Sheriff, others hope actions will defuse racial tensions in the Jefferson Twp. neighborhood.
By Kristin McAllister
Sunday, September 14, 2008
JEFFERSON TWP., Montgomery County — Despite living in fear of hate crimes, residents of a Jefferson Twp. neighborhood banded together Saturday during a block party in front of a home destroyed by an act of arson.
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office sponsored the Saturday, Sept. 13, block party in front of the charred, two-story home of Saundra Ballard at 322 Albers Ave.
"I'm just really overjoyed to see the community coming out and embracing not only this event, but embracing our family," said Ballard, a nurse at Friendship Village Nursing Home. "This is what this community needs — to get back on track to let people know they're not going to put up with the nonsense and no matter what color you are, you're going to stick together and make sure that this doesn't happen."
Sheriff's deputies on July 31 arrested Earl McLearran, 39, of 304 Albers Ave., on two charges of ethnic intimidation after he allegedly yelled a racial slur at Ballard's son and threatened to burn down her house. He is being held on a $50,000 bond.
"They all are living in fear," said Sheriff Phil Plummer. "They're terrorized and said, 'We're moving. We can't handle this anymore. We can't come out on our porches. We're afraid he's going to burn us out.' That's when I said, this is ridiculous. We need to do something."
Plummer said McLearran's 16-year-old stepson and two other juveniles also are being investigated in connection with the fire.
Ballard said community strength will give pause to anyone considering committing a hate crime.
"They'll think about how many others are not with them on it, and they will think twice about doing it now," she said.
Still, Ballard said she's deeply shaken by what's happened.
"As long as that family is at the end of the street, I don't think I'll ever be safe here," she said.
Derrick L. Foward, president of the NAACP Dayton unit, said the block party is "a good start, but I do not want this block party to overshadow the severity of this crime and this family being displaced."
Foward pointed to the fact that the arson was the eighth call of deputies to Ballard's home.
"So, while this block party is a step in the right direction, we don't want to see what's happened here to have been in vain," he said. "Those responsible need to be held accountable for their actions."
Pat Hicks-Smith of the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations said her group is striving to get neighbors together in combatting discrimination and hate crimes.
"We are hopeful that by working with the sheriff's department, we're going to be able to engage residents in a dialogue with the hope that the outcome will be an action plan to look at how they can address issues, concerns and make a difference in their neighborhood," Hicks-Smith said.
Ballard's neighbor, Agustin Peres, said block parties should be routine.
"It would be good to have one every month," he said. "It would help a lot, because everybody is on the lookout for each other."
Donations to the Ballard family may be made through a link at www.stmarydevelopment.org. An account under Ballard's name also has been set up through the Wright-Patt Credit Union.
Source: Dayton Daily News