Training for life
East Point police take on troubled kids
S.A. Reid - Staff
Thursday, October 4, 2001

East Point police are helping young people who take a turn toward trouble with their parents, school officials or the law.

The department's Youth Alternative Intervention Program graduates 16 participants today at the East Point City Auditorium, 2727 East Point St. The public is invited to attend the ceremony at 7 p.m.

Graduates get a certificate, Police Athletic League watch and program T-shirt.

Some graduates of the 12-week boot camp-like program are inducted into the program's new Membership Alliance Council, an honor that allows them to act as mentors during future YAIP sessions.

Maria Fonseca has pledged to help out after graduation, grateful for YAIP's success in deterring her from running way from home again and helping her see the value of improving her relationship with her mother.

"It changed my life," said the 14-year-old Tri-Cities High student who attended the program with her brother Jose. "I get along better with my mom. I respect her now and she has trust in me now."

For Michael Coles, graduation from a life of being disrespectful to his mom, skipping school, hanging out with the wrong crowd, staying out late and breaking the law couldn't be a sweeter gift for his 16th birthday.

"I've changed my ways," said Michael, a Tri-Cities High student who wants to be a veterinarian or pro football player. "In the program, it's not about your past but your future."

The October class is the first to graduate from a revamped version of East Point's long-standing Juvenile Diversion Program.

YAIP is an initiative of the department's Weed and Seed Program, a federal effort to rid communities of crime. By targeting 10- to 16-year-olds, YAIP works to minimize juvenile crime and delinquency.

Some 31 boys and girls from East Point and elsewhere in metro Atlanta participated in the first session, which ended Saturday. A second session, scheduled to start Oct. 20, will include half of the students from the first session because of rolling admission.

Maj. Luther Graham, head of East Point's Criminal Investigation Division, changed the program after getting numerous pleas for help from parents at their wits' end about their wayward children. Paula Smith, Michael Coles' mother, sent Graham a written SOS.

"After reading that, I knew I had to do something," Graham said.

He expanded the program by six hours and added more structure. The result is YAIP, which meets Saturdays from 7:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

It is staffed by East Point police officers who volunteer their time to help guide young people from a more serious fate --- juvenile jail.

YAIP incorporates behavior modification, physical training, classroom work, peer group discussions and lessons in responsibility and respect.

Participants have weekly homework assignments and are expected to avoid trouble. Failure could result in punishment, such as additional physical drills, loss of privileges and getting "smoked," or yelled at by program officers.

Chronically disruptive participants go before a peer court, in which they hold a mock trial to decide their guilt or innocence.

Parents must sign their children in and out each Saturday and promise to provide them with a bag lunch. Program officials expect weekly updates from parents on their child's behavior at home and school. Parents are not charged a fee to enroll their children.

Officers try to fill the gap by checking in on students during the week and building mentoring relationships.

Participants who don't successfully complete the program and graduates who get in trouble again must attend the next session, conditions to which parents agree when enrolling their children.

Officials plan to measure the initiative's effectiveness by tracking participants' progress during and after the program.

YAIP began in July with 15 youths, but participation increased steadily as word got out about the initiative. They enter the program through direct calls from parents or school referrals. New participants were still showing up on the last day ,and three families have multiple participants.

"It was like a madhouse," Graham said. "All the parents had the same story. They would weep on the phone and say they've done everything they could."

Unruliness, truancy, running away, disrespectfulness and minor brushes with the law were the most common complaints.

Raynard Jones' falling grades, goofing off in class and stealing $45 from his stepfather, Corey Daniels, landed the 12-year-old Paul D. West Middle student in the program beginning last Saturday.

"I brought him up to the East Point station for the cops to talk to," Daniels said. "They told me about the program. I decided to bring him to see if it will help."

YAIP was the last resort for Agnes Salandy and her 15-year-old son, Ken. He's been expelled from high school and is often rude to her, she said.

Said Salandy: "I figure before I have to hurt him I need to do something else."

YAIP isn't a cure-all, but parents pin their hopes on the program's ability to help.

Smith said she's seen progress in her son's attitude. He's calmer, more respectful, hasn't missed a day coming home on time from school and better understands the consequences of his actions.

