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Protester picked up on bad check charges

| Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003

A Fayette County constable said Friday he had no intention of harassing picketers protesting the decision not to file charges against police in connection with the shooting death of a 12-year-old boy in Uniontown.

Constable Bob Barron said he asked Sheriff Gary Brownfield to arrest Darlene Dennis, of Uniontown, when he read her name in a news account of an upcoming People Against Police Violence march.

"I don't have access to a computer. I read the newspapers. That's how I find (wanted) people," Barron said.

The constable escorted Dennis, who faced charges for writing a bad check, from the picket line to the office of South Union District Justice Rick Vernon.

Her companions on the picket line and a member of the national board of directors for the NAACP said they suspected that Dennis was singled out because of her views.

Barron denied this. "I was going to ride her back (to the picket line). I didn't say, 'You can't go back there,'" he said.

Michael Ellerbe, of Uniontown, was shot to death by state police Trooper Samuel Nassan on Dec. 24 on the mistaken assumption that his partner had been shot by Ellerbe during a foot chase. According to testimony offered Jan. 27 at an inquest into the death, Trooper Juan Curry had caught his pants on a fence he was attempting to vault and his gun fired.

Ellerbe, who was black, was running from a stolen sport utility vehicle and had ignored repeated commands to stop, according to the troopers.

Four days after the inquest, District Attorney Nancy Vernon decided not to press charges against the officers. Picketers have held signs outside the courthouse almost daily since Vernon's decision.

Since then the Pittsburgh-based People Against Police Violence group has met to organize a Feb. 15 march to protest the investigation and Vernon's decision. Another meeting to discuss the march is set for 10 a.m. today in the Lemon Wood Acres community room.

According to Vernon, Dennis has paid $200 to authorities since she bounced a $75 check in 1997 at Wal-Mart.

The additional $204 she still owes is for accumulating costs and fees that have been added to serve Dennis papers and to arrest her twice.

Dennis said she bounced a check she used to buy Christmas gifts for her three daughters, then didn't have the money to pay for the items when Wal-Mart called demanding payment in one day's time.

Vernon said Dennis has until March 18 to pay the charges in full or she will serve 10 days in prison.

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