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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Some neighbors want crosses representing Taser victims to be dismantled

August 6, 2010
By Mitch Mitchell, Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH -- Each of more than 450 crosses outside New Mount Calvary Baptist Church represents a person who was killed by a shock from a Taser, according to a sign announcing the National Taser Memorial.

Some people who live nearby said it looks more like a cemetery. And they want it dismantled.

City code compliance officers who visited this week left without issuing the church or its pastor a citation, a city official said.

Highland Hills Neighborhood Association members acknowledge that the city may be restricted in regulating the number of crosses that a church can have on its property, but still, they want their objections noted.

"I don't think that our neighborhood should have something in it that looks like a national cemetery," said Laura Meeks, beautification chairwoman and past president of the association.

"It really does not say anything good about our neighborhood."

The memorial was established in January at the church in the 5800 block of Oak Grove Road in far south Fort Worth. A large cross bears the name of Michael Jacobs Jr., a mentally challenged man who died in April 2009 after a Fort Worth police officer used a Taser on him for nearly a minute.

The city of Fort Worth settled a lawsuit with the Jacobs family for $2 million in May after the Tarrant County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

"I really think the big boys downtown do not want this symbol of the $2 million settlement that they had to pay to remain," the Rev. Thomas Franklin, pastor of New Mount Calvary, said Friday.

But Eunice Givens, president of the neighborhood association, said neighbors object to the clutter the memorial brings to the neighborhood.

"We are trying to clean the community up," she said. "We are out here trying to encourage folks to keep their community clean. And instead of [Franklin] trying to improve the community, he's adding something that takes away from our efforts.

"If he was concerned about others in this community, he would never have put it up. It creates a bad image for our community."

Franklin said that in Louisiana, where he is from, members got a burial plot when they joined a church. The memorial is neat and the grass is cut, he said.

"There are almost 500 people who have been tortured to death by Taser devices, not counting the ones who have been wounded," Franklin said.

"This is our way of showing our respect for those families and showing that someone really cares."

Kyev Tatum, president of the Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who helped create the memorial, said the Police Department makes the point that Tasers save lives, but the memorial shows that Tasers kill people.

"The memorial makes such a powerful statement," Tatum said.

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