published Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Cook: Long, slow shooting of Keoshia Ford

Keoshia Ford, 14, lies in bed below a board covered with well-wishing cards and letters from friends in this file photo.
Keoshia Ford, 14, lies in bed below a board covered with well-wishing cards and letters from friends in this file photo.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
Audio clip

Rosamond Baldwin’s phone call to police - WARNING: Graphic language -

The bullet that was fired on a tragic March night into the head of 13-year-old Keoshia Ford, leaving her comatose, took milliseconds to travel from barrel to brain.

But in a way, the crime began months before.

"If they had done something then ... that girl would be walking," said Willard Talley.

Talley lives on Bennett Avenue, the street where Keoshia was shot. Next to him is 2012 Bennett Ave., now vacant. For months, it was occupied by Horisa Trotter, a 35-year-old mother of eight, who was renting the house through a Section 8 subsidized voucher.

Keoshia was outside Trotter's home the night of the shooting.

Across from Trotter is Rosamond Baldwin, a cat lover who grows flowers on her front porch and makes her own sweet tea. She's a voracious note-taker, keeping diaries about the events in her neighborhood, especially at 2012 Bennett.

For months, residents on Bennett Avenue -- led by Baldwin -- tried to evict Trotter. They claimed she and the people who visited her ruined the street. Playing loud music late into the night. Parties with so many people the street was blocked. Throwing things at other homeowners and their pets. Tossing furniture off the porch. Drugs. Kids kept out of school.

A hub, a beehive of trouble.

"She was terrorizing the neighborhood. There was no peace whatsoever," Baldwin said. "I couldn't walk outside my door without her cussing [me] ... or have people drive by my house and say, 'That's the [expletive] you need to take care of.'"

I called Trotter on Monday.

"What do you want and how did you get my number?" she said. "I don't have nothing to say. Nothing to do with none of it. Please do not call my phone or I will put a harassment charge on you all."

The afternoon after Keoshia was shot, Bennett Avenue exploded again. Baldwin, 43, called police, fearing for her life.

"I have a woman in the street threatening to kill me," Baldwin told the police dispatcher. "She has said I'm lucky if I live through the night ... and I believe her."

In the background of the call's recording, voices curse and shout.

Minutes later, Chattanooga police officers arrive and arrest Cotillyah Marsh, 29, and a friend of Trotter's. On the day of her arrest, Marsh had an outstanding warrant and this morning she appears in front of Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern, facing an assault charge, the most recent of 14 charges on her criminal record.

"I'm not pleading guilty to something I did not say," Marsh said Monday.

Baldwin said Trotter and Marsh threatened her life.

"That's it [expletive]. 'I'm going to tear your house down brick by brick,'" Baldwin recalled Trotter saying.

Three days after Keoshia was shot, residents filed a nine-signature petition with the Chattanooga Housing Authority, which issues the Section 8 voucher for 2012 Bennett Ave.

"Highly disruptive household ... school-aged children often not in school ... screaming, fighting ... harassment and intimidations ... Ms. Trotter's irrational behavior and threats affect the entire neighborhood of proud home owners," the petition reads.

Last fall, Baldwin said she began contacting agencies: the Chattanooga Housing Authority; Chattanooga Police Department; CHA Chief of Public Safety Felix Vess; City Councilman Andraé McGary; Partnership for Families, Children and Adults; the District Attorney's office; Human Services Department.

With each call, Baldwin made the same request:

"Please put them out. Please put them out. They're making my life hell," Baldwin said.

Last November, responding to an email from Baldwin, CHA investigators knocked on Trotter's door.

"The lady [Trotter] has eight kids. If each one had a friend over, that's 16 kids plus adults. The fact that there were large amounts of people was not hard to believe. We did not find any kind of illegal activity or anyone there not living on her [Section 8 housing] voucher," said Lt. Jennifer Wright.

Baldwin made repeated calls to John Holden, president of Pioneer Credit Co. in Cleveland, Tenn., and owner of 2012 Bennett Ave.

Holden and his staff said they presented Trotter with three "Notice of Intent to Evict" warnings, none of which are legally binding. It was after Keoshia's shooting that they began seeking legal means to evict Trotter.

Apparently, she left first.

"The tenant actually came to the office and requested to move," said Wright. "I'm assuming she moved with her voucher." (Officials at CHA are not allowed to release addresses.)

After Trotter left, Holden, who owns 32 properties in the area, sent general contractor Terry McDowell to the property. He was shocked.

"The house was totally destroyed," McDowell said. "The filth in there was incomprehensible. I couldn't imagine children being in that house."

Or in the yard. Or on the street where Keoshia was shot.

