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.”