"Hopefully, after graduation this will stick with him," she said. "If it doesn't, all I have to do is call and he'll have to start all over again."

Pat Dillard of McDonough says the program has helped her 13-year-old son, Christian, control his hyperactivity. Still, she wonders why more help isn't available from other sources.

"All these years I've had to find an answer and get help," Dillard said. "We need organizations to step up to the plate."

Police helping kids

Southside Notes
Errin Haines - For the Journal-Constitution
Thursday, October 11, 2001

The East Point Police Department is gearing up for its second group of recruits for the Youth Alternative Intervention Program, beginning Oct. 20.

All participants must be 10 to 16 years old. The 12-week boot camp-like program attempts to deter participants from being prosecuted by the Fulton County Juvenile Court and provides assistance to parents seeking to change or alter the unacceptable behavior of their child.

The program activities are 7:45 a.m.-5:45 p.m. Saturdays and supervised by East Point police officers.

For more information, call 404-765-1102.


East Point, Georgia - Sergeant Bobby Harrelson cut more than $13,000 per year from his departmental budget by eliminating film and processing costs for mug shots and crime scene photos. In addition, Sergeant Harrelson expects to realize substantial savings in records room overhead, and has raised the agency conviction rate despite budget cuts that left the department with fewer officers. His secret? Police Central, a computerized records management system for law enforcement. Police Central replaces the rooms full of filing cabinets full of arrest records, evidence photos, fingerprint cards and mugs hot books with Windows based computer systems.

Harrelson installed two Police Central workstations to replace East Point PD’s old paper-based booking and mugs hot system. By capturing suspect mug shots digitally, the department eliminated over $1,000/month in Polaroid film and 35mm processing costs.

Police say minister provoked police to shoot to end his pain

Copyright © 1997
Copyright © 1997 The Associated Press


ATLANTA (November 3, 1997 9:46 p.m. EST -- A cancer-stricken minister who wanted to die rammed a police car and led officers on a chase that ended when he raised a weapon and was shot several times in a shower of bullets. Nathaniel Taylor, 57, survived and was in critical but stable condition after surgery Monday.

"He had been in very poor physical condition because of illness and had been talking about suicide," East Point police Lt. Bob Mathews said. "We believe this is the way he chose to do it."

Taylor had been reported missing for a few days when he rammed the patrol car Sunday night. He took off but did not speed away, slowing down at intersections and letting other cars pass him.

He reached a neighborhood where he worked for 25 years at a public works department, drove across a baseball field, stopped next to some tennis courts and raised a loaded .38-caliber pistol. Police fired; Taylor never did.

Acquaintances said Taylor was in pain from his colon cancer and may have been looking for a way out. Authorities and acquaintances didn't know what denomination he was affiliated with as a minister.

"I remember him as a very nice man and very quiet," said Martha Sims, a secretary who once worked with Taylor. "I guess being in the religious belief, suicide would have been unforgivable and perhaps he felt he had to let someone else put him out.

"You never know how much suffering one person can take."

--By TARA MEYER, Associated Press Writer

the people file

Major Luther Graham
Maj. Luther Graham

East Point Police Maj. Luther Graham believes he is doubly blessed. Not only is his career in law enforcement something he’s always wanted to do, but he has spent his entire 28-year police career in the city. “I see East Point as my adopted home,” he said. The 49-year-old Atlanta native, who formerly resided in East Point for seven years, commands the department’s criminal investigations / special operations unit. A graduate of Georgia State University, Graham has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Toyota Pride of Atlanta award in 1992 for his work in drug enforcement. Graham now resides in Newnan. 

What do you most enjoy about your position?

Being able to work with the children of East Point is wonderful and with our office developing and implementing the Youth Alternative Intervention Program, we have the opportunity to have a positive affect on kids who need a little help to get their life back on the right path. 

What do you least enjoy?

Investigating child abuse crimes and seeing the results of child abuse. It is especially difficult when we have to investigate the death of a child. 

If you had could talk with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because of his ideology and a willingness to help everyone. 

What is something about yourself few people know?

Probably two things. First, I am a very emotional and sensitive person. Secondly, I play the drums and assist with the music program at my church, the Church of Acts in Ben Hill. 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy traveling. 

