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Vigilante group begins patrols, but group founder arrested

By RHONDA COOK

ATLANTA -- Two members of a vigilante group were arrested on weapons charges but about 35 others, armed with baseball bats, patrolled in the dark early today to protect youngsters of a sprawling housing project from the city's child killers.

Chimurenga Jenga, an organizer of the controversial group that was formed to patrol Techwood Homes, and Gene Ferguson, a member of the patrol, were arrested seconds after they walked out of a planning meeting to start the patrol.

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During the meeting, the desk in front of Jenga and other organizers was laden with baseball bats and a variety of firearms.

Jenga, who was carrying a rifle, and Ferguson, who was carrying a handgun, were arrested amid shouts from the crowd that 'we're ready! We're ready for you!' Jenga was placed in a waiting patrol wagon while the second man was put in a car.

Later Friday, police spokesman Roger Harris said the two had been released but faced a court hearing Monday morning on charges of carrying firearms in a public place.

Despite the arrests, about 35 residents of the housing project -- many carrying baseball bats, but none with visible firearms -- patrolled the neighborhood through the night. No incidents were reported.

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In all, 22 black children have dropped from sight in Atlanta since July 20, 1979. Twenty have been found dead and two others, Joseph Bell, 15, and Darron Glass, 10, are still missing.

The patrol's plan for armed vigilance against intruders drew protests from Mayor Maynard Jackson, Public Safety Commissioner Lee P. Brown and others. Some residents of the midtown project that houses an estimated 5,000 people in the shade of Georgia Tech's campus also were unhappy with the patrol plan.

'I don't think they're going to do anything but cause problems in the community,' said Loretta Harris, a mother. 'They're just drawing attention.'

Another mother, Cynthia Howell, said, 'They don't need those bats. They're just gonna get somebody hurt. They're gonna get a child killed.'

In another development, suburban DeKalb County authorities said Friday they are convinced a 33-year-old man who allegedly told a local minister he was responsible for the murders of several Atlanta black children had nothing to do with the killings.

Sylvester L. Long was arrested Thursday night after authorities traced to his residence telephone calls made to the Rev. Earl Paulk.

'This is not a major arrest,' a police source said. 'This is the guy who's been calling the Rev. Paulk recently but we do not seriously consider him a murder suspect. He has not been charged with murder.'

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In recent weeks, Paulk has made televised appeals for a meeting with whoever is responsible for killing the black children.

He said he had received calls from a man claiming to be the killer of 13-year-old Curtis Walker, whose body was found less than a mile from Paulk's church, and at least three other black children.

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