Members of Philadelphia Muslim leadership are angry and disturbed by a spike of recent bank robberies and other crimes in which the suspects had the temerity to dress as Muslim women, fostering what they say is discrimination and disrespect.
On Tuesday April 24 a group of local Imams were joined by Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., and District Attorney Seth Williams in the City Council Caucus room at City Hall to announce a $20,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone who commits a crime dressed as a Muslim woman.
“The Muslim leadership of Philadelphia, represented by the Majlis Ash’Shura, unequivocally condemns the men who committed these crimes while disguised as Muslim women,” said Imam Isa Abdul-Mateen, Secretary for Majlis Ash’Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. “The Majlis Ash’Shura is announcing a $20,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of these men. Robbery and murder are abhorrent to the Muslim way of life. When criminals commit these acts disguised as our women they place them in danger of being stereotyped, victimized and ostracized by society. We regard this as discriminatory, and this is a hate crime against Muslims. Such cowardly, repugnant criminals are nothing but a plague in our community. We will work with all law enforcement agencies and citizens to remove this cancer from our streets.”
The announcement followed several recent crimes in which the suspects dressed in Muslim women’s attire; a deadly shooting inside an Upper Darby barbershop, and several bank robberies.
“This is a growing concern in our neighborhoods,” said City Councilman Curtis Jones. “In many ways I’m reminded of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, stereotyped because of a garment called a hoodie. The hoodie has become a symbol of fear for many Americans, and in Trayvon’s case, that fear was acted upon in a negative way. This concerns me because there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding Islam and the attire they wear. For cowards to dress as [Muslim] women and perpetrate a crime is absolutely wrong. The district attorney is very concerned about this; the Muslim community is deeply concerned. This places young women in a stereotype and puts them in danger when people view their attire — not for what it is, but as a tool to perpetrate a crime. We cannot stand for this.”
On March 20 just before 12:30 p.m., two suspects entered a Sovereign Bank branch office at 8310 Stenton Avenue dressed in female Muslim clothing. After presenting a threatening demand note, they fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash. The same suspects are believed to have hit a Wells Fargo Bank located at 700 Adams Avenue on April 4. In another unrelated incident on February 18, Sharif Wynn, 27, allegedly shot and killed 35-year-old Michael Turner inside his Upper Darby barbershop on Copley Road. Police say that on the day in question, Wynn allegedly dressed in female Muslim garb, went into the Modern Hair Designs barber shop at 8 Copley Road and demanded money. But once Turner handed over his money, Wynn allegedly opened fire and killed him. Investigators said the motive was a love triangle.
“We’re seeing all too often, cowards who dress in the traditional garb of Muslim women robbing banks and shooting people,” said District Attorney R. Seth Williams. “One of the defendants who participated in the robbery in which Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was shot to death was wearing Muslim women’s clothing. We have to make sure that women aren’t degraded by this. Give us information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the cowards that dress as women in a way that helps them commit their evil crimes.”
Abdul Mateen said these recent criminal acts place a black mark on the Muslim community - a community that has already seen discrimination and fearful reprisals against Muslims, especially following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said he’s also been following the reports of criminals wearing female Muslim attire and thinks the local leadership is handling the situation well. He said he is also concerned that these recent incidents only serve to enflame hatred against Muslims.
“Islamophobes love to see this sort of thing, because it gives them fuel to express their hatred,” Hooper said. “Now they can say, ‘See, this is why Muslim women shouldn’t dress the way they do.’ I think this offer of a reward is the right one in that it increases the likelihood that the criminals will get caught. Yes, this does serve to nurture discrimination — we’ve had reports of several situations where Muslim women were denied service because of the manner in which they dress. I think this is a commendable action, and I hope these men are quickly caught.”
On March 3, 2008 three men, two of them dressed as Muslim women robbed a bank in the city’s Port Richmond section. While trying to make their escape, Howard Cain, Eric DeShann Floyd and Levon Warner were intercepted by Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, who was consequently killed, allegedly by Cain, who was also killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.
