Dover Delaware, 2012

On October 6, 2012 in Dover Delaware this blogger was confronted with claims of a lynching, an attempted lynching and a cover up that were not immediately credible ... Here is my weblog as I struggle to place in some kind of order all the information coming in since then. Although the topics in this blog have grown beyond the original case, still ongoing and unsolved to the minds of many, the focus is the same. Equal protection under the law.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is the first state dead last in civil rights?

  Two men, nearly two years apart in death. They died the same way, hanging from trees in Dover Delaware in a time and manner which convinced local P.D. investigators and officials that both deaths were suicide. Two black men. That's all they had in common except for the way they died, how they were found, where they died.

  Between the death of the first and second man, a racist leaflet was distributed in Dover along Division street downtown. The flyer contained vulgar racist language and the image of a black man hanging from a tree by his neck as well as a swastika.

  One a street wise barber . One a star athlete 19 years old. From Edison New Jersey and a freshman at Wesley College. The only thing besides their manner of passing they had in common was skin tone.

 On October 17 2010 in an alley in Dover a  black man was seen hanging from a tree by a passing motorist.

This is what made it to the Newspaper:

"But to the shock and sadness of many in New Jersey and Delaware, Conley, who recently turned 19, died suddenly on the morning of Oct. 17. His death was ruled a suicide, according to Carl Kanefsky, a spokesman for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. According to Dover police, Conley’s body was found by a passerby in an alleyway near campus around 7:30 a.m."

 "... died suddenly ...." ?  There's a Win The Future type of moment there.

The Police Press Release:

Student Commits Suicide
Complaint Number: 50-10-26769
Date of Incident: 10/17/10
This News Release was entered 10/20/10 by Captain, Tim Stump 
Location of Incident:
200 Block N. Governors Ave

On Sunday 10/17/10 at approximately 0730 the Dover Police Department responded to a report from a motorist driving in the alleyway, east of N. Governors Ave, that a subject was hanging from a tree. Detectives identified the victim as a 19 year old Wesley College student from New Jersey. There is no foul play involved and detectives found information from the victim detailing his intent to harm himself. 

This is one account from the Campus paper on the tragedy.

  Friends and family have expressed doubt over the finding of suicide.

  On May 12, 2012 Johnny Clark died at Silver Lake Park in Dover. A black man, the official Dover Police Department report indicated that he had committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree. For many reasons his family didn't buy the official story.

  There was no press release from the police, no local media coverage. Until very recently the only mention of Clark's death online was at

  That website post was challenged by WGMD News in the Morning host Bill Colley who subsequently interviewed Mr. Alston of Dover on air. Then the Antonio Prado of the Dover Post printed this report of a Dover Town Council meeting:

    • ###
      Former Delaware State University professor Dr. Jahi Issa and Dover resident EShed Alston continued their push for investigations into lynchings in Dover in the 21st Century during Monday night's Dover City Council meeting. Joining them in their cause was local political candidate Doug Beatty, an Independent.
  • Dover resident EShed Alston, former Delaware State University professor Dr. Jahi Issa and state House of Representatives District 34 Independent candidate Doug Beatty also demanded that the city continue to investigate the vulgar leaflet that depicted a racial slur that was circulated within the city beginning late in 2011.
    "This flyer says, 'Cleaning up the streets of Dover one nigger at a time,'" Alston said, holding up the leaflet before council during its Monday night meeting. "And it contains an image of a black person hanging from a tree [next to a Nazi symbol]."
    Alston said he suspected the city had conducted a "cover up" of what he described as the lynching of Johnny Clark, who was black, in Silver Lake Park, on May 12.
    "According to the official city line, he committed suicide," Alston said. "Since then and subsequent to that, we had another individual who was treated in the same way at the same location. This is not an individual circumstance involving Mr. Clark."
    After public comment, Alston presented the Dover Post with an affidavit in which Henry Fordham, a black man, alleged that "two crazy white boys" attempted to lynch him in Silver Lake Park on Sept. 21.
    "What I'm demanding here is an investigation because our kids mean something to us, gentlemen and ladies," he said. "If this was a situation where this was a Caucasian who had been tortured or killed by black domestic terrorists, then something would be done in the city of Dover."
    In response, Dover Police Chief James Hosfelt said after City Council's meeting Monday night that investigations concluded that Clark's death was in fact a suicide while Fordham's allegation that he suffered an attempted lynching was found to be unsubstantiated. He called the persistent belief that a lynching and an attempted lynching had occurred "unfortunate."
    Back during public comment, Issa said he had written extensively on the sensitive subject of lynching. His doctorate in American history focused on the South, which officially includes the state of Delaware according to America's geographic divisions.
    "This flyer that Mr. Alston showed you started circulating at the end of last year," said Issa, who was fired from DSU after leading a student protest. "I first got a hold of it in February. I started investigating it as a member of the NAACP to see if there was any validity to it.
    • "I don't know if the city really understands the seriousness of this. But, as an African American intellectual who has a Ph.D. in history, I know what that means," Issa said. "Lynchings are political. They're more than just a murder. And they have a long history of white supremacist behavior. I never thought I would in my lifetime be an advocate against this, which intellectuals like W.E.B. DuBois [fought] a hundred years ago. Here we are again."
      Issa was arrested during a student protest March 1, 2011 for what DSU officials said was disorderly conduct. He was subsequently fired in August.
      Beatty, of Magnolia, said he first learned of the alleged lynching in May, the abduction in September and the racist leaflet during a Dover Post candidates forum held Oct. 9. That is when Alston asked Beatty, and Republican incumbent State Rep. Donald Blakey for the 34th District and Democratic challenger Ted Yacucci if they were aware of the alleged lynching and attempted lynching. None of them had heard and were perplexed by Alston's question in the 21st Century.
      "I've spoken to the second victim on the phone, I've interviewed fourteen people on the street and I've talked to some of our legislators," Beatty said. "One of the state senators said this was all B.S. and somebody was trying to start a race riot. If that's true, I want to know who."
      Beatty added that members of Clark's family and other community members did not believe that Clark committed suicide.
      Hosfelt said Dover Police conducted a thorough investigation into the death of Clark as well as a review of that investigation and concluded that his death was in fact a suicide.
      "It's an unfortunate thing," he said.
      City police also investigated the September incident alleged by Fordham, Hosfelt said. Police first contacted Fordham at 6 a.m. Sept. 21 because a resident reported he was in her backyard acting irrational.
      Fordham's initial report was that he was kidnapped from the halfway house he lives in on North New Street, Hosfelt said. He said two white men forced entry into his house at 15 N. New Street and removed him at gunpoint and drove him down to Silver Lake to try to drown him.
      "When we got there, his clothes were dry and the [New Street] homeowner rebutted claims about anyone invading her home," Hosfelt said. 'Then, he changed his story to he was walking his dog when two white men drove up in a pickup truck and [forcibly took] him."

