Philadelphia has had 187 murders so far in 2012, and law enforcement officials, along with lawmakers and city residents, are concerned about the recent spike in homicides.
In January, as a further incentive for the community to tell police where the city’s most wanted fugitives are hiding, Mayor Michael Nutter announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of these dangerous criminals.
“We will be doubling the funding of our witness assistance program to protect witnesses from that hateful ‘don’t snitch’ mentality. Also, as of today there is a standing reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects wanted for murder, wanted for any homicide in the city. To every criminal out there, I just put a $20,000 bounty on your head. We’re coming for you, we will find you, and people will give up that information,” Nutter said.
So far, although no one has been able to claim a $20,000 reward, that doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to, according to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who said it’s a little early to gauge results yet.
“The $20,000 is for the arrest and conviction of a suspect — and right now we do have some people who are eligible, but it’s still a little early at this point,” Ramsey said. “There are several cases that are still going through the process of the justice system, and that takes some time.”
Is a $20,000 “bounty” enough of an incentive for witnesses and tipsters to override the so-called “no snitching” culture and come forward with information regarding the locations of the city’s most wanted? Some city leaders think so.
“I think $20,000 is more than sufficient, provided of course that people know the police will protect them — witness protection is always a paramount issue,” said Chad Lassiter, MSW, President of Black Men at Penn. “I think we also need to keep the information about the reward money in the minds of city residents through ads and flyers and public information — almost like a campaign. I think if people know the money is there and protection is there, they’re going to keep cooperating with police.”
Bilal Qayyum, longtime community activist and executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, also raised the issue of protecting tipsters and witnesses. Qayyum said there are probably homicide cases where people know who the killer is, and know where they are, but are still afraid of retaliation — even though the suspect probably doesn’t have enough influence to have someone killed even if they’re on the other side of the city.
“The reality is that most of these cats are just thugs who have no real organization behind them — they can’t reach beyond their own neighborhoods. They might have some crazy family members or friends but that’s it. But the perception is that they can. Look at that young girl, Chante Wright who was in witness protection. They couldn’t get her until she left the program and came back to Philly,” Qayyum said. “So is $20,000 enough to really make witnesses or tipsters give up the information? I used to think so, but maybe its not.”
The following local fugitives are wanted for murder. Getting them off the streets will make communities that much safer, and could make someone’s bank account a little fatter. Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts should contact the Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334 / 3335 or dial 911.
The night of June 24 was a busy one for Philadelphia police, who had to respond to several shootings and stabbings that weekend. Among them was George Fox, 44, who was working the bar at T-Barr’s Place, in the 2200 block of South 8th Street. Fox was stabbed multiple times during an attempted robbery. Through reviewing surveillance cameras as part of the investigation, police have identified a suspect in Fox’s killing. Authorities are searching for 31-year-old Omar Wright. According to investigators, surveillance recordings show Wright entering the bar wearing a hoodie and demanding money from Fox. He allegedly stabbed the victim, stole cash from the register and fled the scene.
On Sunday, January 1, at approximately 1:25 a.m., police officers from the 15th District responded to a radio call of gunshots and a male shot on the highway. Upon arrival, officers located an unknown male suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the neck and back. The victim was identified as Gerard Market, 48, from the 4100 block of Orchard Street. Market was rushed to Temple University Hospital, where physicians pronounced him dead at 1:55 a.m. Based on their investigation, homicide detectives issued an arrest warrant for Christopher Johnson, 30, on January 4. Johnson is from the 1300 block of 66th Avenue.
On the night of Thursday, February 9, at 1:29 a.m., police officers from the 39th District were called to the vicinity of Marion and Hansberry Street in response to a report of gunfire. When responding officers arrived at the location, they found 23-year old David McClenic suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation revealed that McClenic was involved in a physical altercation with several males and connected Anthony Baker, 26, with the fatal shooting. Baker’s last known address was on the 6300 block of Algard Street.
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?”