“I stand with the leaders of the Majlish Ash Shura in condemning such gutless actions by these individuals,” Jones said. “These crimes are in direct opposition to the Islamic way of life, and I hope these criminals are brought to justice as soon as possible.”
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials laid to rest another murdered Philadelphia police officer Monday.
Officer Moses Walker Jr., was eulogized by Mayor Michael Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and others during a tearful, dignified, and at times, angry going home ceremony held at Deliverance Evangelistic Church. During his remarks, Mayor Michael Nutter used the words of the popular John Lennon song, “Imagine,” to segue into his more caustic remarks regarding the violence that dominates in some communities in the city.
“I like the Ray Charles version best,” Nutter said. “Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one. Imagine a peaceful Philadelphia, where people take responsibility for themselves, their families and their neighbors. I want you to imagine a safer city; we can have one. A city where children can play in the streets, working people go to work, seniors enjoy their lives. We can make that happen.
“I’m angry, I’m very angry that someone would kill Moses Walker. I’m very angry about this. I want to thank our citizens and our men and women in law enforcement that helped track down these killers, because that’s what they do. Whether it’s Moses Walker or any of the other people who are shot, stabbed, robbed or beaten up, we track down those responsible and we catch them. We catch almost all of them; I don’t know why people do this — it’s pretty stupid.
“But I read the Good Book; it tells me, ‘Vengeance is mine saith the Lord’ but while these two are in custody here on this earth, their butts are mine. I’m sick of the ignorance and I’m sick of the violence, sick of the deaths and disruption. I’m sick of it! I’ve had enough!”
Moses Walker entered the Philadelphia Police Academy in March 1993. In August of that year, he was assigned to foot patrol in Center City. After walking the beat in Center City for several months, he was assigned to the 23rd District on March 31, 1994. Moses found a home patrolling the streets of North Central for the next 18 years. By all accounts he was known by both his fellow officers and the residents he served as a courteous, polite and humble man. He was shot to death early Saturday morning, Aug. 18.
Walker was an active member of the Deliverance Evangelist Church and served as a deacon. He was known as an optimistic man. He is the 10th Philadelphia Police officer to die in the line of duty since Officer Gary Skerski was shot to death on May 8, 2008. Officers William Barclay, Charles Cassidy, Stephen Liczbinski, Isabel Nazario, Patrick McDonald, Timothy Simpson, John Pawlowski, and most recently, Brian Lorenzo, all fell in the line of duty.
Officer Moses Walker was killed just a few blocks from the station house. He was a 19-year veteran of the force — just a year away from retirement.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he had met Walker on several occasions before his death. He always had something positive to say, Ramsey said.
“Officer Walker was a faithful minister, son, brother and police officer — one that was taken from us far too soon,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “He finished his tour of duty in the 22nd District as the turnkey, as we call it. That’s the person charged with the safety of people taken into our custody. Not everyone in our custody is happy to be there, and it takes a great deal of patience and skill — and Moses had that. During the vigil on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, two young men came up — who had recently been in custody at the 22nd District, and they were paying their respects because he respected them. I don’t have the answers as to why Moses Walker was killed. None of it makes sense to me. What does make sense to me are the men and women of law enforcement you see here today. In spite of the fact that it never seems to end, they know they make a difference. “
Police officer Moses Walker Jr. was buried at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, Delaware County.
As the aggressive investigation into the slaying of Police Officer Moses Walker continues, as of Tribune press time, the reward for the arrest and conviction of the suspects jumped to $88,000 and could climb even higher.
There’s $57,000 just for the arrest of the killer, and another $31,000 for the prosecution and conviction of those responsible. Much of the money is coming from private donations.
Law enforcement authorities released surveillance video of the two men wanted in connection with the death of Walker, who was gunned down over the weekend in an attempted robbery.
