An ex-gang member and enforcer addressing a church congregation? A rare sight. But at an evening service at the Ark Church in East Baltimore Oct. 6, Edward “Ted” Sutton did just that, telling the story of how he renounced street violence to embrace religion.
Sutton’s path to the pulpit was littered with missteps. After dodging bullets, facing down threats and sitting through police raids on his home, the 45-year-old ex-gang-banger said, the moment came when he had had enough.
“I was at the Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore, facing 15 years in prison for a crime I didn’t commit,” Sutton told the AFRO.” I remember being in the bathroom stall, getting down on my knees with toilet water on the floor and cried out to God asking him to give me a second chance.”
Sutton said at that moment in 1993 in the bathroom stall, “God worked a miracle for me.”
“After having several charges dismissed—racketeering, loan-sharking, assault, handgun violation and strong-arming—I really saw how powerful God was,” he said.
That was the last time Sutton walked into a courtroom to face criminal charges and the beginning of changes in his life, he said. The charges were dismissed.
At the peak of his criminal life, he was on the muscle side. “I wasn’t into drug dealing. I was more a collector, an enforcer.”
But he put all that behind him and has became a motivational speaker and trying to steer Baltimore youth away from crime and has even served as a consultant for TV shows like “Law and Order” that are built around gritty street life. He is now an elder at the Maryland Church of God in Christ.
“I walked out of the courtroom and earned my bachelor’s, two master’s degrees, started a transitional house for young men to get out of gangs,” he said.
He clearly wasn’t born to the gang life. Sutton grew up in a nuclear family. Although his father was a minister and his mother was a teacher, he still found himself frequently on the wrong side of the law, spending more time with his street friends than with his family.
“I started to get respect on the streets and no one would bother me,” Sutton told the AFRO.
Sutton said at times he felt like he was living a double life. “I grew up in different parts of the city and I spent most of my street time in Park Heights.”
His days were spent in church with his family but at night he was caught up in a life of gangs and drugs, but was saved by the “grace of God,” he said.
But he was lucky. He was never convicted of a violent act and was never the victim of a gunshot wound.
With several friends left dead in the streets or incarcerated, Sutton attributed God for moving his entire street support base out of his life.
“It’s not how you start, its how you finish,” he said.
Through his faith in God and prayer, Sutton said the path to the pulpit through crime has been led to an ordered, Christian life. “I have been exonerated and God has worked out my situation.”