What is your favorite all-time movie?

“The Ten Commandments.” 

What is your favorite television show?

“Court TV.” 

Who has had the most influence on your life?

I was fortunate in growing up to always have my parents there for me.

New intervention program helps youth get on track

Staff photos by Bill Baldowski Police investigator C.A. Worden of the East Point Cobra Unit, calls pushup cadence to program participants, from left, Calvin Langston, Maria Fonseca, Jose Fonseca, Jr. and Eduardo Gonzalaz.

By Bill Baldowski

Neighbor Senior Staff Writer


They are 10 to 16 years old and their “crimes” range from being unruly at school, violating curfew or running away from home to school truancy.

Although relatively minor infractions now, Maj. Luther Graham of the East Point Police Department said they can lead to major criminal behavior in these youngsters in the future.

In an effort to step in early and reverse this trend, Graham has started the “Youth Alternative Intervention Program,” a 12-week course conducted each Saturday to “redirect the mindset of these young people before they find themselves in real trouble with the law later in life,” he said.

Thirty-four East Point youth are enrolled in the course which meets from 7:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. at the East Point Law Enforcement Center.

“The program isn’t punishment but reinforcement of the qualities these kids need to get back on the right path and mature into good, law-abiding citizens,” Graham said.

“The course incorporates elements of a boot camp, a big brother-big sister guidance program and other positive reinforcement fundamentals to get these kids thinking in the right direction.”

In addition to inmates at the jail telling the youngsters about their incarcerations, Graham has the youngsters sit in on sessions of the East Point Municipal Court. They also participate in peer group discussions — where they are free to discuss their problems with others in the group — and be involved in mandatory physical exercise and drills.

Other elements of the program are behavior modification workshops, a mentor program where the youngsters are assigned to a male or female police officer in the role of a big brother or big sister and a labor consciousness program where the youngsters are given tasks designed to help them learn responsibility.

“When these youngsters become associated with one of our officers, this association goes well beyond the time limits of this program,” Graham said. “Our officers will continue to monitor and check on the young person even after he or she graduates from our program.”

Two teen-agers involved in the youth alternative intervention program, both Tri-Cities High School students, say it has changed their lives.

Maria Fonseca, 16, was enrolled in the program by her mother after she ran away from home. In addition to other elements of the program, she was able to work on broadening her vocabulary and enhancing her reading skills.

“Taking part in this program has made me aware of what was going to happen to me if I didn’t start doing what I am supposed to do,” she said.

Another teen taking part, Jermel Madison, said his involvement “has helped me change my attitude and got me thinking more positively.”

Jermel, whose grandmother enrolled him in the program for excessive school absences, said the intervention program “showed me that I could end up in one of those state boot camps or in juvenile detention if I didn’t change. I sure want to stay out of those places.”

For more information on the Youth Alternative Intervention Program, call (404) 765-1113.

Residents get police basics through 10-week courses

By Bill Baldowski

Neighbor Senior Staff Writer


Bessie Naylor steadied the model 96 Beretta 40-caliber handgun as she took aim at the target on the shooting range at the East Point Law Enforcement Center.

With the help of East Point Police Training Officer Lt. Cliff Gibson, the 82-year-old East Point resident closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger.

About the same time at the College Park Women’s Club, College Park Community Policing officers Bruce Braxton, Shawn Barnes and Ken Wiley helped Edna Cook of College Park aim a laser automotive speed detection device at vehicles as they approached her on U.S. Highway 29.

She said she enjoyed seeing how the laser worked in speed detection, saying she had seen officers use them “and they looked very accurate and precise.”

These women and other College Park and East Point residents were participating in the Citizen Police Academy courses taught by their respective police departments.

The East Point Police Department offers a sister course, Citizens On Patrol, or the COPs program. After completing that course, participants patrol East Point neighborhoods in a marked vehicle and report via a cell phone any suspicious activity they witness.

All courses are for 10 weeks.

According to Gibson, a 17-year East Point police officer, Citizen Police Academy give residents a greater understanding of the many facets of police work.

