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Strange Fruit In Dover Delaware: Lynching Allegations Of Black Men In City Park Has Tremendous Credibility While Cops Suppress Claims

  • SumoMe

Now that allegations of modern-day lynchings in Dover, Delaware have began to gain steam within the public’s eye, it’s clear that the death of Charles Conley in October 2010, Johnny Clark May 2012, and the alleged attempted lynching of Henry Fordham September 2012 which were all within extremely close proximity of Silver Lake Park in Dover are suspicious to say the very least. Conley, a Wesley College Freshman and football standout had only been in Dover for 7 weeks before Edison New Jersey police notified his parents that their son had died due to an apparent suicide. Two years later, Clark a local Barber who had prior brushes with Dover police was also discovered hanging from a tree in the same area of town. His death was ruled a suicide as well, and started chatter among locals of how much of a coincidence in which the manner , location, and police conclusion on how the pair died paralleled.

Perhaps a much broader scenario wasn’t realized until residence living near the park telephoned 911 to report a distressed Henry Fordham in the rear of their home during the early morning hours of September 21, 2012. Fordham was also known to Dover cops. His account coupled with that of the home owners who called police, substantiates that Fordham was injured while bleeding profusely, in some kind of trouble, and apparently was the voice of the person calling for assistance that had awaken the couple. The Fords say they awoke to what appeared to be some kind of altercation, calls for help, and was loud enough to raise serious concern which prompted them to get out of bed and turn on their flood lights. It was learned that Fordham had been abducted by two white males who actually lived on the his same street. Fordham says the men forced him inside a pickup truck at gun point, drove to nearby Silver Lake Park, and attacked him. The men initially attempted to drown Fordham. He says that the men were calling one another by first names and the larger of the two men had him in a full nelson wrestling hold, while the smaller man began to strike him with various objects.

According to Fordham, he fought back, and the men became frustrated because of their inability to completely subdue him. Fordham also alleges that he was stabbed multiple times in the back of the head, neck, and one puncture wound penetrated the side of his face and entered his mouth. He would later show these wounds on camera verifying that he suffered multiple puncture wounds in and about the areas of his head that he described. Fordham said at one point the smaller man even attempted to castrate him. He says the man had actually opened his pants and tried to cut off his penis, but the object being used wasn’t sharp enough. While he continued to wrestle on the grown with the larger attacker, the other continued to go back and forth to the truck retrieving objects to strike him with. Unsuccessful in subduing Fordham, the man took off Fordham’s belt and wrapped it around his neck stating, “let’s hang this fucking nigger”. Fortunately, Fordham was able to break free and flee to the backyard of a neighboring home where he was later interviewed by Dover police. Henry Fordham’s account of the events that day can be viewed in his own words in the videos below:

Dover police refused to pursue Fordham’s claims of escaping a near lynching attack, laughed at him, and even inferred that his injuries were obtained from illegal activity that he may have been engaged in. Fordham didn’t stop there, as he continued to show up at police headquarters on multiple occasions in an attempt to file a formal complaint regarding the attack. His pleas fell upon death hears and prompted him to notify the Delaware Attorney General’s office. Fordham claims that he was literally put out of the building with threats of being arrested. It wasn’t until much later  that War on the Horizon, a local political candidate name Doug Beatty, and Delaware State University History Professor Dr. Jahi Issa would bring the matter under more intense public scrutiny. Although people within the community had slowly began to realize that the black men who were found hanging in trees in Dover may have actually been lynched, there were other strange activities occurring in town as well. In November of 2011 leaflets which cotained racist images and rhetoric were being floated around town. Some of the material reached the campus of Delaware State University. See image below:

