Deadly mob beating unnerves Cleveland neighborhood By THOMAS J.
SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND - Even by tough, urban-crime standards it was a grisly
attack: Up to 15 people chased a man, then kicked and beat him to
death on the street. Before police arrived, one attacker urinated on
the victim's head.
When the crime-hardened neighborhood awoke later that morning, two
people reported a man lying on the pavement, his clothes being
dragged off by his assailants.
"You got a male being assaulted by 15 other guys. He's laying on the
street," one 911 caller said.
The April 27 attack on Charles Gooden Jr. happened in the most
murder-ridden neighborhood in one of the nation's poorest cities.
But it was also within a 10-minute drive of the city's skyscrapers,
sports venues and tourist attractions.
Three suspects have been charged with aggravated murder. Police have
not mentioned a motive, but they expect more arrests.
It wasn't always dangerous along East 117th Street, where the tulips
bloom late because of the cool winds blowing off Lake Erie just a
mile to the north.
"It used to be so quiet, and we were so blessed to live on 117th
Street," said Irene Bennett, 78, who has lived there for 40 years.
She is so used to gunfire and loud outbursts at night that she slept
through the commotion of Gooden's slaying.
In retirement, she and her husband had hoped to enjoy simple
pleasures: watching people pass by and planting flowers around their
neatly kept home. But the violence in the neighborhood makes that
"You pay for your home. You work hard. You retire, and you want to
enjoy, just come out on your porch and ... wait for the summertime
to come," she said, shaking her head.
The attackers sent word that anyone helping police could face
retribution, according to City Councilman Kevin Conwell. He
described the assailants as gang members.
Conwell said the motive was based on an argument involving a woman
and a threat by her cousin against Gooden, 41.
"He went to defend his malehood honor. He hit the cousin in the
mouth. When that happened, the other gang members jumped on him,"
said Conwell, relying on information from police and neighbors.
Charged in the slaying were Latangia Anderson, 23, Johnny Brown, 20,
and Paris Moore, 19, all of Cleveland. They were each jailed on $1
None of the three defendants was able to afford an attorney. The
lawyers appointed to represent them all said they could not comment
on the case.
After the attack, a memorial of stuffed animals took shape outside
the Bennett house because the slaying scene doesn't have a tree to
anchor the display.
The display has dwindled but still has a stuffed dog with the
label "Puppy love" and another with Gooden's nickname, Bud, written
on it, according to Bennett, who knew Gooden when he was a youngster
visiting an uncle down the street.
The uncle's house is now boarded up, along with many other
neighborhood homes left dilapidated by poverty and drugs. There are
a few newly renovated homes and two newer ones, one with barred
windows. But in the once-lively commercial district around the
corner, most stores are closed, except for a few barbershops or
The neighborhood is Cleveland's murder capital, according to police
spokesman Lt. Thomas Stacho, and outsiders driving the streets risk
getting pegged as people looking to buy crack cocaine.
Still, Gooden's death unnerved people here, including the 911
"They're stomping somebody and ripping their clothes off. You need
to come," another caller said. "Like 15 of them beating the hell out
The emergency dispatcher asked if an ambulance should be sent. "You
better bring a stretcher, too," the caller replied. "Please hurry."
Associated Press writer M.R. Kropko contributed to this story.