      • Police poked holes in that story when the New Street homeowner said Fordham did not own a dog, Hosfelt said.
        Police then transported Fordham to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital for treatment, but he became argumentative with staff and fled before he could be treated, Hosfelt said.
        As for the racist flyer, police had no leads, Hosfelt said. Anyone with information was urged to contact police.
        Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. said he had the utmost confidence in Dover Police's investigations. And the racist flyers would not be tolerated, he added.
        "We take this stuff very seriously," he said. "We want Dover to be a good place for our citizens to live."


          Perhaps worth noting that Mr. Alston had requested in writing through channels the opportunity to speak on the agenda for the City Council meeting. The Council seemed to do everything possible to keep our statements off the official record. Kudos to Mr. Prado for printing the article.

         Jump to September 21 2012. At approximately 6:00 a.m. Dover Police Responded to a residence near the same area of Silver Lake park where Clark died in response to the resident's call concerning a man in her yard. Dover P.D. Chief reports that the resident reported a man acting irrationally.

         Henry J. Fordham had visible injuries that warranted transporting him to Kent General Hospital. He claimed to have been abducted by two white males who attempted to lynch him. Police dismissed his story after he reportedly gave two demonstrably false accounts concerning how he came to be in the custody of his alleged abductors.

        This picture of Fordham taken on September 21 in the daytime. Mr. Fordham reports that this injury ensued from a knife attack by his assailants in the early morning of 21Sept2012. 
        Photo by Dr. Jahi Issa.

        According to Dr. Issa and local paralegal Eshed Alston this wound is a cut from the outside of Fordham's mouth that goes through to the inside of his mouth.
        Photo by Dr. Jahi Issa.

        Mr. Fordham maintains that this mark was caused by his assailants trying to strangle him. 
        Photo by Dr. Jahi Issa. 

        All photos taken on 21 September 2012

          On September 27 2012 there was a meeting of the Dover Delaware Human Relations Commission. Henry Fordham, Wanda Clark, and Donald Clark spoke to the commission about what they felt was a murder and an attempted murder.

           A family member testified that he had last seen his brother Johnny alive with the same two white males that allegedly abducted and assaulted Fordham. These individuals lived in the neighborhood where Clark and Fordham resided. The family member said he had been in a program with one of the white males.

        Video taken at Dover Human Relations Commission Meeting on 27Sep2012

          These two suicides defy suicide statistics in a town of less than 40,000 which is only 38% African American  within the very small geographical area where these deaths occured. That's quite a coincidence to put it mildly.

         Please don't take this blogger's word for that, check suicide statistics for yourself. Non Hispanic black males are generally less likely than whites and Asians to commit suicide. Firearms are the most prevalent method of suicide for this demographic and location. Hanging from a tree in public view in two cases within blocks of each other and occurring in the context of a leaflet campaign between the first and most recent death makes the cases even more suspect.

         Factor in friends and family of both victims still in disbelief that their loved ones took their own lives.

            That alone should warrant a full review in view of the statistical improbability of two such suicides occurring in the manner suggested in a sick leaflet distributed to neighborhoods along Division St. in Dover after the first death and before the second.

          The mayor having full confidence in the police department's actions should welcome an independent review of both cases to vindicate the Dover P.D.. If this is not the case the issue won't be resolved within the City.
        Perhaps a committee should be named by the City Council to release as much information as possible to the public while conducting an impartial factual review of both cases.

        UPDATE: Henry Fordham and a resident of the house where the 911 call originated both refute the official line that a resident reported "a man acting irrational(sic)" in her yard. According to Mr. Ford and the resident, sounds of an altercation, yelling and screaming awoke the resident who turned on a floodlight. Both parties agree that Mr. Fordham fell to the ground yelling for help. Not at all irrational considering his injuries.

          Regardless of Mr. Fordham reportedly being evasive as to how he came to be in the company of his assailants, or his criminal record it would appear that there is probable cause to investigate an assault of Mr. Fordham. There is no case number, no complaint has been taken, and Chief Holsted when asked told me there was no probable cause to investigate an attack on Mr. Fordham.

          Probable cause must mean something else in Delaware. In general probable cause is observable facts or circumstances that would convince a reasonable and prudent person that an crime has been committed and in fact committed by a specific person or persons.

         Fordham identified two men who lived in his neighborhood, two men who haven't been seen by neighbors since the day Fordham came into contact with Dover P.D. at approximately 0600 hours on 21Sep2012.
        Something ain't right.

        Original portions copyright 2012 Doug Beatty.

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