“We want our citizens to know us both as individuals and as police officers and have an understanding of what we do on a daily basis,” Gibson said. “We are police officers, and this is our job, but the East Point community means as much to us as it does to those who live here, including some of our officers who do.”

Braxton, who has been in law enforcement four years, all with College Park, said the objectives of his course are threefold: to increase the cooperation between the police and residents, to teach the community about functions, organization and objectives of the police and to develop an additional cadre of qualified trainers.

The course structure for each department encompasses criminal law, constitutional issues, firearms, unarmed self-defense, traffic and the requirements of becoming a police officer.

Both College Park and East Point offer the police academy courses twice annually, in the spring and fall, with each being handled through their respective police department’s community policing and training divisions. Class sizes number between 20 and 30.

One person taking the course in East Point, Emily Ikeman, 66, thought it would prove helpful in her capacity as vice president of the Washington Road Neighborhood Association.

“The course was wonderful, the police officers who taught it were wonderful and, for me, it put a face to the police,” she said. “I’d recommend it to anyone because it gives you an insight into the police that residents seldom see.”

For information on the East Point Citizen Police Academy, call (404) 765-1164 and for College Park, (404) 761-3131.

Ms. Cook registered for the College Park course “to see what police actually go through.”

“Each of the classes in College Park are taught by a professional and they have been very interesting and informative,” she said. “Each week’s class makes me anxious for the next class to begin.”

the people file

Sylvia Smith

It was quite a career jump from training to be a graphic artist to becoming a police detective. But for Sylvia Smith, switching to a career in the law enforcement field “was the best move I’ve ever made,” she said. The 32-year-old Lithonia resident is single and has been a member of East Point Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit since 1995. Ms. Smith, who attended North Carolina A&T University, came to the city after serving four years in the military police in the Army. 

What do you most enjoy about being a detective?

I’ve always enjoyed the personal feeling I get when I’m able to help someone. I specialize in domestic violence cases and I’ve seen the results of domestic violence, and especially the effect it has on the wives and children. Helping these victims gives me much self-satisfaction. 

What do you least enjoy?

I want to help the victims of domestic violence or victims of any criminal activity, but I am so limited as to what I can do. With everything I’ve seen, I’ve always wished I could split myself in half so I could help twice as many people. 

If you could talk to anyone, past or present, who would it be?

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. 

What is something about yourself that few people know?

A few things. I guess. I’m a very private person, I enjoy a challenge and I’m a science fiction buff.

What are your hobbies?

Painting, bowling and fishing. 

What is your favorite all-time movie?

“The Color Purple.” 

What is your favorite food?

Nothing tops a good steak. 

What do you like doing in your free time?

Spending time with friends.

Staff reports and news services
Monday, October 29, 2001

Woman's death investigated

East Point police today were investigating the death of a woman whose body was found in an apartment off Washington Road.

Police initially responded to the Club Candlewood complex about 7:30 a.m. after a neighbor reported that a small child had been assaulted, said East Point police Capt. Pat Boyce.

Police found the little girl, who is about 2- or 3-years-old, with visible contusions to her body. The neighbor led police to the apartment where the child lives, and officers discovered the body of a woman believed to be the child's mother.

The woman, who was in her late 20s, had no obvious wounds, and the cause of death had not been determined, Boyce said. Investigators are considering the woman's death foul play, she said.

The toddler, who was not seriously injured, was taken to Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital for evaluation. A second child who lives in the apartment was sleeping at a friend's house and was not at home early today.

the people file

Cliff Gibson

Up until the time he entered the Marines, following his 1982 graduation from old Headland High School in East Point, Cliff Gibson wanted to be a firefighter. After the military, where he also attended West Georgia College, the East Point native discovered police work was more to his liking. In 1984, he joined the East Point Police Department, where he is currently a lieutenant and the department’s training coordinator for officers. He also organized and still teaches in the department’s Citizen Police Academy and Citizens On Patrol program. He and his wife, the former Marilee Davis of North Fulton, have a 10-year-old son. 

What do you most enjoy about police work?

The fact that no two days are alike. There is also something different happening. 

What do you least enjoy?

I hate to see children or senior citizens taken advantage of and you see a lot of that as a police officer. 

If you had the opportunity to talk to anyone, past or present, who would it be?