Dr Jahi Issa, a DSU professor supervised a student protest on campus and was subsequently arrested for allegations of disorderly conduct and assault on school law enforcement officials. Although it’s clear from video captured by students participating in the protest, Dr. Issa’s charges appear to be a scapegoat tactic orchestrated by the University’s administration. In fact the video shows that campus security chief Downs and a campus police officer appear to be the aggressors in the altercation that occurred before Dr. Issa was placed under arrest. Mr. Downs sworn statement that Dr. Issa struck him in the chest with a forearm is a complete fabrication of the truth. Clearly the video depicts Dr. Issa with his back to campus security, seeming to pull his arms away from them if anything, and shows how the allegation of striking anyone with a forearm is in fact completely absurd. It just didn’t happen. See video below:

However, the video shows even more of the scene at the protest which was quite a spectacle on campus. The loud noise and obvious agitation of the students were an extremely hostile environment, yet Dr. Issa was the only person taken into police custody and charged with a crime. I am certain that most will conclude that the school authorities crafted a well scripted plan to arrest Dr. Issa once his involvement in the student protest was learned by Del State Administrators. Dr. Issa has since been quoted in other articles of having said his presence was “only in support of the students.” The University later fired him from the institution (attempts to get more details from Dr. Issa on that aspect of this article has been unsuccessful). I’ll touch on the Del State Administration angle of this story in future articles. Later on Dr. Issa and another local political activist attended a meet and greet function of with political candidates for a local public office in attendance.

Political Activist Doug Beatty describes in his Blog http://troubleindover.blogspot.com, how Dr. Issa and local resident Eshed Alston made him aware of the Fordham attempted lynching incident and solicited his help. Doug Beatty is a white political candidate for the 34th district and  came through on his promise to assist in obtaining the facts about Fordham’s allegations of escaping a lynching. Beatty, Dr. Issa, and Mr. Alston confronted Dover’s town council about the alleged lynching incidents that span nearly a two year period in the city. Dover police Chief J. Hosfelt down played the assertion that anyone had been lynched in Dover, and strongly defended investigative findings that both the Conley youth, and Johnny Clark had in fact committed suicide. Chief Hosfelt went on to convey that Henry Fordham’s allegations of an attempted lynching was thoroughly investigated but police had poked holes in his story, and the alleged incident had been found unsubstantiated.

Police said they first communicated with Fordham at 6 a.m. Sept. 21 because a resident reported he was in her backyard acting irrational. Fordham’s initial report was that he was kidnapped from the halfway house he lives in on North New Street, according to Hosfelt. He said two white men forced entry into his house at 15 N. New Street and removed him at gunpoint and drove him down to Silver Lake to try to drown him. “When we got there, his clothes were dry and the New Street homeowner rebutted claims about anyone invading her home,” Hosfelt said. ‘Then, he changed his story to he was walking his dog when two white men drove up in a pickup truck and forcibly took him at gun point.” After having obtained an official statement from police on record, Beatty beat the streets and tracked down the residents whom had called 911 for Fordham during the early morning of Sept. 21. The residents who live there completely contradicted Chief Hosfelt’s assertion that they had called police to report a man acting irrationally in their yard.

In fact Mr. & Mrs. Ford poked holes in the Chief’s statement. Beatty confirmed that sounds of and altercation and someone yelling for help is what awoke them, corroborating Fordham’s allegations, and cast serious doubt on whether Fordham had actually made conflicting statements to police as Chief Hosfelt alleged. Also, Mrs. Ford said Fordham wasn’t acting irrational considering his injuries and further proving that he had been in some sort of physical altercation. Moreover, Beatty also discovered further details regarding the Fordham lynching attack. In Henry Fordham’s video interview with WOH he states that the attackers admitted to him they had killed Johnny Clark. Beatty reported that Fordham was not the only person that the men allegedly confess the alleged Clark killing to. Beatty says he also discovered that the two men are known by first name, their vehicle information, and address are also known. Beatty further stated that several residents living on their block have reported that the men vacated their apartment the exact same day that Fordham was stabbed in the head. These elements of the Fordham incident is very alarming considering that Chief Hosfelt claimed a thorough investigation was conducted. 

