(Editor’s note: Colin Flaherty has done more reporting than any other journalist on what appears to be a nationwide trend of skyrocketing black-on-white crime, violence and abuse. WND features these reports to counterbalance the virtual blackout by the rest of the media due to their concerns that reporting such incidents would be inflammatory or even racist. WND considers it racist not to report racial abuse solely because of the skin color of the perpetrators or victims.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The links in the following report may contain offensive language.
It all began with an attempted robbery.
Tommy Burke had just left a local watering hole in the Trolley Square neighborhood of Wilmington, Del.
Burke makes bird-house reproductions of Wilmington estate homes that get national attention. This self-professed liberal calls himself a 60-year-old hippy.
Walking home, he passed through a crowd of 40 black people – mostly teenagers – milling around outside of a party. Thirty yards later, he found himself followed, then surrounded by five people from that group.
“They said give me your f—— money,” he said. “And they threatened to beat me up. They said I was just a guy who drank too much and I couldn’t fight back. I took off my glasses, put my false teeth in my pocket and told them that was not going to happen.”
Much to their surprise – and his – he punched one of his robbers. After a few more blows were exchanged, the five teenagers ran back in the direction of the party. All of Tommy Burke’s cash and valuables were intact. He did suffer injuries to his mouth that will require dental surgery.
“These two women from the party – I think they were mothers – begged me not to call the police. I told them I just got mugged, of course I was going to call the police.”
And he did. Police got the call at 11:58 p.m., police records show. This timeline is important, as we shall soon see.
Police got there quickly – within five minutes, but now after the midnight curfew.
Despite the curfew, many people from the party were loitering in and wandering through adjacent neighborhoods. Police called for backup and within 10 minutes a police van was on the scene.
Soon, 24 curfew violators were on their way to a nearby YMCA – a safe haven where parents could pick up their children without going to jail or getting a record.
After a bit of questioning, they were released. No arrests were made. Everyone went home.
But Chandra Pitts, the head of One Village Alliance, a social service agency funded by the United Way whose mission is to mentor children in the city of 65,000, weaves a totally different story: A tale of conspiracy, racism, police brutality, official deception, illegal questioning and lots of other “horrific” and “disgusting” things.
The city is one with problems: Parenting magazine named Wilmington the “dangerous city in America.” Just a few hours before this incident, four people were shot. One died.
Pitt’s version ended up on dozens of websites, Facebook pages, answering machines, and email inboxes – many before dawn the following day. Many vowed to take the story national – and make it about race.
This is the version that could have started a riot, observed people in and out of the police department. Even John Flaherty (Editor’s note: John is the author’s brother), the former head of Common Cause in Delaware who co-hosts with the author a radio show at WDEL in Wilmington, figured it out:
“What she did was like the people stirring up the riots in Egypt and Libya,” said John Flaherty. “Just say anything without even caring if it is true. That is how riots start.”
Over the next several days, even after learning what really happened, Pitts repeated her story several times.
Here’s her story. Pitts wrote on her Facebook page:
“While Wilmington slept More than 30 innocent children as young as 10 and 12 years old were the victims of the most horrific and disgusting display of bigotry and entrapment in a night that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Parents stood by in outrage but helpless against a force of more than 20 police officers during what was, by the children’s account, a well orchestrated, premeditated attack as the plan was carried out by the Wilmington Police Department, the fully staffed Walnut Street YMCA and the Wilmington Jaycees…. How could this seemingly respected community collaborative be a part of such an elaborate plan that resulted in the illegal entrapment, interrogation and psychological trauma of our children???”
Pitts dropped off her “brilliant” 15-year old, private-school child at the party at 9 p.m.
“There was a back to school party,” Pitts told the delawarehiphop.com. “They were giving away book bags and celebrating their last weekend before they had to go back to school.”
There were no book bags. A flyer for the party billed it as “West Side is Da Best Side teen party,” produced by “BadBoy Allan.” Admission, $10.
The flyer also cryptically stated “F— DJ Ty and his busted speakers.”
Pitts also claimed the party was sponsored by the Jaycees.
It was held in their building, but not a Jaycee event, said a former president of the club.
Pitt also said Wilmington police were working security at the party.
No police – on duty or off – were present at the party, said Wilmington Police Chief Michael Szczerba.
