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Questions Linger in July 4 AFSCME Union Hall Shooting

August 5, 2008

The police-involved shooting at the AFSCME union hall on July 5 that left two young men dead still has union boss Glen Middleton refusing to answer a key question: Who rented the hall from AFSCME Local 67 and allowed a party promoter nicknamed “Mike Love” to throw an illicit bash there billed as “Extreme Intoxication 3″?

According to Baltimore Police Department spokesman Sterling Clifford, there are several aspects to the ongoing homicide investigation, and the hall rental is but one of them. He declined to elaborate.

City Paper reported last month on the unlicensed Independence Day booze bash–which resulted in police fatally shooting 21-year-old Raemond White and 18 year-old Haywood White–on July 23. At the time, Clifford deferred questions about who rented the union hall to Middleton, an icon in Maryland’s labor community who is married to 6th District City Councilwoman Sharon Greene Middleton.

Before the story ran a reporter spoke with Middleton at Charlie and Dee’s Carryout on Bush Street, near the AFSCME hall in Pigtown. His response to numerous questions was, “Why should I tell you anything, it’ll just end up in a story?” When reached on his cell phone after the story ran, Middleton said he had heard about the article but not read it. Then he stated, “I have nothing to say to you,” and hung up without even saying goodbye.

As to the elusive hall-rental issue, Clifford is unable to point to previous incidents in which police have conducted a criminal investigation related to illegal service or sales of alcohol. He suggested talking instead to the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

However, Liquor License Board spokesman Douglas Paige, though he confirms that neither Mike Love nor whoever rented the hall on July 5 had a license to serve alcohol, says the board has no jurisdiction over unlicensed liquor events. Local law enforcement would investigate the matter, Paige says, or perhaps the state comptroller’s office.

Coincidentally, state Comptroller Peter Franchot was at City Paper on Aug. 1 for a round-table discussion of his goals and accomplishments. Franchot, who appears to have political ambition beyond the comptroller’s office, sounds as if he might be willing to use his enforcement powers to get to the bottom of things. Asked about his position on illegal alcohol sales, he says: “These rogue operations can lead to violence; if [promoters] don’t have proper licenses, I am fully authorized to bust these events and shut ‘em down.”

Franchot pointed to his office’s 2007 bust at the Langley Park Boys and Girls Club for serving alcohol at an illegal after hours party. He indicated he would not hesitate to take similar action in Baltimore.

Maybe Franchot could start by asking Glen Middleton to answer a simple question about the rental of the AFSCME union hall that led to an illicit party and then Baltimore’s 11th and 12th police-involved fatal shootings of 2008.

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