They told him they planned to eradicate all Blacks, “one n____r at a time.”
Then came the fists, and the boots, as a group of self-proclaimed skinheads attacked Paul Morris in the Jackman Inn in Avalon.
“It wasn’t a fight,” Morris told the New Pittsburgh Courier, “it was an attack.”
But that wasn’t how the Avalon Police Department initially saw the July 7 assault. The first responding officer, Craig Cannella, said everyone—including Morris, who is African American—would receive citations for disorderly conduct. In fact, other than speaking briefly to the bartender and chef—whom Morris had gone there to thank for catering a party, and who tried to break up the assault—no witness interviews were conducted until reports of the assault hit local papers and television news nine days later.
Only then did the department start the process in filing assault charges against six members of the Keystone State Skinheads who attacked Morris: Natasha Dawn Bowers, 33, of Roaring Spring; Terrence Raymon Stockey, 40, of Beaver; Jeremy L. Ingram, 35, of Hollidaysburg; Travis Lee Cornell, 43, of Marianna; Crystal Lynn Shields, 23, of Tarentum; and James Edward Kryl, 45, of the North Side.
Avalon Police Chief Thomas Kokoski did not return calls to the Courier for comment.
Jackie Scanlon, the general manager at the Jackman Inn, said even though several of them were apprehended at the scene, all were let go.
“They let everyone go and didn’t talk to any of the witnesses until last Monday,” she said. “After it hit the news he came back with witness statement forms for the bartender and chef.”
Morris said he decided to go to attorney Fred Rabner, who also represented Leon Ford, after the police did nothing.
“I don’t even think there was an investigation,” said Morris. “There were 10 eyewitnesses, some yelling for the cops to chase the guys. And the one officer is telling me I didn’t do enough to get away.”
Morris actually did try to leave but couldn’t—the skinheads blocked his way, according to Morris. Morris had come to the bar to drop off a thank-you card for his friend, head chef Javon Jenkins, for cooking the food for a graduation party for Morris’ son. He and Jenkins were on the bar’s back deck smoking when a group of men and women confronted them, calling them n____rs.
“I wanted to get off that rickety deck because if something happened I was going over,” he said. “So I went to get back into the main room, and I was punched, then I was kicked. I got hit with something else—it wasn’t a fist because it split both my lips open.”
Some of those accused had tattoos and wore T-shirts with the logo of the Keystone State Skinheads, which was renamed Keystone United in 2009. The Southern Poverty Law Center said the group is “one of the largest and most active single-state racist skinhead crews in the country.”
Morris told the Courier he is pleased charges were eventually filed, but said he feels the Avalon police dropped the ball with this incident. Still, he wants to put the incident behind him, as much as possible.
“My family has lived here since 1910, and we’ve always had good friends and a lot of love,” he said. “I admit my head is more on a swivel. Before this incident I wouldn’t have been in this mindset. But I’m not going to be angry. I’ve got a family, kids, wife; I should be celebrating that. At the end of the day, I’m not going to have hate in my heart. Not like they do—they are the minority.”
Follow @NewPghCourier on Twitter https://twitter.com/NewPghCourier