"I could never speak to anyone at CHA after repeated calls and petitions. I have yet to this day to hear back from anybody," Baldwin said. "Every time she threatened me, I couldn't get the police to arrest her, even when I had witnesses. They said it was my word against hers.

"If they had done something to get her out of there, that poor girl wouldn't have been there to get shot."

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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Lr103 said...

It's no secret to neighbors when a house in the community is being rented to someone on Section 8. Many homeowners despise section 8 renters. They feel they're beneath them, and will often carry out their own form of harrassment against such neighbors to intimidate them into moving out. As a homeowner myself, and what I'm reading from all this is that these homeowners may have inadvertantly contributed to the escalation of events that spilled over and help to bring about this tragedy. When they could have formed committees to help these people transition into the neighborhood and become good neighbors, they instead seemingly pooled their colllective efforts to make sure any section eighters would be allowed into their communities, or wouldn't last long if they did move in. In some communities, the problems have been racial along the color lines. In this particular community mentioned in this article the problems are apparently class-racism and bigotry. As the complainers and the complained against all appear to be of the same racial group. Yes, even with its own history of being severely persecuted and discriminated against, black America has its own serious problems with colass-racism they sometimes practice against one another.

September 26, 2012 at 9:33 a.m.
DJHBRAINERD said...

LR103..... I feel for Mrs Baldwin and your blanket accusations of bigotry and class racism (I think you mean envy)is offensive to me and should be to anyone trying to make a difference in thier neighborhood. Instead of off handly dismissing her as uppity why do you not focus your efforts on helping people like her. Do you really think this woman just decided to harrass these poor black folk , come on man you know better. But in case you don't let me tell you a little about section 8. Some properties are managed properly and the people assimulate to the neighborhood smoothly. But some properties are managed by out of town firms ,such as Poineer credit co Cleveland TN, and the bottom line is all that matters... so keep'em rented. Now when a section 8 house starts slingin drugs it's not hard to figure it out. Honk honk, all the time because folks are too lazy to walk to the door, boom boom from the bass, then folks start standing on the corner, then the foot traffic starts, then the sheds get broke into. So good people like Mrs Baldwin take it on the chin. From the dirty looks to the cussing and threats followed by vandalism. Yes I've walked in her shoes, I've walked onto the corner and told the dealer to move on. I've worked with the police to get the crack houses off my block, so it offends me to hear you says it is anything other than what it is. Low class trash ruining the lives of decent people who are just wanting a little peace and quite at their own home. Now spit at the ground as I walk by to show me how you feel and throw another brick through my window. I can't move away noone wants to live surrounded by all of this so it's the home owner who is held hostage. It starts up everytime the city demolishes another unit, here they come fighting over turf, demanding the streets twisted idea of respect, but you prefer to blame the victim for not wanting to live next to it. It's time to stop making excuses and start believing your own eyes because things are getting out of control... how many people been shot this week?

September 26, 2012 at 11:30 a.m.
Lr103 said...

DJHBRAINERD, the individuals Cook is speaking with in this article are not the victm's mother or have any relations to the victim. They are individuals who live on the street where all this took place. I stick by what I've said because I've witnessed it in various forms before throghout the years. If these individuals can form committees to run people out of the community, why can't they form committees to help these individuals transition into the community and become good neighbors? The least they could do is make the offer. If that offer is rejected and the new tenants decide to disresepect the community and their neighbors, then take steps to have them removed. There's a lot of hositility brewing and spilling over between homeowners, renters and especially Section 8'ers who move into these neighborhoods. Due to neighborhood associations, who's who immediately spread throughout the communities, which has served to create hositilites. These people make a mockery of all the Civil Rights Movement stood for. The once persecuted have become the persecutors. The difference is, where they were once rejected from communities based on the color of their skin, they're now practicing that same discrimination others fought and died for based on class. In their own way, they've all played a sickening role in this tragedy.

September 26, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.
Lr103 said...

What went wrong? What's going wrong?

Ans 1.: Everyone dug in their heels and no one is willing to give an inch.

Ans 2.: Everyone's digging in their heels and no one is willing to give an inch.

September 26, 2012 at 1:47 p.m.
RBaldwin said...

