May 29, 2014
By Joey Matthews
Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward Times
Eight-year-old Martin Cobb and his 12-year-old sister had a special bond. They were by all accounts inseparable as siblings, best friends and playmates.
“They were never apart,” said the Rev. Theodore L. Hughey, the pastor at Abundant Life Church of God in Christ, the family’s church. They would ride bikes and big wheelers together, play side by side with children in their South Side neighborhood and brag about their mother’s fine down-home cooking, he told the Free Press.
Marty had a special affinity for keys of any type, the pastor added. In a tragic event that has captured the nation’s heart, Marty now is being fondly remembered as a courageous hero. Local and national media are telling the heart-rending story of how Marty died May 1, while bravely trying to protect his beloved sister from a sexual predator as they played around noon near railroad tracks behind the family’s home in the 200 block of Brandon Road.
A 16-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with Marty’s murder and the attack on his sister, who survived. She is recovering at a local hospital.
Marty died from severe head trauma, police later reported. Neighbors reported the attacker struck Marty in the head with a brick. A few days following his death, about 200 family members, friends, neighbors and other community members somberly gathered outside Abundant Life to honor the endearing child with the small frame, indomitable spirit and warm, loving smile.
Prior to the vigil, loved ones assembled around a sign in Marty’s yard that read: “Martin: A real hero lived, fought and died here.”
“Little Marty is a hero,” stated City Council member Reva M. Trammell, who spoke at the vigil and represents the 8th District where the grieving family lives. “He was there when his sister needed him the most,” she added in response to a Free Press query. “Marty’s beautiful smile and his love for his sister will always be with us. Marty will always be in our hearts, and he will never, ever be forgotten.”
Charles Willis, executive director of the Citizens Against Crime group that has helped lead vigils for more than 20 years in the city, said the turnout reflects a caring community.
“Even though a crisis of this nature happens, this shows the strength of not only the city, but of the community,” Mr. Willis said. “When trouble comes to any community, we will respond in a positive fashion.”
He described Marty’s mother, Sharain Spruill, as “very, very, very upset as well as hurt and trying to wrap her mind aroundwhy this happened her son.”
Major Steve Drew, who directs Support Services with the Richmond Police Department, praised neighborhood residents for providing information that resulted in the quick arrest.
“The community really came together to seek justice for little Marty, the hero,” he said. Police said Marty’s sister first reported the attacker to be a White male, but later recanted and identified a black, 16-year-old neighbor as the attacker. She told police the teenager had threatened to hurt her if she told on him.
It has been reported the suspect’s name is Mariese Washington. He has a history of violent behavior that includes a 2010 attack in the Mosby Court housing community on a 3-year-old boy. He hit the boy in the back of the head with a hammer.
The attack required the child to receive 100 staples and a metal plate in his head. The boy has spent four years in recovery, according to his family. The alleged killer of Marty was to make his first appearance in Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Monday in front of Judge Ashley K. Tunner.
Authorities have declined to identify the suspect because he’s a minor. Prosecutor Mary Langer stated in response to a Free Press query that she and Chris Bullard of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office are trying the case. She said the 16 year-old suspect will be tried as an adult for first degree murder, but will not face the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the execution of juveniles violates the Constitution.
“A murder charge against a juvenile who is 14 years or older is subject to automatic certification treatment (as an adult),” Ms. Langer stated. “There is no discretion or choice for the judge.”
Those in the tight-knit South Side neighborhood where Marty’s family lives are determined to make sure his heroic actions are remembered. They have organized an online petition directed to the White House to have Marty recognized by President Obama for his heroic act.
A fund for the family has been established at Wells Fargo bank called the “Keys for Marty Foundation.” Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch.
Marty’s funeral was held May 9 at Mimms Funeral Home in Richmond.
“This young child has awakened a nation that has turned their back on the children!” the Rev. Hughey declared at the funeral of the young hero. “We need to end the war on our most precious gifts, our children…This young man, this little child, this giant that God put in this time has brought us together to say to him, ‘Martin, we will honor your memory now.’”
May 22, 2014
City News Service
The Los Angeles City Council signed off this week on a package of revisions to the mayor’s $8.1 billion budget proposal that includes $10 million in additional funding for the fire department. The City Council is expected to vote next week on the revised 2014-15 fiscal year spending plan, which would then be forwarded to the mayor for his signature. Together with Mayor Eric Garcetti's own proposal to hire 140 more firefighters and rebuild the fire department, the extra $10 million approved by council brings the LAFD’s budget to $22 million above the previous year.