Furthermore, Beatty revealed that Johnny Clark’s brother stated that the last two people he saw with his brother on the day that he died was in fact the same two men that Fordham alleges attempted to lynch him in Silver Lake Park. It’s completely explosive that an investigation was conducted with what appear to be vital information of a potential murder and attempted murder case floating around, and Dover police were unable to obtain that information to aid their investigation into Fordham’s attempted lynching claim. Either Chief Hosfelt has been briefed with extremely poor information related to the Fordham case or he was simply outright lying about a supposed investigation. I am convinced based on the information that has been obtained in all of these cases that Dover police may be involved in these lynchings or their poor police work, while supposedly investigating these incidents is directly related to racism in some form. It has already been established that Johnny Clark and Henry Fordham had prior run ins with the law, but because they are known from prior arrest doesn’t void police responsibility to pursue, follow-up, and investigate serious crimes reported to them by citizens within the community with prior arrest themselves. 

Neither of these two men’s criminal history are relevant if they were in fact victims of a crime, and it’s improper for cops to pass judgement solely because they are known from prior arrest incidents. There also happens to be a variety of perspectives on why Dover authorities failed to pursue the lynching allegations from Fordham, and resulted in community activist confronted town council members. Dover has revived a once stagnant economy with a booming tourist attraction for it’s gaming industry at Dover Downs. Other commercialization has developed in the community as well, affording the town a lucrative financial base, and a positive image regarding the city’s crime rate is  imperative toward continued success with merchants in a well developed and growing business district. The location of the alleged lynching incidents are just a stone throw away from the heart of the city’s financial pulse. The city of Dover along with it’s commerce base, and area Colleges and University could potentially suffer a significant economic regression if a stigma is created that the town is unsafe for tourism, and for families who want to send their kids there to get an education.

The political landscape of Dover may very well have had a valid reason to protect the town’s image, but it’s simply an immoral premise for failing to properly investigate allegations of serious crime. Considering Henry Fordham’s claim that he also attempted to obtain assistance from the Delaware Attorney General’s Office substantiated to be true, and he was in fact put out of the building after establishing to state officials he wanted to report the alleged attempted lynching attack, coupled with the realization of Beau Biden being the Vice President of the United States son, fuels another perspective that state officials also wanted to suppress the lynching allegations to preempt any adverse publicity that would negatively impact the Obama Administration Presidential reelection bid. This perspective has merit because publicity of this nature would most certainly have been catastrophic in the voter decision making process during general elections related to controversy over race hate in Vice President Joe Biden’s home state. Whether citizens develop an alliance with either of these perspectives, the fact remains that Dover police has lost tremendous credibility regarding the manner in which it’s top cop expressed how his agency investigated the alleged lynchings in the city. Details related to the Fordham incident juxtaposed to two other deaths from hangings, justifies a public perception that the cases were poorly investigated if at all, and covered up by Dover police. Here are a few factors which supports this public perception:


1.  The police ruled suicide hanging of Wesley College student Charles Conley was suspicious from the very start. The young man’s parents say Dover police showed them a trash can their son had allegedly stood on to hang himself in the rear of a building on campus. Conley’s mom said her son weighed over 200 pounds, was over 6 feet tall, and the can couldn’t have possibly supported a person his size. The Edison, New Jersey football standout had only been in Delaware for 7 weeks when his death occurred. Dover police simply accepted his death as a suicide despite the youth having no apparent reason to want to harm himself.

2. When cops found Johnny Clark hanging from a tree in Dover’s Silver Lake Park his death was also declared a suicide, but relatives say Dover police didn’t investigate his case thoroughly. Clark was known to city police from prior arrest, but had become stable by cleaning up is act while working as a local barber. Those closes to him also say he had no reason to want to harm himself.

3. Although the deaths of Charles Conley and Johnny Clark were nearly to years apart, the close proximity of their deaths, and the manner in which they died has always bothered many within the Dover community. Dover police has always supported their findings that the men committed suicide without establishing any creditable circumstances involving the men that would support such findings, and the proximity of their deaths obviously never became a factor in their determination of how the men died.