Lr103... I believe everyone has a right to their opinion, however in this case you couldn't be more wrong. Perhaps in your neighborhood people single out, despise and harrass Section 8 renters, but here on Bennett Ave we have an equal mix of renter and owner/occupants. Our neighbors are hispanic, white and black. Mr. & Mrs. Talley are a mixed race couple who have been married for over 20 years. Class or bigotry never played into it. It was never a case of not wanting a Section 8 occupant, everyone has to live somewhere, but I have to give kudos to DJHBrainerd, beause that reply was right on the money. I don't like conflict by nature, but a person can only take so much and when you are loosing sleep due to the constant noise and chaos, can't step foot outside your house without being harassed or worry about leaving the house because of what may happen to it while you are gone, then something has to change. This woman and the 15+ people that lived with her lacked something we all should have, basic respect for one another. She only cared about herself and what she could get for herself. From trying to sell her food stamp benefits to the neighbors for cash to buy beer or drugs, to leaving the little kids home alone so she could go out and party with her friends, the woman lived for herself and no one else. The 8 kids were nothing but a welfare check to her and she bragged about how she wanted to have at least 2 more so she could get more money coming in. If you think she was harassed and intimidated into moving out and just needed help transitioning into the neighborhood, how about you go look her up and find her a place to live on your street. Her name is Horisa "Dee Dee" Trotter, she's always on the lookout for someone to take advantage of and I'm sure would welcome the help from someone as sympathetic to her cause as you seem to be.

September 26, 2012 at 1:52 p.m.
Lr103 said...

RBaldwin, yes we have all those in my community too. Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, mixed-race couples (of which I my own family is), renters, homeowners However, that didn't stop the racial and class bigotry when rumors of those terrible section 8'ers coming to invade, occupy and take over the community. If the targeted individuals being blamed for this being a section 8 renter wasn't an issue, then why bring it up? Why feel the need to contact Felix Vess who is chief of police over public housing, and has no jurisdiction over communities outside of public housing? In my old small town I grew up in, there were neighborhood moms and fathers who actually took it upon themselves to at least address and assist such situation with minimum and no authority involvement before the sparks started flying. They found ways to bring the entire community together by speaking to all involved, and offering assistance

September 26, 2012 at 2:07 p.m.
RBaldwin said...

Lr103... The reason it was brought up is because for months I had been trying to contact someone at CHA in order to have them do something about the disruptive household. I called anyone and everyone I could think of because NO ONE would do ANYTHING to help, or even return my calls for that matter. Did you even get the point of the article? It's the failure of the system to do anything that could have possibly prevented the tragic shooting of a 13 yr old girl who is now so brain damaged that she needs 24 hour care. BTW, I DID try to approach the household at first, each neighbor did but do you know what I got in return, a death threat - when I walked over to their house at midnight on a school night to nicely ask them to pleae take the kids inside or at least quiet them down because the noise of them playing in the street was keeping me awake and I had to be up early the next morning. I was told to shut my f&%king mouth or they were going to shut it for me. How's that for neighborly and with minimum? And for the record, this was a nice, peacful neighborhood before they moved in and thankfully has returned to being so since they moved out. But Keoshia will never recover and Horisa didn't even have the decency to go check on that child when she was lying in the street after she'd just been shot. What mattered to her was getting her jailbird boyfriend into her car and driving him out of the neighborhood before the police arrived. What kind of a person does that???

September 26, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
Lr103 said...

RBaldwin, and why would you do that? Why would you contact CHA and not the landlord who was renting the property? You claim to have attempted to address the situation. How did you make that attempt? What was your demeanor? How we approach a situation can determine its outcome. We've had those loud types too. They weren't section 8'ers either. Which debunks that theory that only section 8'ers are rowdy. Yes, it's a tragedy that a 13 year old was shot. You can't go back and change and undo that reality. However, attacking one another only compounds the problem. What you can do is re-evaluate what all of you could have done better. Running people from the community doesn't solve the problem. The way we approach a situation can make all the difference in its outcome. Perhaps this tragedy could have had a different outcome on many levels if the situation had been handled differently from the onset. The system can't solve your problems. More often than not that system has caused more problems for you than it solved. That, or compounded the problems already there. Instead of pointing fingers and fighting among one another, everyone should use this tragedy as an opportunity to reach out more. Reach out to those people you'd normally avoid. Because remember, at one time and in a different era each of you were likely one of those people.

We were always told to be careful not to step on others while climing the ladder. As those same individuals you step on may be the only ones willing and available to cushion your fall when you come tumbling back down.

More often that I care to say, too often certain ethnic/racial groups scatter and begin figting among one another at the first sign of problems and issues. They're first repsonse is to try and distance themselves. Which just gives others all the ammunition they need to come and and tear them down even more. Where others come together in a crisis, too often these groups start their inner-fighting, tearin down one another.