The added fire spending, which would be funded using short-term reserves and higher revenue projections, includes $3.65 million to replace fire safety equipment, $3.5 million to hold an extra firefighter recruit training class, and $3.34 million to keep 11 more ambulances on the streets for another six months. Eight city attorneys would be hired for nine months under another change proposed by the council. The added $622,424 would pay salaries for five attorneys to work in the neighborhood prosecutor program and three to handle enforcement of Proposition D, the voter-approved measure restricting the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles.
The council also added $5 million for bulky-item pick up service, $2.1 million to maintaining medians and $1 million for graffiti abatement. The council nixed Garcetti's proposal to hire 50 part-time traffic officers using $915,750. The mayor's office estimated the officers would issue traffic citations that would bring in $3 million in revenue, but the council decided instead to spend $207,207 to hire five full-time officers to provide traffic control at congested intersections.
The city would still be hiring 17 more already budgeted part-time officers to issue citations that, according to council estimates, would bring in $2.29 million for the city. Garcetti’s budget proposal includes $20 million for sidewalk repairs, expanded library hours and spending $14.8 million to keep police ranks at 10,000. His spending plan, released in April, proposes to bridge a projected shortfall of $242 million in fiscal year 2014-15 with the help of better-than-expected returns from taxes; savings on employee pensions and benefits; the elimination of vacant positions that equal 46 full-time jobs; grants and surplus funds; and the city’s reserves.
The budget also assumes city employees will agree to no raises and paying 10 percent of their health-care premiums, but negotiations with city employees are still ongoing.
May 15, 2014
City News Service
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and a former member of the force, along with a custody assistant, were ordered recently to stand trial on charges stemming from the assault of jail inmates in Compton and Los Angeles. Deputy Jermaine W. Jackson, 36, is charged with three counts each of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, assault by a public officer and filing a false report. He is accused of assaulting three inmates, Cesar Campana, Derek Griscavage and Jonathan Murray, in separate incidents between 2009 and 2011.
Former sheriff’s deputy Karin Ann Cring, 32, is charged with filing a false report to cover up the Christmas Day 2010 beating of Griscavage at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Custody assistant Jayson Ellis, 26, is charged with one count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury in the attack on Griscavage. All three have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which came after an internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Department, and are due back in court on June 3 for arraignment.
At least 20 other deputies or former deputies have been indicted in federal court on civil rights or corruption offenses. Many are alleged to have been involved in assaults or covering up assaults in the jails.
May 15, 2014
Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike always hoped that one day they would be able to do something to benefit their parents’ homeland of Nigeria.
The recent mass kidnappings of schoolgirls in the African nation have added a sense of urgency to the WNBA star sisters’ desire to help.
Education has always been important to their family, and the Stanford grads were distraught to hear about the 300-plus girls who were taken in the remote northeast area of Nigeria last month.
“There are some fundamental rights and a right to education is a big one,” Chiney told The Associated Press this week in a phone interview. “Everyone should have an education, no matter what form it is. That makes it even tougher that they were just trying to better their lives. It shouldn’t matter what type of education they are receiving.”
Nneka added: “It’s difficult to see these girls trying to go to school and get an education and this happened.”
“Bringing awareness can go a long way, I believe,” said the top pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2012.
The U.S.-born sisters, who became only the second set of siblings to be drafted with the No. 1 choice in one of the major sports leagues — joining Peyton and Eli Manning — have already begun plans to work with the US Fund for UNICEF. They want to maximize their impact and help Nigeria's education and child protection programs.
“It’s something we’re passionate about,” said Chiney, taken first by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA draft last month. “When I was drafted to follow in Nneka’s footsteps, it was huge in Nigeria. My uncle sent me an email a day for two weeks with pictures, headlines and articles on the front page of Nigerian newspapers.”
“Nneka and I want people to know we care. We’re not passive. We want to be active in our own way and raise awareness,” she said.
Both sisters have already spent a lot of time in the country, visiting nearly every two years. Chiney spent eight weeks in Nigeria last spring as part of a study-abroad requirement for her international relations major. She also worked with the charity “Access to Success” to build a basketball court.
“I had a great experience. It’s eye-opening being an adult now and seeing it with adult eyes,” Chiney said. “I worked with the Minister of Petroleum and seeing people in power trying to change the country. I worked with the human rights committee and there are a lot of dilemmas with a variety of issues.”
The sisters have discussed putting “276” — at least that many girls are still missing — on their shoes when the WNBA season starts this weekend. They posted a photo on Instagram on Tuesday night of the two holding up signs saying: “(hash)Bring Back Our Girls.”
“This issue could have been swept under the rug,” Chiney said. “When I was there, a terrorist group did the same thing to some policemen. There were car bombs that didn't make international news. The innocence of African girls getting an education and getting kidnapped made it that much more vulnerable.”