Pastor Kenneth Glasgow—a voting rights activist in Alabama and half-brother of the Rev. Al Sharpton—went to help an acquaintance find a missing car. Instead, he ended up facing a murder charge.
Glasgow, 52, was charged with murder last March, after a man riding in his car hopped out and fatally shot a woman he believed had stolen his car, cops say. He was charged under an Alabama law that allows someone complicit in a crime to be charged the same as a primary actor, according to the New York Times, which brought heightened focus to Glasgow’s case last weekend.
Prosecutors would have to prove Glasgow knew, or reasonably should have known, the man intended to commit violence to get a conviction, according to the Times. But Glasgow had no idea the man even had a gun, much less that he intended to hurt anyone, he told Oxygen.com.
“It hurts my heart that someone would suffer violence and that I could have anything to do with it,” he said. Glasgow is a former drug addict who spent years behind bars on various charges before finding a new path as an activist and preacher in Dothan, Alabama.
On the fateful day last March, Glasgow says he was working in a poor neighborhood of Dothan called The Bottom, as he often did. He said he was driving two people to a training session on voting rights, when Jamie Townes, a younger man he knew from around town asked for a ride. Townes' Monte Carlo was missing. Glasgow thought maybe someone had taken it as a joke and that they would be able to find it.
Instead, the car found them, as Glasgow likes to say.
The Monte Carlo came wildly swerving down a street in The Bottom with its hood up, blocking the driver’s ability to see. It rammed straight into the Toyota Camry Glasgow was driving. Police believe the Monte Carlo was being chased, according to the Times. Glasgow says a third car crashed into the rear of the Camry. Cops, however, never located a third vehicle.
Amid the chaos, Glasgow managed to get out of the car. Townes also got out and then started shooting at the driver, 23-year-old Bruenia Jennings.
Jennings, who has a long history of mental illness, cut her hair short and dressed in men’s clothes sometime before the crash, according to the Times. It is unclear whether or not she was attempting to conceal her identity from whoever cops say might have been pursuing her.
Townes fired multiple shots and at least one bullet struck Jennings in the head, according to the Root. Glasgow said he never had any opportunity or reason to expect violence and that his advocacy work oftentimes brings him into contact with people who might be involved in criminal activity.
The Camry did not belong to Glasgow and, according to the Times, he “spent the few minutes after the accident trying to commit insurance fraud.” Glasgow denies this, though he admitted the car's owner, worried that insurance wouldn't cover the accident with another driver behind the wheel, had asked him to say that she had actually been driving the vehicle. He said they discussed the possibility, but he decided against it, especially after realizing a young woman died.
Glasgow believes the charges against him are not only too severe, but a form of retaliation for work he has done on behalf of progressive causes.
“I disrupt elections. I challenge them on different laws,” Glasgow said. “I knew they didn’t like me, but I didn’t know they didn’t like me that bad,” he said, referring to what he called the “white power structure.” Dothan is one-third African-American, but a black person has never held a major city office such as mayor, police chief or school superintendent, according to the Times.
In 2009, Glasgow successfully sued the state prisons to allow him to register some incarcerated felons to vote, according to Prison Legal News.
During last year’s special Senate election, he says he registered between 8,000 and 10,000 previously convicted felons to vote. Democrat Doug Jones beat his opponent Roy Moore by only about 22,000 votes, according to the Washington Post.
The local district attorney’s office has not responded to a request for comment.
The severity of the charge has also been questioned by a local judge, who noted that Townes “did all the shooting” and “never re-entered the car,” according a transcript obained by the Root.
“What is it he [Glasgow] did other than pick him up and give him a ride, really?” the judge asked local prosecutors, according to a trial transcript obtained by the Root.
A grand jury is still considering whether to indict Glasgow on the murder charge.
[Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Glasgow]