September 26, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.
DJHBRAINERD said...

lr103..... Why do you insist it is anything other than what it is? Black folks don't have to stand together just because they are black...These people the the article were trouble no matter what anyone else does or could have done will change that, stupid is as stupid does. Will you not see what is before your eyes? Noone should have to live in fear. Noone should have to be afraid to walk outside and check their mail. If you want to demonise parts of the community then start with the people who close their blinds and hope it goes away. Start with the people who will not help the police to remove the tenants who will not live a civilized life. Stop making excuses for these type of folks they do not and should not be made into martyrs. This is not a black problem or a class problem this is a community problem. Many section 8 renters are good people but when someone comes along and games the system at the expence of the comunity then the comunity should be the first to stand up and say not on my block! I believe you speak from a good place but your worldview has left you jaded, some people are beyond help. Some people do not want to be helped. Some folks want to make a lot of noise and do what they do, to hell with the rest of us ,that is the simple truth.

September 26, 2012 at 8:43 p.m.
Lr103 said...

Did I hit a nerve or something? Quite on the defensive, are you DJH? First, it is not the job of the police to remove the tenants just because others don't want them there. The police has to follow rules and the laws too. Yes, those laws are there to protect you, me and even rowdy loud renters who don't respect their neighbors. When you demand the law violate the rights of others just, well because, you start that slippery rope of losing your own rights.

Perhaps you weren't around prior to the Civil Rights Movement getting underway. But most remember what it was like for someone to come up and say we want your house, your land and you had to be out by sundown. Or we want your wife, your daughter for their personal pleasure and you had no choice but to hand them over. When there were no laws that would protect, no laws that would convict your persecutor. You're on a slippery slope, DJH, and don't even realize it. How soon some people forget.

Don't fool yourself into believing what once was can never be again. That there aren't individuals working doubletime to bring back those old ways.

September 27, 2012 at 8:37 a.m.
DJHBRAINERD said...

LR103....yes you hit a nerve. You seem to bring in every bad thing in the history of your life to justify the plight of all the less fortunate. Well believe it or not some folks did do it to themselves. I just don't understand how someone like yourself,(educated articulate) would go defend the very people who have done the most to hold the comunity back. If you want to make it about section 8 as a whole you are painting with a broad brush. This article is about the difficulties in removing unruly nieghbors not how to keep sec 8 off my block. With your twisted logic I too am a bad person because I confronted a man who was just mindin his own business standing on the corner and I should have just minded my own business when the breakins started and I should have just minded my own business when the fights started in the street. Well I say you are wrong. This is not a civil right struggle this is a struggle to be civilized and I deserve and Mrs Baldwin deverves to live a peacful existence. I am surrounded by sec 8 and since the great ressession more houses have gone that route. Most are fine but there is this one small triplex that just turns the tenents over, no stability just a paycheck. Lots of holler backin and a little bass is ok but when the traffic starts it's time to pay attention, not close the blinds. You are correct on another point I was not chased by the dogs or knocked down with the water so I don't have the fear of police that the older generation passes down. But this fear is another obsticle to the community. I see it all the time in the ER. Nobody saw nothin till it's one of their own , then yell at police why didn't you do something. This comunity wide idea of snitches get stiches, police are bad, is what has brought on the highest murder rate of any ethnic group while allowing thugs to pray on the poor and helpless,not the police. And not the neighbors who look out thier blinds.

September 27, 2012 at 9:29 a.m.
RBaldwin said...

LR: I did contact the landlord and my pleas for help fell on deaf ears, all he was concerned about was the rent $$. But that was covered in the David Cook article which I am beginning to believe you read, but did not comprehend. Thank you Brainerd for your articulate and insightful replies, nice to know that there are people out there with understanding and compassion and that are also willing to stand up for what is right and what is wrong in an attempt to make things better for all concerned. I sincerely hope things go well for you. And in closing a familiar saying somes to mind when thinking of Lr103's statements , "There are none so blind as those that will not see."

September 27, 2012 at 1:47 p.m.
Lr103 said...

In the modern social order, the person is sacrificed to the individual. the individual is given universal suffrage, equality of rights, freedom of opinion; while the person, left to themisolated, naked, with no social armor to sustain andprotect him, is left to the mercy of all the devouring forces which threaten the life of the soul... __JACQUES MARITAIN (1882-1973) French philosopher.

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression. ___Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

*If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers it shows he is a citizenof the world.__ Francis Bacon (1561-1914)

Love thy neighbor as thyself __New Testament: Matthew, xix, xviiii

None of you have said what you did or if you did anything to welcome your new neighbor to the community. You impressed others that you were resentful of this neighbor from the very beginning. Both sides appear to have dug in their heels and refuse to give an inch. That implies some level of culpability from all involved.

September 27, 2012 at 3:58 p.m.
jesse said...

People like lr103 chap my azz big time!

maybe he thinks everybody in the hood needed to chip in a $100.00 a month apiece to PAY these heathens to act like civilized humans instead of animals!6 months later they would prob.want a raise!!

September 28, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.
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