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11 White Teens Arrested In Connection with Attack On Blacks

December 22, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Four white teen-agers were charged with assault today in the beatings of three black men stranded in a predominantly white neighborhood, police said. One of the blacks was fatally struck by a car as he fled.

Six other males, ages 16 to 18, and a 15-year-old girl were in custody but had not been charged in connection with the attack early Saturday, said police spokesman Mike Julian of the 106th Precinct in Queens. He did not disclose their names.

″We think we have everyone involved in the assault,″ Julian said, but he added that the investigation was continuing.

Fearful of other incidents in the neighborhood in the wake of the attack, police assigned extra officers to patrol the area. And a priest condemned racism to parishioners attending Mass the Sunday before Christmas.

″We want to make sure nobody causes any more trouble,″ police Inspector Frank Wallace said of the stepped-up patrols in the Howard Beach section of Queens where Michael Griffith, 22, was killed as he and his companions fled their assailants.

Julian said all of the youths taken into custody were at a party Friday night in the Howard Beach section of Queens. He said three of the teen-agers left the party at one point, encountered the three black men whose car had broken down on a nearby highway and words were exchanged.

The three white youths returned to the party to get some friends, and they went out looking for the three blacks, according to Julian. One of the whites was carrying a tree limb and a baseball bat, he said.

They tracked the blacks down to a nearby pizzeria shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday. One of the blacks, Timothy Grimes, 18, got away after being struck once.

But Griffith and Cedric Sandiford, 36, were chased and beaten until they slipped through a hole in the fence of the Belt Parkway.

Griffith, trying to cross the parkway, was struck by a car and killed.

The gang fled, and no charges were filed against the driver.

″The intention was to kill both of us,″ Sandiford said in an interview published in today’s editions of New York Newsday. ″It was like a lynch mob. Like something that would happen in the days of slavery.″

The attackers, using a racial epithet, told the blacks they were in the ″wrong neighborhood,″ Sandiford said. ″I was hollering, ’God, don’t kill us.‴

Sandiford, a mechanic’s assistant who was born in Guyana and served a hitch in the Army, said that when he was stationed at posts in the South ″I heard things like this happened. But I never thought this would happen in New York.″

He said he needed six stitches for the back of his head and he also suffered lower spine and arm injuries.

Sandiford described being surrounded, chased and beaten, but on advice of a lawyer did not talk about what went on inside the pizza parlor and what happened after he and Griffith got through a fence and onto the parkway.

At Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Kenneth Leona spoke sharply against racism and violence in his Sunday sermon.

″Racial prejudice is a sin. Discrimination is a sin. Violence and hatred are sins. And all the beautiful Christmas lights of our neighborhood cannot hide that type of darkness,″ Leona said.

″The reality of sin and evil has shown forth in our own neighborhood,″ he added. ″But there is more to our neighborhood than that, and we must show that ’more.‴

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, leader of the African People’s Christian Organization, called on Mayor Edward I. Koch to form a task force to study bigotry in the city and propose policies and programs to counter it.

″It would not resolve the problem even if you’ve caught those thugs,″ Daughtry said. ″We’ve got to move to defuse this climate and establish another kind of climate - that this city is going to be a city with mutual respect for all religious and ethnic backgrounds.″

Daughtry commended the mayor for establishing a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrests, and for speaking harshly against the attack. Koch on Saturday compared the incident to ″the kind of lynching incidents which occurred in the deep South.″

Griffith, a construction foreman, lived with his mother and two sisters - Brenda, 5, and Odette, 15 - in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. His mother, Jean, said he had planned to marry his high school sweetheart, Tyra Lewis, who is two months pregnant with their child.

Howard Beach, on Jamaica Bay adjacent to John F. Kennedy International Airport, is an insular and predominantly white neighborhood of 18,000 people.

″Howard Beach is a place where blacks don’t like to go,″ said the Rev. Timothy Mitchell, a black minister in Queens. ″They know of the hostility and virulent racism there.″

Some residents said Sunday they were upset over the attack.

″This close to Christmas, it really dampens the joy of the season,″ said Brendan Holihan. His wife, Kathy, called it ″a shame and an embarrassment. ″

But others said the neighborhood was being unjustly blamed.

″It’s a shame what happened to that boy, but the people who did it could have come from Rockaway, from Brooklyn,″ said Margie DiBenedetto. ″I think Howard Beach is getting a bad name.″

″I think it’s wrong to beat up a couple of black guys,″ said Ralph Pugliano. ″But that would happen to us if we walked in a black neighborhood.″

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