Police are investigating an attack on a 15-year-old African-American youth by a group of men associated with a Jewish community patrol group, which occurred on Nov. 19 in the Upper Park Heights Community of Baltimore.

According to a police report, the incident occurred at approximately noon when the boy was traveling on Falstaff Road. After he noticed a red, two-door vehicle following him, he told police that he asked the passengers, two Jewish White males, “What’s up? What are ya‘ll looking at?”

The two passengers got out of the vehicle and responded, “What’s up? You’re the guy from yesterday on Park Heights. You want some problems?”

The teen said that as he continued to walk, the men got back in their vehicle and proceeded to follow him. The boy said he then grabbed a wood stick for safety, but threw it down as the men got out of the car a second time.

As the two surrounded him, a third White heavy-set Jewish male pulled up in a van and approached the boy from behind. Then they proceeded to pat him down asking, “What you got in your pockets? Keep your hand out your pockets, you want trouble?”

The heavyset male then proceeded to strike the teen in the head with a two-way radio while the others held him down on the ground placing their feet and knees on his back. He said the three men then got back into their vehicles and left the scene.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the three men were from Shomrim, a Northwest Baltimore Jewish citizens patrol group. They have no police powers beyond those of ordinary citizens and are not sworn law enforcement officers.

Following the incident, a member of the Shomrim patrol group arrived on the scene and treated the teen until paramedics arrived. He was later transported to Sinai Hospital where he was treated for a laceration on the right side of his head.

Police arrested Eli Werdesheim, 23, on Nov. 30 in conjunction with the incident and is charged with first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and false imprisonment. According to Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL, he is a volunteer with the group.

Werdesheim’s lawyer says that the Shomrim patrol arrived at the scene in response to a call about a suspicious person in the area. He contends that Werdesheim reacted in self-defense.

“The information available to us is that the young man swung a two-by-four with nails in it at Mr. Werdesheim,” Attorney Andrew Alperstein told WBAL. “Mr. Werdesheim stepped out of the way and defended himself from imminent bodily harm from this young man’s weapon.”

The alleged attacker is currently out on bail.

The victim has not yet spoken publicly about the incident. The Baltimore Sun reported that the youth was not under investigation in connection with the altercation. But a source told the newspaper that he has a juvenile criminal record with theft charges, and WBAL reported that the teen was charged with auto theft six weeks ago. Juvenile records are not available to the public.

The incident occurred in an area of Baltimore that has long been divided between the Orthodox Jewish and Black communities, according to the Sun. The former group claims the neighborhoods north of the city’s Northern Parkway, while the latter group is centered in the neighborhoods south of the road. Local school officials told the Sun that they believed tensions between the two have eased in recent years and crime has not been a major issue.

However, according to Baltimore’s Jewish Times newspaper, there has been a spate of recent burglaries in that area of the city. Also, a group of teenagers allegedly threw rocks at a rabbi.

In response to the alleged attack on the Black teenager, the Rev. Herber Brown III, vice president of the city’s Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance gathered with local civil rights advocates on Dec. 2 to voice their condemnation of the assault.

“We are anxious to see all of the persons who were involved in this attack brought to justice,” Rev. Brown told the AFRO in a recent interview. Additionally, it would appear that it would be a prudent move to disband group until a thorough investigation is completed.”

According to the group’s Web site, Shomrim—which means “the watchers,”—was formed in 2005 to combat a rise in crime in the Northwest Baltimore area. The organization provides security by responding to calls received on their hotline.

It was previously reported that the IMA had met with the Shomrim on Dec. 4 to discuss the incident. But Rev. Herber Brown told the AFRO that no such meeting has been held and his organization still feels the same about the issue. ? ?”Our position in the IMA remains the same,” Brown said. “We are looking forward to an independent investigation into what happened and that all those who were involved be brought to the light of day and be held accountable for their actions.”

 

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor