A family disagreement between two brothers spilled on to the streets of Charles Village and landed at the AFRO’s front door Sept. 21. “I’ve never seen anyone act like this and I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my time,” said Michael Agelopas, a photographer and clinical psychologist who watched the incident from his second story window across the street.
According to Baltimore City Police spokesman Jeremy Silbert, both men involved in the incident are unidentified and no arrests were made. “One guy didn’t have a shirt on and his underwear was showing and pants hanging off. I don’t even think he had shoes on,” said Agelopas. “On a scale of one to 10, this was an 11.”
“They were in the middle of Charles Street yelling and throwing punches and there was a woman in between them doing her best to try and separate them,” said Cheryl Batts-Cooper, AFRO circulation customer service manager.
“They were throwing punches and the shorter one hit the woman while trying to land one on the taller guy. But the taller one was the aggressor. He was very violent and even spat in their faces. She just kept screaming for someone to call the police and was doing her best to separate them,” she said.
Batts-Cooper, who watched the incident unfold along with AFRO CEO and publisher John J. Oliver, said a Charles Village security officer was sitting in his vehicle across the street and observed the entire incident but did not get out of the car until the commotion ended.
Sammy Graham, head of security and circulation and distribution manager at the AFRO , said he was called to the front of the building because of the disturbance. “When I came out they were in the street fighting,” said Graham. “The older brother slammed the car door on the younger brother’s foot. And the younger brother, who was about 17, hit his brother with a cane or stick of some sort in retaliation.”
The two proceeded to yell loudly and argue in the street.
Graham said a woman who identified herself as the mother of the dueling pair asked him to take the younger sibling inside the AFRO’s lobby, where he stayed until police arrived on the scene. A tug of war over the lobby door ensued as the 19-year-old aggressor unsuccessfully tried to make his way into the lobby. “He was yelling something like, ‘I’m gonna get you’ or ‘I’m coming in,’” recounts Agelopas.
Agelopas said he saw the tall, slender man forcefully throw his body against the window pane of the newspaper’s lobby. “He did that about four times, face first into the glass and was yelling and jumping up and down. It seemed like he was either on drugs or mentally disturbed.”
“Once he got inside, the younger brother calmed right down,” said Graham.
His brother, on the other hand, continued to wreak havoc and overturned a newspaper coin box and struck the glass window multiple times with a metal pipe, according to Agelopas’ account.
AFRO staff members said they called the police numerous times, but the mother and eldest son sped off in a dark colored, late model Ford Contour before a police cruiser arrived. “The police were not only late. They were inadequate to capture the facts,” said Oliver. “This occurred at mid-day, on the busiest street in this city and the response time and effectiveness of the Baltimore City police is absolutely appalling.”
Silbert contends officers arrived on the scene within minutes. “We received at least four calls about this fight. The first one came in at 10:32 a.m., it was dispatched at 10:35 a.m. and my records show that I have an officer on the scene at 10:38 a.m. No arrests were made and a police report was not filed for this incident,” he said.
While the family’s emotional breakdown on Charles Street was indeed a personal issue, Oliver believes it sheds light on other issues plaguing the surrounding community.
“It highlighted so many things that are wrong with Baltimore City. It was a sad spectacle. At some point, you expected a gun to come out. That’s how violent these kids were,” said Oliver. “Then to realize that it was one family. I can’t believe the amount of violence and the lack of communication. It was sad.”