BALTIMORE - Family members of a Safe Streets worker who was charged with carrying a handgun say they don't believe he did anything wrong.
Safe Streets is a program run by the Baltimore City Health Department. It employs people who have been convicted of crimes to mediate disputes out on the streets.
But early Sunday morning at the intersection of Mount Street and Edmonson Avenue in West Baltimore, police say 33-year-old Levar Mullen, who was employed with the program, was driving without his seatbelt on. They pulled him over, and eventually found a loaded, 45-caliber Glock hand gun. Mullen was taken into custody. Police say he had been convicted of first-degree murder in 2005 but was released after serving time in state prison.
He began working with the safe streets program in West Baltimore last year.
"If there's some gang affiliated stuff going on he's there to be the mediator to bring them together so they can resolve the situation," said his mother, who asked to be identified as Ms. Cartwell.
Mullen's mother also told ABC2 News he had reformed his life and embraced the Safe Streets concept.
"The reason why he took this job is because of his past and he didn't want the kids to do what he'd done and what he went to jail for and was taken away from his family," she said.
The arrests of Mullen and another man late last month prompted the head of the Baltimore City Health Department, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, to suspend the Mondawmin area Safe Streets program for at least two weeks.
"We are not shutting down the site. We are simply taking this as an opportunity to bring them in and do some retraining," she said.
Levar Mullen's sons say they don't believe the charges. "He's been a good father to me, and I know he wouldn't do something dumb like that," said 15-year-old Levar Mullen, Jr.
And they say they hope he can get back to working with Safe Streets.
"It showed how he used to get into things and he didn't want anybody else to follow his footsteps," said 14-year-old LeVontaye Mullen.
Levar Mullen's life was already a cautionary tale, and now it's taken a turn that's left the future of the program where he worked in question – and his family, shocked.
"I'm praying for him. We're going to do the best we can to make sure he gets a good attorney and resolve this matter," Ms. Cartwell said.
The Health Commissioner said she still believes in the Safe Streets concept; she says there have been 130 mediations in just over the year that the site near Mondawmin Mall has been open.
Other safe streets programs in Cherry Hill, McElderry Park and Park Heights continue to operate.