Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette New Haven Police Chief Henry McKinnon speaks during Saturday's “Stop the Hate” rally at New Haven Municipal Hall. The event was organized after a black teen was the target of an alleged racially motivated attack.
Sunday, June 18, 2017 1:00 am
Residents rally after black teen attacked
JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette
About 50 people came to a rally in New Haven on Saturday, looking for answers on a potentially racially motivated assault on a 15-year-old boy at a creek and fears they have for the family's safety.
On June 6, Jason Gardner was found at a creek that runs behind Cedarwood Trails mobile home park on Moeller Road in New Haven. He had been beaten and was barely breathing when his mother, La'Kysha Gardner, and neighbors found him about 11 p.m.
Their search through the mobile home park and arrival at the creek's entrance apparently scared off Jason's attackers, now identified by New Haven Police Chief Henry McKinnon as three juveniles.
“It is a blessing he lived,” said Tianah Akkarach, who attended the rally.
The family and neighbors said the attack came after about a month and a half of threats and racial slurs directed at Jason's family, which is black, by white residents of the mobile home park. A feud between the Gardners and a white family began over a dating misunderstanding between Jason and a girl.
New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald and McKinnon spoke to the frustration many voiced about the lack of arrests made since the attack. The “Stop the Hate” rally, held at New Haven City Hall on Lincoln Highway East, was organized by Fort Wayne community activist Clearwater McGee.
Both McDonald and McKinnon said that an early arrest before the proper investigations have taken place can stall or hurt the case. The case has been turned over to the prosecutor's office, McKinnon said.
McDonald, mayor for 18 years, called the assault “an isolated incident,” and described the attackers as “three somebodies probably raised by ignorant people,” who were “taught and trained” to act like this. New Haven has become more diverse in the last 20 years and is an “inclusive community.”
“I'm personally ashamed that these three people did that,” McDonald said.
McKinnon told the crowd that the threats against the Gardner family have been toned down since media attention and that his officers have been asked to make routine checks on the mobile home park, which has 270 units.
McKinnon said he has asked La'Kysha Gardner to get a protective order against the attackers and those who are making threats, adding that it gives the police another tool to make arrests and strengthen the case.
McGee said the assault made him upset because he didn't have closure. He said he has experienced slurs in New Haven and Fort Wayne and he was tired of hearing rumors.
McGee also told the crowd he did not advocate that police rush the case after some people suggested organizing armed citizen groups to combat threats made to the family.
At the suggestion that the family have cameras mounted on their mobile home, those who attended spontaneously raised $157, collected in the cap of Roderick Parker, a community activist from Fort Wayne. The first $20 was donated by New Haven Councilman Steve McMichael, who represents the district where the family lives.
The family did not appear at the rally.
Stephen L. Terry, pastor of New Life Church of God, said that more action was needed. “Don't let this be just the moment,” he said.