4. Dover police determined that Henry Fordham’s claim of escaping from an attempted lynching wasn’t substantiated despite having found the man with contusions, multiple puncture wounds, and bleeding profusely on the morning of Sept.21, 2012. Fordham also had a criminal past with Dover police and probably  was a huge factor in their apathetic handling of his claims. When primary officers arrived at the scene that day they inferred Fordham’s injuries probably were the direct result of some illegal activity that he had been engaged in. Dover police Chief James Hosfelt stated during a town council meeting that the 911 caller had reported  Fordham as a man acting irrational in the rear of their home, and officers had poked holes in his story. These admitted claims by Dover’s top police brass demonstrates Fordham wasn’t taken seriously and that cops sought to discredit his account from the gate.

5. The residents who lived adjacent to Silver Lake Park and had called 911 for a distressed Fordham, refuted Dover Police Chief claim that they reported Fordham as acting irrational. The couple reported that cries of help and sounds of an altercation is what awoke them. They also say that Fordham wasn’t acting irrational considering his condition, and further supports the fact that he had suffered serious injury. Images of Fordham injuries below:

Ligature marks that Henry Fordham says he suffered when two white men attempted to castrate him and hang him in an attempted lynching at Silver Lake Park in Dover, Delaware.


An apparent stab wound that Fordham says penetrated the side of his face and went all the way inside of his mouth.


A serious puncture wound Fordham suffered in the attack.


6. Suspicious details related to Johnny Clark’s death and Henry Fordham’s attempted lynching allegations were never mentioned by Dover police and completely dispels the notion that a serious investigation of any kind was actually conducted in the cases. Clark’s brother told Doug Beatty that the last two people he saw with his brother on the day he was found dead, were the exact same two men that Fordham alleges attacked him. Also, the first name, vehicle information, and address of the men are known. The men reportedly vacated the apartment they lived at on the exact same day Fordham was attacked. It’s simply incredible that none of this crucial information was able to help Dover police substantiate Fordham’s claim, and cast doubt on their conclusion that Johnny Clark had actually committed suicide.

7. Police harassment of Clark’s family members, Fordham, and his family by Dover police after the alleged attempted lynching was reported cast even further suspicion on the motives of Dover police related to these suspicious cases.

Lastly, there is sufficient evidence that allegations of possible lynchings in the city of Dover were not met with legitimate investigatory efforts by Dover police to determine whether race crimes were in fact occurring. An independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice is warranted on the grounds that at the very least, Henry Fordham’s Civil Rights were violated when he was refused help from the State Attorney General’s Office, and the inconsistencies related to the manner in which Dover police investigated these cases, supports the public perception that wrongdoing by authorities in Delaware may have occurred. A Federal investigation must now transpire in these cases of Dover Delaware’s Strange Fruit.


To Be Continued —


The People’s Champion

I’m David Adams

Self proclaimed geek, Advocate for the homeless, Social Change, Crime Blogger, and mobile technology enthusiast. Recognized journalist and Human Interest Writer championing the plight of the masses whom are without a voice of their own.

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5 Responses to “Strange Fruit In Dover Delaware: Lynching Allegations Of Black Men In City Park Has Tremendous Credibility While Cops Suppress Claims”

  1. There will be a March on Dover DE and DSU on 1/15/13 at 10:00AM. All permits have been attained. The Governor of DE has picked the same day for his inauguration. We will take the same location after the governors event ends and read are demands to him, the DE attorney general and the presidents of DSU and the United States. The march and/or protest and rally is meeting in the parking lot of Best Buy on Hwy 13 in Dover DE at 10:00AM.

  2. […] that allegations of modern-day lynchings in Dover, Delaware have began to gain steam within the public’s eye, it’s clear that the death […]

  3. Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.


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