George King seemed to always be hungry, occasionally pestering the staff at his group foster home for chicken or brownies. If someone was being picked on, he would stand up for them, his loved ones recalled. Though he had made some missteps in life, he had recently joined a church, enrolled in community college and seemed to be getting on the right path.
As King was remembered at his funeral Saturday, the circumstances of his death — after being shocked with a Taser during a struggle with Baltimore police and security staff at Good Samaritan Hospital — were barely mentioned. But with many questions remaining about the incident, the Rev. Eric Holder of Grace Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore tried to help everyone gathered make sense of his death.
"Some of us may be asking why — why a young man who was moving in the right direction was taken from us," Holder said in front of the dozens of family members, friends and foster family members who came to lay King to rest. "When we can find no answers from the hospital officials and no answers from the Police Department ... is there any word from the Lord?"
King, who went by his middle name, Vonn, died May 14, after a week in a coma following the altercation with police and hospital security. Eight to 10 hospital staff had been trying to restrain the 19-year-old when an officer used a Taser on King five times, including four stuns in which the device was pressed directly to his body, according to an account from a law enforcement source. King was also given anti-psychotic medication and a sedative. Police have said they are investigating the circumstances and police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts called for a "moratorium" on officers responding to hospitals without a supervisor's review unless there was an imminent threat or obvious crime in progress.
Novella Sargusingh, who was King's foster mother from 2009 to 2011, said King initially went to Good Samaritan because he was having seizures after taking medication for tooth pain. After the service, she condemned the incident and said King's loved ones haven't yet gotten enough information about the circumstances that led to his death.
"We really need answers," Sargusingh said.
King lived in a group foster home run by Jumoke Inc., at the time of his death, and had gone into foster care because of medical problems his mother was experiencing. At his funeral, his mother, Georgette King, read aloud a poem she had written to her only child.
"You're free at last, and all your pain and suffering is a thing of the past," a line of the poem read.
Others recalled King's energetic, curious nature. Schapiro Kalu, who served as a mentor to King, said that when they first met two years ago, the teen was difficult; but King soon began to express admiration for Kalu and said he wanted to imitate him. King had enrolled in Baltimore City Community College and was interested in information technology, Kalu said.
"Vonn was an inspirational kid," Kalu said. "He had some kind of swag to him. When I got my master's [degree], he said, 'I like that.'"
Some said King could be a handful, and court records show he had been arrested three times in the past year. But they saw his joining Grace Baptist Church — where he went to Sunday School regularly — and enrolling in college as signs he was shaping up.
"This young man had family and friends who loved and cared for him," Sargusingh said. "And he was going to be exceptional, if he was given enough time. But he wasn't given enough time."