“We dropped our children off in broad daylight on a beautiful Saturday evening at 7 p.m.”
Not true: She dropped her child off at 9 p.m. So she said. She also said many of the children walked there.
At some point Pitt learned of the attempted robbery. She said a policeman said it happened in “some point in history not a set time but at some point in history, before the party ever began.”
Not true on either count.
The attempted robbery on Burke was outside the party, during the party, by “children” from the party, authorities suspected. Police never told her anything different.
Pitts: “Those doors did not open to let those children out into the streets to walk home until 12 midnight.”
Burke and others say more than 20 people from the party were at a nearby 7-11 and adjacent neighborhoods before the party ended at midnight. The chief of police said on the radio interview several of the neighbors – some from blocks away – dialed 911 complaining about the noise and mayhem.
Pitts also contradicts herself: At one point saying the neighborhood was predominately white, then saying that many of the black children lived close enough to walk home.
Along with the website Delawarehiphop.com, Pitt told a conspiracy theory that was quickly debunked, but which did not prevent her from repeating it to reporters and to the city council.
The whole thing was a “sting operation,” Pitts said, to illegally question black people about a robbery in that white neighborhood. The police were in on it. So were the Jaycees. So was the YMCA.
Pitts said the police should have been questioning white people at a nearby bar.
“It was an absolute setup and very likely a sting operation from the very beginning,” Pitts said. And once the children were removed to the safe haven center at the YMCA, Pitts claimed an officer confessed as much to her.
“That is when the cat got leaked out of the bag from the officer’s own mouth to confirm that this in fact was a sting operation to question all of these black children illegally about a robbery that took place in a predominantly white residential area.”
At this point, Pitts claimed that several parents were using their smart phones to video tape the encounter. But Pitts did not get this “confession” on tape.
Thirty-seven hours after the party ended, my brother and I – on a radio show we host at WDEL in Wilmington – asked Pitts about many of the things she said. Why did you compare to the police to the Klu Klux Klan? And why did you try and make a racial incident out of it?
She denied comparing local police to the KKK. She said she was misquoted.
Back to the audio tape from delawarehiphop.com. Pitts reminded the interviewer of the time when:
“Three young students were murdered by the Klu Klux Klan. When police officers pull their car over. Detained them. They didn’t charge them with the crime. They never made an arrest. They detained them and let them out in wee hours of the morning (before they were killed) just like our children were released to waiting paddy wagon and police vehicle and dogs.”
In case you are one of those people who like playing the racial grievance game, “paddy wagon” is a racially offensive term.
Delawarehiphop.com figured it all out:
“Because the officers present were mainly Caucasian and the children involved were African-American and Hispanic and because the incident occurred in a predominantly white neighborhood, a racial component was immediately inferred by the Pitts and families present.
“To further their suspicions, a conflicting reason for the arrests emerged when a different officer was asked what the purpose was and reportedly, the second officer mentioned that someone had gotten robbed in the area but did not make it clear when. Pitts is one of several present who feel the children were possibly lured to the party and that it was a racially motivated and calculated sting.”
The interview continues with allegations of abuse, and illegal questioning and racist behavior. The police were “horrific” and “harassing our children in the most disgusting way possible,” Pitts said.
Even John Flaherty, a “liberal,” figured it out: “What were 10-year-old kids doing at a teen party at midnight?” he asked.
The children left the YMCA safe haven with a few flyers describing the group’s activities for youth. Pitts got mad at that too. “How dare they?” tell the children about after school programs, Pitts said.
The audio diatribe is 23 minutes.
Also at Delawarehiphop.com is a videotape shot in the back of the police wagon by Pitts’ son. The 30-second film is full of racial obscenities and vulgarities that make it impossible to play even a brief cut on a radio show.
Tommy Burke saw the video too. He said one of the people in that video is one of the people who attacked him.
Even so, Delawarehiphop promised to take the story national. It didn’t work. Saeed Shabazz, a reporter for the Final Call – the Nation of Islam’s newspaper – didn’t buy it. He checked it out and found the story was not true, he said on the air at WDEL.
In the end, there were too many questions. Too many phony answers. “Ms. Pitts runs an organization that is supposed to teach children the correct path,” said a poster to Delawareonline.com. “I think I understand why things are out of hand.”