Pretty much anyone who has ridden a SEPTA bus anywhere in Philadelphia has witnessed a young mother disciplining her children. Often passengers give the mother “the look,” meaning control your child — and the hint is taken. Sometimes the mother resorts to corporal punishment while other passengers quietly look on.
But rarely do such daily occurrences lead to potentially deadly violence. All of that changed on the afternoon of June 18, 2011, on the Route 47 bus in North Philadelphia when a group of young men fired at the vehicle. Fortunately no one was wounded or otherwise injured, including the intended target, Lefanus Pickett.
On Tuesday of this week, Penny Chapman, 22, pleaded guilty to several counts of aggravated assault and related offenses for allegedly setting into motion the series of events that lead to the bus being riddled with bullet holes. For her plea, Chapman was sentenced to serve 5-to-10-years in prison and a five-year probationary period when she’s released.
On Wednesday, two more co-defendants in the case, Lawrence Rahyle, 19, and Keith Mup Bellamy, 23, also pleaded guilty before Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. Rahyle pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, conspiracy, and possession of an instrument of crime, terroristic threats and related offenses. He was sentenced to 4 to 10 years. Bellamy pleaded guilty to criminal attempted murder, for which he’ll serve 7 and a half to 15 years, aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit murder and serve 5 to 10 years.
So far, six of the defendants in the case negotiated a plea agreement, except for Demetrius Patterson, who has an upcoming preliminary hearing. Co-defendants Karon Patterson and Raheen Patterson both pleaded guilty last month and received 15-to-30-year prison sentences.
Angel Lecourt also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. The Pattersons were recorded firing at the bus with an assault rifle and a handgun. They pleaded guilty to 11 counts of aggravated and simple assault, weapons offenses, one count of attempted murder and related offenses.
The incident began on June 18, 2011, around 5:30 p.m. and was completely recorded by surveillance cameras installed in the bus.
Pickett told the court during the preliminary hearing that on that day he remarked that Chapman’s disciplining of her toddler was child abuse. She took offense and placed a call on her cell phone, allegedly calling for family and friends for help. When the bus came to a stop at 7th and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Chapman got off with the boy, and then allegedly she said to a man outside, ‘Shoot that n-----.’
The driver, identified as Desmond Jones, drove the vehicle to Temple University Hospital. Although no one was injured in the incident, SEPTA drivers have been the target of several assaults in recent months. Earlier this year, a driver on the 52 bus was beaten up by three teens.
SEPTA spokesperson Jerri Williams said in a previous interview that there have been 152 assaults of varying degrees against SEPTA operators — from physical assaults to verbal abuse and incidents where they have been spit upon, had water, unknown fluids, or other items thrown at them.
“Out of the 152 reported incidents, 100 of the victims had to take time off from work, either because of physical injuries or emotional distress. One of our operators was slashed with a razor in the incident I’m looking at. I’d like to stress that while physical assaults are terrible, just having someone threaten you can leave the operator too distraught to safely drive a bus or other vehicle. Think about it, if someone spits on you, you’re concerned about that fluid. If someone throws something at you or physically assaults you, you cannot operate the vehicle safely and that puts the driver at risk, the passengers are at risk, and people and vehicles on the streets are at risk.”
Two defendants were ordered held for trial Monday for their connection to a shooting incident that took place on the Route 47 SEPTA bus earlier this year.
On Thursday June 18, Lawrence Rahyle and Keith Bellamy allegedly fired into the bus when it came to a stop at Seventh Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia. No one was injured.
The attack was sparked when a young mother, identified as Penny Chapman, 20, was allegedly offended when a fellow passenger reprimanded her for spanking her toddler, and called on friends to retaliate.
The intended target was Lefenus Pickett, 37. The bus was equipped with video surveillance cameras that captured images of the defendants firing into the vehicle. Rahyle and Bellamy have been scheduled for trial on Oct.31 on charges of weapons offenses, aggravated assault and related offenses.
In an unrelated murder investigation, police from the 14th District were called to the 6300 block of Homer Street on Oct. 21 at 8:10 p.m. in response to a report of gunfire. When they arrived at the scene they found the victim lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head.
He has been identified as Charles Haines, 43, of the 1000 block of Valley Court in Pennsburg, Pa. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:19 p.m.
Investigators have determined that the motive was robbery but as of Tribune press time no arrests had been made.
In another unrelated murder investigation, officers from the 14th District responded to a report of gunfire in the vicinity of the 100 block of Sharpnack Street at 1:25 a.m. on the same day.
They found the victim, identified as Anthony Mitchell, 28, from the same location, with a gunshot wound to the back. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:12 a.m.
Police arrested a suspect, identified as Tony Mason, 28, from the 1900 block of Medary Avenue, on Oct. 22. Investigators said the shooting followed an argument.
Police have released surveillance photos of a suspect who robbed a Citizens Bank branch office on Oct. 21. They said at 4:50 p.m. a man entered the bank at 6324 Stenton Ave. and presented the teller with a threatening demand note. After taking an undisclosed amount of money, the suspect fled the bank on foot.
He was described as a Black male in his mid-30s. He is approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall with a medium build. Anyone with information regarding the suspect can call 215-686-TIPS and tipsters can remain anonymous.