Legendary Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd. I have read a lot about him and have grown to admire the way he motivated his young players. 

What is something few people know about you?

How much I love animals. I have four dogs and a cat. 

Who has had the most effect on your life?

My mother, Jean. 

What are your hobbies, if any?

I like to exercise and play golf, although I am a horrible golfer. 

What is your favorite all-time movie?

The original “Godfather.” 

What is your favorite food?

The same as my wife and son, pizza.

From staff and wire reports
Friday, November 16, 2001

EAST POINT: Suspect faces murder charges

East Point police have charged a burglary suspect with beating a pregnant woman to death and assaulting her 4-year-old daughter at their Washington Road apartment Oct. 29. Tommy C. Wright, 22, was charged Wednesday with murder, feticide and assault on a child in the slaying of Erica Thompson, 27, and the beating of her daughter Jewel, according to Capt. Patricia Boyce. Wright lived in the same apartment complex, but did not know the victims, detectives said. Investigators believe Wright had burglarized Thompson's Club Candlewood apartment a day or so earlier. Thompson's body was discovered by her daughter.

East Point woman found dead after possible home invasion

[The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 11.30.2001]


Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writers

East Point police believe robbery was the motive for a brutal home invasion early Thursday that left an elderly woman dead and her husband critically injured.

The body of Lourine Wood, 81, was found in the trunk of a car in the driveway of the couple's two-story home in an affluent neighborhood. Her husband Joe C. Wood, 71, was reported in critical but stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital today.

Both victims appeared to have been beaten, possibly with small but heavy alabaster and marble statues the couple had in their home, said East Point Police Lt. Audrey Harrelson.

"We believe that cash was taken from the house, and other items as well," said Harrelson.

"It appears the crime was random, but we don't know for sure," Harrelson added. More than one suspect is believed to have been involved. There was no sign of forced entry, Harrelson said.

An autopsy was being performed today at the Fulton County Medical Examiner, she added.

"Both victims had blunt force trauma wounds, " Harrelson said.

The home, on Prince George Street at Redwine Road, was found in disarray and may have been the target of a home invasion or a robbery, police say.

"The whole area is a crime scene," Boyce said. "The house is full of valuables and it's a big mess."

Neighbors said the two-story house in the affluent Williamsburg subdivision was home to a couple in their early 70s, described as "very private people."

"The only time I would see them is when they would be going in or out in a black Mercedes," said Julius Cooper, 77, a retired Lockheed engineer who lives a few houses down Prince George Street.

Police said they would not release the couple's names, pending notification of relatives.

The couple had no children together, but were parents to Mary Joiner, the deceased woman's daughter from an earlier marriage.

Joiner and her husband were vacationing in Venice, Fla., and could not be reached Thursday night.

Jenny Joiner, Mary Joiner's sister-in-law, said the couple had lived at the East Point home for over 15 years.

"They were just the best -- great, great people," said Joiner, 62, adding she had known the couple since she was in her teens.

"They were really close to one another and to my brother and Mary. I am blown away that something like this could happen."

Neighbors said they became concerned about the couple when they didn't see the 71-year-old man on his walk Thursday and found the morning newspaper still in the driveway of the gated home.

"He had a ritual," said Joshua Clark, 13, who lives on Prince George. "Every morning when we were waiting for the bus, we would see him walking up and down the driveway, walking his two dogs."

Shortly after noon Thursday, when the man didn't report for work at an auto repair shop on Connally Drive he looked after for his son-in-law, two co-workers came to check on him. When they found the gate to the driveway locked and his red and white Dodge truck in the driveway, they went to a neighbor's home and asked them to call police.

Police dispatched to the scene found the woman's body around 1:15 p.m. in the trunk of the black Mercedes, parked halfway in the home's garage. The body was so badly damaged it took police a few hours to determine whether it was a man or a woman, Boyce said.

The man was found inside the house, badly beaten. Boyce said there were signs of struggle in the house, but it was too early to tell if anything was stolen.

Investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the East Point police continued to comb through the house and its grounds Thursday night, looking for clues.

Neighbors described the upscale 88-home Williamsburg neighborhood as a quiet, safe place where break-ins are rare.

