PORT RICHMOND, PENNSYLVANIA – About 11 P.M. on Sept. 9, dozens of youths with bats and pipes descended on a tidy residential area of Port Richmond looking for white teens who allegedly had attacked an African-American kid at Stokely Playground a couple of hours earlier.
Two fearful white teens spotted Mark LaVelle on Indiana Avenue near Belgrade Street and asked for help. Suddenly, the mob appeared. LaVelle, who said that he didn’t know the two kids, who looked to be 13 or 14, ran with them into his nearby house.
” ‘We got you, you white mother——-!’ ” LaVelle said he heard someone yell in the “mob” of black and Hispanic youths.
Inside his house, LaVelle, 37, called to his wife, Kim, 30, to go to their bedroom with their twin 13-month-old boys, Mark and Mason, and to call police. He also ordered his two other sons, 11 and 17, and his nephew, 7, to stay upstairs.
With the two teens hiding in the house, LaVelle, 5 feet 10, 220 pounds, a well-known sports-league organizer and coach in the community, went outside to try to calm the angry mob.
They were standing on his steps. One shouted, ” ‘Something’s going to happen now!’ ” LaVelle recalled in an interview Friday at his house. LaVelle got nervous and went back inside, locking his door with a deadbolt.
But the attackers pounded on his front windows and kicked his wooden door so hard, it flew open and some of them entered his house.
“The first guy hits me with a pipe. The second guy knocks me in the face. All I’m hearing is my wife and kids screaming,” said LaVelle, who feared that the next time they saw him, he would be in a casket.
He said that he was able to push the attackers out the door, but then a third man – who had a gun – tried to extend his arm. LaVelle grabbed onto the gunman’s lower arm and shoulder so he couldn’t raise the weapon. Then, police sirens screamed in the neighborhood, and the mob turned and ran.
LaVelle was able to identify three of the people from the melee. He said he did not know if they had been chasing the white teenagers, or if they were just trying to find someone to attack.
Police arrested Bergson Morin, 21, of Rosehill Street near Wyoming Avenue, Feltonville, as the man with the gun. They arrested Enrique Delgado, 32, of Rockland and C streets, Feltonville, as the man who hit LaVelle with the pipe. And they arrested a 17-year-old juvenile as the one who punched LaVelle in the face, giving him a black eye.
LaVelle said that the next day the mother of the juvenile came back with some other people, banging on his door, screaming. LaVelle, who was at a charity sports event, was called back to the house by one of his sons.
When he got home, LaVelle said, the mother yelled at him, ” ‘You white mother——, you got my kid locked up! You got my son locked up because he’s black, you’re white!’ ” The mother claimed that her son had been “a witness,” not an attacker. To that, LaVelle said if that were true, it would come out in court.
But the mother, according to LaVelle, then yelled: ” ‘If you make it to court! I know where you live!’ ”
Police public affairs could not confirm yesterday if the mother has been arrested for making threats.
Patty-Pat Kozlowski, president of the Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic Association, said that police told her that the attack on LaVelle stemmed from the incident at Stokely Playground, Indiana Avenue and Thompson Street, a few blocks from LaVelle’s house.
She heard that an African-American “kid got knocked off his bike or fell off” and white kids were laughing at him. The group of African-Americans and Hispanics came back for retaliation, Kozlowski believes.
She said she didn’t know any of the people involved in the playground incident or in the attack on LaVelle. LaVelle said he also did not know anyone involved.
Morin and Delgado, who face charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy, burglary, weapons and related offenses, were scheduled to face a preliminary hearing in Municipal Court today, but the hearing got postponed to Nov. 7. Delgado, who is in state prison, was not brought down to the city. Also, both defense attorneys requested a lineup in the case, which the judge granted. Morin is in custody in county prison. Their family members could not be reached for comment Monday.
Freddy Godoy, Delgado’s attorney, said yesterday that someone Delgado knows “was probably related to the child” who was attacked in the playground. But he contends that Delgado was not one of the people who attacked LaVelle.
Richard Patton, Morin’s attorney, declined comment yesterday.
Kozlowski, a legislative aide to City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski and a lifelong Port Richmond resident, wrote about the attack in The Spirit community newspaper, which serves the river wards. Since then, the story has created a lot of buzz in the predominantly white neighborhood.
Kozlowski and Maryann Trombetta, president of the Port Richmond Town Watch, both recalled the murder of Sean Daily, a white teen who was beaten and shot by bat-wielding youths, mostly Latino, in May 1989.
They don’t believe that the attack on LaVelle started as a racial incident, but believe that there was a racial element to it when the mob “called him a white mother——” and when the juvenile’s mother allegedly threatened LaVelle.
LaVelle, who runs sports leagues composed of youths and adults of different races, said he doesn’t want any retaliation on the people who attacked him. But the attack has instilled fear in him and his family, and he hopes that there will be more of a police presence in the neighborhood.
His wife is afraid to stay at home, and “every time I hear a car, I’m looking out the door,” he said.
“It’s not a good way to live.”