Hundreds turn out for funeral for slain Maryland state trooper Wesley Brown
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The montage of photos that flickered across three jumbo screens before the service got underway in the vast church sanctuary captured the life of Wesley Brown with a silent eloquence that rivaled anything two dozen speakers would say about him in the three hours that followed.
From his quizzical look in a childhood studio portrait to happy family gatherings with a blinking Christmas tree in the background; from photos of him as a kid among kids to those of a young man surrounded by boys on the verge of manhood; and finally to others showing a tall, elegant man in the crisp brown uniform of a Maryland State Police trooper.
And from one photo to the next, childhood to manhood, there always is his magnetic smile.
On Saturday, the people who surrounded him in those cheerful photos filed solemnly into Jericho City of Praise church in Landover to mourn the man with that smile who had been gunned down at age 24 , allegedly by an angry patron outside an Applebee's restaurant eight days earlier.
His family and the woman he planned to marry, 28 young men for whom he became a father figure, the troopers he trained with and those he worked with, hundreds of other uniformed officers from throughout the region and as far away as Vermont, and row after row of politicians.
Some who spoke knew him, the rest knew of him, and their commentary fleshed out with words what the photos already had revealed.
A close family and religious values helped guide Brown during an upbringing in Seat Pleasant, one of Washington's most violent suburbs, but could not shield him completely. Ralph Calhoun, deacon of Abyssinia Baptist Church, said Brown was stabbed on one occasion and shot in the leg on another. At 20, he was accepted into the State Police, and that same year he started a program to save teenagers from the pitfalls of a community too familiar with the needle and the gun.
"I became a squared-away young man," Shaquille Jones said of the program Brown founded, Young Men Enlightening Younger Men. "And I'll never forget that smile."
His work to "make a difference" in the lives of at-risk young men and the smile with which he pursued life were reoccurring themes.
"He taught us all that a bright smile was disarming," said Lt. Bonnie Morris, who commanded the Forestville barracks of the State Police when Brown was transferred there from LaPlata. "Wesley's dream was to make a difference in the lives of children."
Eugene Grant, the mayor of Seat Pleasant, spoke of Brown's love for his family and the neighborhood where he was raised.
"It's important that you understand one word about Wesley, and that's love," Grant said, gesturing the pews where young men from Brown's program were seated. "He gave love to these young men seated to my right."