WARREN Black leaders, officials work on race issues
A state agency is expected to decide today whether to investigate an allegation of police brutality.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
and PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- City officials say they're working with local black leaders and others to dissolve the perceptions that all young black men are hoodlums and all cops are bad.
Gustavo Gaynett, director of the Detroit office of the U.S. Justice Department, was in town Monday and Tuesday and plans to return soon to assist the community in its quest for progress.
After a press conference Tuesday, city Safety-Service Director Fred Harris stressed that Gaynett was not in town to investigate a recent case of alleged brutality -- but rather to facilitate discussions on issues facing the police and black community.
"He'll be camping out in Warren for a while," Harris said. "I feel good; I think this is a real big step we're taking."
Topics to be covered: Birdia Roberts, president of the Warren-Trumbull County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the discussion of race relations will include police brutality and racial profiling.
The NAACP under Roberts' leadership will choose a committee from the community to draft a list highlighting racial issues affecting Warren. The list will then go to Gaynett, who will head up a meeting between the city and NAACP to find "mutual solutions," Roberts said.
Roberts and Harris agree the city and NAACP are working toward a better understanding.
Linda Conyers, assistant secretary of the NAACP, attributes the cooperation to Roberts, who recently replaced James "Doc" Pugh as president when he decided to run for public office. He was unsuccessful in his bid.
What happened: The Justice Department contacted the city after Gehrig and Lucille Murray of Mahoning Avenue said that their son LaMont was beaten "almost to death" by police during a traffic stop.
Murray, 29, said he had a large gash on his head that required 20 staples to close.
The police report states that about 6 p.m. June 25 Sgt. Robert Massucci and officer David Weber stopped a car on Niles Road in a routine traffic stop.
Murray, a passenger, was asked to get out but refused, the report says. The report also says that Murray punched one of the officers in the chest. A brief struggle ensued, and the officers subdued him.
Massucci has said that neither he nor Weber used excessive force. Weber could not be reached to comment.
Harris said city officials will likely meet today with the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to see if it plans to investigate Murray's complaints.
"They are going to come here and discuss the case and determine if they have the time to investigate," Police Chief John Mandopoulos said. "We welcome an investigation. We have nothing to hide."
The city decided to seek an outside investigation to be fair, Harris said.
Harris said Weber's brother-in-law is a captain in the police department and Massucci's cousin works in the city's personnel office.
This will ensure impartiality, Harris said, adding, "I don't think an internal investigation would fly at this point."
Community members and the NAACP met Monday with Gaynett to begin talks. Roberts said the meeting was informative and educational, and that Murray's mother attended and agreed it was fruitful.
She noted that Murray did not attend.