Originally created 03/14/03

2 men are convicted of killing in '69 riot

YORK, Pa. - Two black men were convicted Thursday in the 1969 killing of a white rookie police officer in the second murder trial stemming from race riots that tore apart York more than three decades ago.

Stephen Freeland and Leon Wright were each convicted of second-degree murder and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison in the death of rookie Patrolman Henry Schaad.

The verdicts came nearly five months after two white men were convicted and the city's former mayor was acquitted in the slaying of a black South Carolina woman, the other person killed during the race riots.

Mr. Schaad, 22, was mortally wounded by gunfire July 18, 1969, the second day of rioting, when he and two other officers in an armored police truck drove through a black neighborhood. He died two weeks later and remains the only York officer killed in the line of duty.

Mr. Schaad's older brother, Barry, said outside the York County Courthouse that the family now could visit his brother's grave and "tell him that justice has been done."

Jurors deliberated seven hours over two days before reaching a decision.

The verdicts capped an unpredictable two-week trial in which many witnesses appeared reluctant or confused, and some offered surprising testimony. It also completed a three-year investigation that had forced the city to take a hard look at the deep racial divide that led up to the riots. Some residents turned away from the sight; others welcomed it as a chance to put the city's ghosts to rest.

Prosecutor William Graff called the verdicts "fair and just."

Mr. Freeland's attorney, Terry McGowan, said he would appeal. Mr. Freeland was already behind bars on unrelated charges and was sent back to jail after the verdict.

Mr. Freeland's relatives questioned whether he had received a fair trial - "It's just like 1969; nothing's changed," said his nephew, Jerome Kirkland - and maintained that he was innocent.

"He gave it his best shot," said Mr. Freeland's sister Lorita Freeland, 52. "He told the truth, and it wasn't good enough."


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