Ron’s childhood

When Ron Ron was about 5 years old, he asked his mom to take him back-to-school shopping. He asked if he could get two pencil cases that looked like Converse sneakers. He said he needed two, one for his pencils and one for crayons.

“That was not the case,” Jackson said.

Ron Ron wore the pencil cases to school as shoes, Jackson said laughing.

He would need actual sneakers to pursue his passion of skateboarding.

“Skateboarding was his life; he breathed, ate and slept it,” Jackson said.

Ronald Carolina Sr., who is retired, said his son would skateboard every day, having sleepovers with his friends where all they would do is skateboard.

Ron Ron even participated in skateboarding competitions and at one point was top 10 in the state, Jackson said.

He also played basketball — Carolina Sr. was his coach through a team at the Columbia Association.

In the weeks following his son’s death, Carolina Sr. was told by many that “your son is just like you.”

Carolina Sr. could only think of one time his son ever raised his voice at him. Old friends have shared stories that “your son has never bothered nobody, everybody loved him.”

‘100 percent my brother’

Wherever Ron Ron was, so were Dave Eassa and Kevin Gillhouse, all with a skateboard in their hands.

“I spent a lot of time thinking of when he came into my life [and], I don’t remember when, he was just always there,” said Eassa, 28.

When growing up, Eassa and his siblings would track their height in their mom’s closet and so did Ron Ron.

“He was 100 percent my brother,” Eassa said.

Gillhouse, 29, met the two when he moved to Howard County from Ohio in middle school. He met Ron Ron at one of Eassa’s birthday parties.

Gillhouse ended up moving “a skateboarding distance” from Ron Ron’s house, making it even easier for the two to always be together.

Almost every morning, Gillhouse would get a phone call from Ron Ron “just to check in.”

All that the three cared about for a long time during their childhood was skateboarding.

The three would tell their parents they were at each other’s houses to cover their tracks and spend all night skateboarding.

“We would skate all night, literally all night ... until that morning at 5 a.m.,” Eassa said. “It would be exhausting and then we would go out the whole next day.”

Those skating nights created great memories for Gillhouse.

“Everything [was] just more simple back then,” he said. “Everyone was always really happy … at the end of the day we were best friends.”

They didn’t just skate around Howard County — at Centennial Skate Park and Laurel Skate Park — they also explored Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York by maneuvering the unknown streets and sidewalks with their skateboards. Eassa and Ron Ron even visited Oakland, California.

Eassa is a Baltimore-based artist who “works deeply with communities.”

In his current job as manager of community engagement at the Baltimore Museum of Art, he uses art to connect with visitors which “all stems” from his lifelong friendship with Ron Ron.

Gillhouse, an Ellicott City resident who works as an fire protection inspection technician, was with Ron Ron hours before he was fatally shot. He left Ron Ron about 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, with the call coming in just two hours later.

“I was in total disbelief,” Gillhouse recalled. He thought to himself, “There’s no way, I was just with him.”

From now on, any skateboarding trick Gillhouse does will be for his fallen friend.

“I will go for it for Ron, I will land it for him,” he said.

Gillhouse described his best friend, “With so much energy, [Ron Ron] had something a lot of people don’t have and something truly special.”

Jackson said nearly 300 people attended Ron Ron’s funeral, which “shows you what type of a character he was, it shows you what type of a spirit he was.”

Eassa echoed, saying Ron Ron “absolutely radiated,” especially with his “totally infectious” smile.

“He was Ron Ron, an absolute nutcase,” Eassa said. “There will never be another human like him. There is a void in all our lives.”

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