No weapon found at scene of traffic stop in North Philly
When questions surface over police officers using excessive force during an arrest, it is an issue that affects the image of an entire department and erodes the trust the community has in the men and women who wear the badge.
The Philadelphia Police Department has seen its share of problems regarding allegations of excessive force over the years. For example, an incident made national headlines in 2008 when a Fox News helicopter videotaped six officers punching and kicking three suspects pulled from a car. In June 2011, a Philadelphia police shot and killed Eric Crawley, 39, a SEPTA bus driver who tried to intervene in a domestic dispute involving his sister. Crawley was allegedly in possession of a firearm and reportedly failed to comply with an officer’s orders to disarm. Allegedly, Crawley drew his weapon and the officer fatally shot him in the chest.
Now the Philadelphia Police Department will once again have to address the question of whether six officers involved in a shooting on Feb. 8, 2011 at 23rd Street and Susquehanna Avenue, discharged their weapons for legitimate reasons during the course of a motor vehicle stop.
Last week, the mother of Jamil Moses, a man killed as he sat in a stolen car, filed suit against the police officers involved in his death. Carolyn Moses alleges her son was murdered, since he was unarmed when he was fatally shot. Her attorney, Paul Hetznecker claims police used excessive force and that the officers have given conflicting accounts regarding what transpired. Philadelphia NAACP President, J. Whyatt Mondesire said he will be asking U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger for a federal investigation into the matter.
The policemen named in the lawsuit were Officers John McCarron, Mark Oliveras, Joseph Burke, George Fox, Craig Coulter, and Brandon Bryant. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department said no comments would be released to the public since the incident is now in litigation.
“I’m in the process of drafting a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office today, asking Memeger to investigate this,” said Mondesire. “We have the forensics and eyewitnesses and no guns were found in the car. Jamil Moses and Frederick Bell were both unarmed. We’ll also be asking the federal government to examine the cases of several other shootings that have resulted in deaths.”
According to Hetznecker, the vehicle Moses and Bell were in was stolen in a carjacking incident 10 days before the incident at 23rd and Susquehanna Avenue. Police observed the Chevrolet Impala and followed it before intercepting it on Susquehanna Avenue.
“This is where things get disputed,” said Hetznecker, who acknowledged that Bell and Moses both had lengthy rap sheets. But that doesn’t mean they deserved to be shot to death, he insists, particularly when they were unarmed. “Some officers report that Bell allegedly rammed a police cruiser, but that’s not supported by the evidence, which shows it was the other way around.
Supposedly two officers were struck on the legs by Bell, who was behind the wheel. But one officer said he didn’t see anyone hit by the car. The Impala was boxed in by six police cars and really couldn’t go anywhere; it was surrounded by numerous officers. Officers issued orders for Bell and Moses to get out of the vehicle. One officer said he heard someone yell the word ‘gun’ and that’s when they opened fire. We’ve gotten conflicting stories about this incident. We have evidence that the passenger door, where Moses was seated, was open, and that he had his hands on the dashboard. Twenty five gunshots penetrated the front window; the rear window was blown out. Oddly enough the passenger window was intact and a police car had a window shot out.”
Hetznecker said Moses was struck twice in the neck and in the chest. Bell was shot 14 times and managed to survive. Carolyn Moses said she wants justice for her son.
"I felt like my son was murdered by the Philadelphia Police Department," she said. “When I first heard that Jamil had been shot I thought it was a mistake, until my daughter, who just happened to be at Temple Hospital because her son was sick, confirmed it. A numbness came over me; you never expect to have to bury your child. What really bothers me is that I never got a call from the police telling me what had happened, maybe because my daughter learned that Jamil had been killed and they assumed I already knew, I don’t know. I don’t understand how this could happen. Maybe they were angry over the fact that they had to chase them, again, I don’t know. But Jamil was unarmed – he didn’t have a weapon and they never found one. It bothers me to no end – why would they shoot him like that?”