Monday, April 08, 2002

Thomas's mother spends day
in crowd's embrace

After church, Angela Leisure speaks at rally

By Cindy Kranz
and Jane Prendergast

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Angela Leisure is comforted by pastor Osborne Richards at the Newlife Outreach Church in Springdale.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Timothy Thomas is best known to the nation as the man whose death at the hands of a policeman sparked Cincinnati's worst riots in decades. But to Angela Leisure, he's the son she lost. And as anyone who's ever lost a child will tell you, there's nothing worse.

        And so on Sunday, the first anniversary of her 19-year-old son's death, Mrs. Leisure attended services at Newlife Outreach in Springdale, where she shed tears and was hugged.

        She spent time with family members, then headed downtown.

        “Today, I stand here with mixed emotions that range from anger to zeal,” Mrs. Leisure told the crowd of 600 at a Fountain Square rally dubbed the March for Justice. “I am angry that I must relive the greatest day of pain a mother could experience, the death of her child.”

        Yet, she said, she's filled with zeal to ensure that justice is served to families who have lost loved ones in police-related deaths.

        Mr. Thomas was shot April 7, 2001, while running from police officers in Over-the-Rhine. He was the 15th African-American man killed by Cincinnati police since 1995.

        “When these tragic incidents occur, not only are the lives of our loved ones ended, but also the life of each survivor is torn apart, and marked with enormous voids that may never be filled,” the 35-year-old Golf Manor woman told the crowd.

"She still stands in the Lord'

               Unlike most who have lost a child, Mrs. Leisure has had to grieve in public. Sunday morning, she stood at her church's altar and dabbed her tears, then stoically thanked the members of Newlife Outreach for their prayers.

        She usually sings in the choir, but on this day, the choir sang to her. The song, We Offer Praise, was dedicated to Mr. Thomas' family.

        The Rev. Osborne Richards, senior pastor, told the congregation, “We are so very thankful to God, regardless of all the things that have gone on and the sorrow of Sister Angela Leisure, she still stands in the Lord.”

        Mrs. Leisure, who cried briefly during the service, told the congregation that this year has been hard, but prayer is powerful.

        “It helped me get up in the morning and keep pushing,” she said.

        Members of the congregation greeted and hugged her after the church service, which she attended with her three youngest children.

        When pain washes over her, she clings to memories of her son.

        “The last time I saw him was the day before he was killed,” Mrs. Leisure said. “He was hanging out his fiancee's second-floor window, making jokes. When I got to the car, I looked up at him. He had the biggest smile on his face. He said, "I love you, lady. Bye-bye.'”

Strengthened by family

               Along with prayer, her family sustains her. That family includes Mr. Thomas' son.

        His first word was “Dad.”

        Tywon Wilcox is 16 months old now, and looking more every day like his daddy.

        He's growing, walking and doing lots of that pre-talking baby babble, Mrs. Leisure, the proud grandma, told The Enquirer last week.

        “He likes to dance now,” Mrs. Leisure said. “He just talks and talks, and says "Mom' quite a bit now too. He's very friendly and affectionate.”

        The boy's mother, Monique Wilcox, 21, juggles parenting with working part time, and working with a tutor so she can obtain a GED.

        Ms. Wilcox has never spoken publicly about losing her boyfriend. She would not break that silence for this story, nor allow a reporter to observe or photograph her child.

        Mrs. Leisure supports Ms. Wilcox and Tywon, helping pay their rent, utilities and day-care costs.

        The baby gets no public assistance, she said, and cannot receive any help for crime victims until all investigations into his father's death are finished.

        She supports the boy and his mother with money donated to the fund in memory of Mr. Thomas, still open at Fifth Third Bank branches.

        “I've always been very grateful to the citizens for all that they've done,” Mrs. Leisure said.

        She juggles the baby and his mother's financial needs with her own.

        “It's hard,” Mrs. Leisure said. “But I know I have to do this. My child left a child behind. It's my responsibility to step up and do the things that he would have done. I will not allow her to be a single parent.

        “He's the last piece of my child.”


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