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Then the sound of silence


A bizarre standoff between the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and the African-American community began last week. Maj. Harold Medlock led a press conference in which he politely but firmly accused members of the African-American community of declining to help the police solve the murders of two kids shot at gatherings a year apart.

Witnesses know who killed 12-year-old Ranson Middle School student Joshua Jackson after a birthday party Sunday night at the Rameses Temple social hall on Beatties Ford Road, Medlock said. And they knew who killed 17-year-old West Charlotte High School junior Travis Moore at a birthday party held nearby on Fernwood Drive last year. Police say both were innocent bystanders who got caught up in a hail of bullets.

Medlock told the public that the department expects the community to help police put those who committed the murders behind bars.

"By all accounts, these were good kids whose tragic murders were all the more senseless because their murderers are being allowed to remain free in our community," the Charlotte Observer quoted Medlock as saying. "It's the children's responsibility, as well as the adults, to step forward, and take a stand."

It was an extraordinary move for a painfully politically correct police department that strives, sometimes above all else, to avoid bad public relations.

Medlock didn't reference the national "Stop Snitching" trend that encourages witnesses to refuse to help police catch criminals, even when those witnesses have information that could solve the crime. But Medlock's meaning was clear -- that many of the witnesses to these two crimes refuse to snitch.

That police took the risk of holding a press conference like this one so soon after the Nick Mackey debacle tore the community apart along racial lines is particularly striking.

So, too, has been the reaction from the black community. In other cities where police have leveled similar accusations, African-American leaders have been quick to fire back at them with accusations that the reason they can't get help is because they have mistreated black citizens, who now don't trust them. But these same leaders have often asked the community to come forward and help the police at the same time. It usually turns into a back and forth volley with police that grows increasingly nasty and eventually leads to a large-scale community healing conference of some sort.

As of deadline, only Jackson's mother had spoken out, claiming she knows who killed her son and has told police, as have others. No one had come forward, at least publicly, in the Moore case.

So far, there has been nothing but silence from Charlotte's African-American leadership, who only weeks ago were engaged in a lively debate over the future of sheriff candidate Nick Mackey. As for the large-scale community racial healing conference, that was held last year. It was called the Charlotte-Mecklenburg African American Agenda, and it was designed to unite the minority community in addressing problems.

I attended, and it was a who's who of Charlotte African-American leaders -- the same ones who so far have remained silent about the deaths of Moore and Jackson. Meanwhile their killers, who clearly feel comfortable engaging in public gun fights with dozens of innocent people caught in the crossfire, remain free.

These would be the same African-American leaders who concluded at and after the conference that the key mission they needed to undertake was to intervene in the lives of African-American youth in this community, which is precisely what police are asking them to do now to help solve these murders.

Hundreds of people, including adults, were present at the Jackson's murder, where two other teens also sustained non-fatal bullet wounds. Dozens, again including adults, were present at the party where Moore was murdered.

So where are the ministers who were so fired up about Mackey? What about the folks who brought Al Sharpton to town? Where is former mayor Harvey Gantt and the Uptowners who wished Mackey would just go away? How about the black leaders who campaigned to keep the transit tax? Where are our past and future mayoral candidates? Hello?

If the police are out of line here, if they are leveling accusations that are unfounded, the black leadership needs to step up and say so. Either that or they need to call for the community, and particularly the parents and the children who were present at both these killings, to help the police out in both cases.

But someone needs to say something. Anything. Now.

Two children are dead, for the love of God. And I thought that the children were what this was all supposed to be about.

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