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SMCC scholarship honors slain Sudanese security guard

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SMCC scholarship honors slain Sudanese security guard

PORTLAND — Reward money intended to help catch a killer is now being used to help Africans enter the law enforcement profession.

Southern Maine Community College announced last week that a portion of the $20,000 reward being offered to help solve the murder of James Angelo will be used to start a scholarship in his name. The 27-year-old security guard at Mercy Hospital was shot and killed while on duty on Sept. 7, 2008.

The James Angelo Memorial Scholarship will give $5,000 to an African student pursuing a criminal justice degree at SMCC.

North East Mobile Health Services, an ambulance and medical transportation service in greater Portland, Bath, Brunswick and Topsham, is donating its portion of the reward money to begin the scholarship.

"This scholarship is the perfect way for us to give back to the community we serve," NEMHS Vice President of Business Development Polly Miller said. "We want to support a partnership between law enforcement – with which we work closely – and the African community."

Dr. Chuck Radis, a Peak's Island resident, founded the scholarship not only to honor Angelo, whose death dealt a blow to the immigrant community and its relationship with Portland Police, but also to increase opportunities for naturalized citizens.

Radis said immigrants typically have more difficulty continuing their education beyond high school, often because of financial reasons.

"I thought I would do my part to make that struggle a little bit easier," Radis said.

The scholarship also seeks to increase the diversity within police ranks. Portland Police have sometimes found themselves at odds with the city's immigrant population, which has complained about being targeted by police.

Many in the Sudanese community didn't feel as though police were working hard enough to solve Angelo's case. Tensions escalated last spring when police shot and killed a Sudanese man in Parkside. A month later, an unruly crowd of Sudanese youth gathered around a police cruiser while an officer was making a shoplifting arrest near Kennedy park. Members of the crowd called the police murderers.

In some ways, the scholarship fulfills what would become a final wish of Angelo's father, Angelo Okot, a former chairman of the Sudanese Community Association, who was killed in a motorcycle accident while visiting Sudan last summer. Radis said Okot told him before he left that he wanted the reward money to become a scholarship after the first year.

"(Immigrants) have made a wonderful, positive impact on our city," said Radis, whose daughters attended Portland High School with Angelo. "Sometimes there is more attention to problems that come up with a small group of people, but I think Portland is a great city because it's been a site for immigrants."

The scholarship is being offered to Africans seeking a criminal justice degree at SMCC because Angelo himself was interested in that field. Eventually, Radis hopes to expand the scholarship to other areas of study.

"I would love to be able to give out more than one a year," Radis said. "That would be fantastic."

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net