"It's as safe a neighborhood as can be," said Arthur Terry, 61, a pharmaceutical sales representative.

"But I guess if an alarm and a fence couldn't protect those people, then anything can happen."

the people file

Anthony Henderson
Anthony Henderson

With eight years in law enforcement, including five as an investigator with three of those as a juvenile investigator, East Point Police Detective Anthony Henderson, 32, said investigating crimes involving children never gets easier. The Atlanta native and father of a 2-year-old son, Henderson, who is a graduate of Georgia Military College, said if he does not aggressively investigate such crimes as child molestation and rapes “then these young victims will be victimized again.” 

What do you most enjoy about East Point?

The camaraderie of our citizens and how helpful they are to the police department. 

What do you most enjoy about your career?

Police work gives me the opportunity to help people and see the effect of the help you give them. I’ve always wanted to be a cop. 

If you did not select this career field, what would you be doing?

Seeking an engineering degree. 

If you could talk with anyone, past or present, who would it be?

Supreme Court Judge Thurgood Marshall because of the initiative he showed in being the first African American Supreme Court justice and how he successfully survived the opposition he had to that position. 

What is something about yourself few people know?

I learn more by experience than any other way. 

Do you have a personal philosophy?

I have two. The first is every situation one faces should be handled with compassion. The second is words carry power. 

What hobbies do you have?

Spending time with my family and baseball. 

What is your favorite movie?


Do you have a favorite television show?

“The Steve Harvey Show” and “Hunter.”



By Mike Morris and Bill Montgomery, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

November 11, 1997

Police were searching Fort McPherson today for a gunman who chased two people into the emergency ward waiting room at Griffin-Spalding County Regional Hospital and shot them in front of stunned patients and hospital employees.

The suspect shot and killed Marcus Jester, 41, and seriously wounded his 20-year-old daughter, Benita Jester, Monday night, said Griffin police spokesman James Landham.

The gunman, identified as Areguss Anton Clark, fled in his 1986 Pontiac Bonneville, then ran into a 1997 Mercury driven by Patricia Miller about 1.5 miles from the hospital at North Eighth and Cherry streets. Miller was not badly injured in the wreck, which heavily damaged both vehicles, Landham said.

After the wreck, the gunman started walking north on Eighth Street, Landham said. "He encountered a man either around the car that the female was in or in the immediate area, and for some unknown reason, shot the male subject in the leg," Landham said.

The wounded bystander, Dwight Harris Jr., 27, was hospitalized today at the Griffin-Spalding hospital. Benita Jester was taken by helicopter to Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta and was in critical but stable condition.

After that shooting, the suspect "somewhere came across another vehicle, we're not sure where, and went on to the north side of [Griffin] and then had access to a gray or silver Isuzu Trooper," Landham said. That vehicle was found wrecked and abandoned today near the west corner of the parking lot at MARTA's Lakewood-Fort McPherson station, said MARTA spokeswoman Laura Gillig.

When East Point police Officer G.J. Roberson pulled up to investigate the Trooper at 7:10 a.m., a man jumped out, ran to the nearby fence surrounding Fort McPherson, and climbed over.

Gillig said the search for the suspect had not affected train operations at the rail station.

Fort McPherson, however, was shut down and the gates to the Army base near East Point were closed as police searched for Clark but a three-hour search of the base turned up nothing and East Point police said late this morning he no longer was believed to be on the base.

About a dozen subcontractors for a software company had come to Fort McPherson to work today, but the military police wouldn't let them onto the base.

"The MPs just told us there's an armed person on the base and the post is closed, so we're just waiting," said Clyde Clark of Acworth.

"We do have a lot of work to do, if we can just get to it," said Stephen Gundersen of Decatur, another of the subcontractors.

Another man, who refused to give his name to reporters, said he had come to play golf at the post golf course and couldn't get on the base.

Areguss Clark, 20, is originally from Atlanta but had been living in Griffin. Police obtained warrants for malice murder, felony murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, Landham said.

Police said the suspect is a former acquaintance of Benita Jester.

Police said they know the suspect by his nickname and are searching for him. They declined to release information on the suspect, but confirmed that the suspect's former girlfriend was one of the shooting victims.

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