The surveillance footage, released by the Philadelphia Police Department, clearly shows Walker, 40, heading to the bus stop, looking over his shoulder a few times. The footage shows the two suspects, but not their faces, and police and city officials are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying them, in addition to questioning a witness whom police believe saw the entire incident.
“On Saturday, August 18, 2012, at 6:00 a.m., police responded to a shooting at 20th and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. When they arrived they found Officer Moses Walker; he had been shot multiple times. He was transported to Hahnemann University Hospital where he was pronounced dead,” said Captain James Clark of the Homicide Unit. “The investigation reveals that Officer Walker, who had just gotten off from the late tour at the 22nd District, had changed into civilian clothes and was on foot in the direction of 17th and Cecil B. Moore. He then started westbound to try and catch a bus to his home in the 2100 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue, two males approached him. A robbery was announced, and they demanded money from him. At this time, the officer attempted to pull out his off duty weapon. That’s when one of the males fired, striking the officer once in the chest, once in the stomach and once in the hand.”
Clark said they’re fairly sure the suspects live in the area, and are very sure local residents know who they are. Mayor Michael Nutter said that $20,000 of the reward money came from the city. The Fraternal Order of Police put up an additional $20,000. The rest came from private donations. Mayor Nutter has ordered that all city flags be flown at half staff in Walker’s honor. Funeral arrangements are still being handled as of Tribune press time.
“This is just another tragedy, particularly for our police department. I spoke with Officer Walker’s mother, and everyone in their family is deeply affected by this murder,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “At 6:00 in the morning in this area we have to believe that individuals walking the streets and engaging someone they didn’t know, they have to be from that neighborhood and more than likely live in the community.”
Nutter said that the standing reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone wanted for murder is $20,000. That information can be turned over to the police by a phone call, social media and other ways. To offer information, call 215-686-TIPS or go to www.ppdonline.com.
“These people are a menace to society, and we’re asking for the public to give us information. We need to get these killers off the streets,” Nutter said.
Walker, who was a year away from retirement, is the tenth Philadelphia Police officer to die in the line of duty since Officer Gary Skerski was shot to death on May 8, 2008. Officers William Barclay, Charles Cassidy, Stephen Liczbinski, Isabel Nazario, Patrick McDonald, Timothy Simpson, John Pawlowski and most recently, Brian Lorenzo, all fell in the line of duty.
“This department has been through an awful lot,” said Ramsey. “We’ve lost a lot of officers, more than some departments get in 20 years. As you can see the video isn’t very clear, but they’re probably from the area since they were hanging around that early in the morning.”
Capt. Clark said that while no suspects have been named yet, investigators are questioning a man who witnessed the murder. Police are also questioning a fourth individual who was in a white car and who had an arrest warrant for robbery. Clark did not release the name of the individual, but did say they were under arrest for that robbery and was being questioned in Walker’s murder also.
“That robbery is similar to this one,” Clark said. “There have been three or four robberies in the vicinity that fit the same pattern. This individual may not be one of the suspects but he is under arrest for an earlier robbery. We do not believe the witness is associated with the two killers.”
Since 1954, the Hero Thrill Show has been raising money for college scholarships for the children of Philadelphia’s fallen police officers and firefighters. This year, the 58th show, will be held on September 22 from noon to 5 pm at the Wells Fargo Center.
A pep rally and preview of the show was held Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12 on Market Street, between 18th and 19th Streets, and the entire block was filled with fascinated onlookers. The crowd enjoyed the Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team and the Philadelphia Police Bicycle Stunt Team, who will be among the talent on display at the Hero Thrill Show.
“Most of you expect to go home at the end of your workday,” said attorney Jimmy Binns, Hero Thrill Show Inc. president and CEO to the gathered spectators. “For a police officer or a fire fighter, they don’t know if they’re coming home at the end of the day. But they can rest in the knowledge that their children’s education will be taken care of.”
Binns said that the purpose of the Thrill Show is to raise money for the college education of the children of Philadelphia’s firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty. Binns, who took over the running of the show in 2006, said that since that time, the show continues to put 19 children who have lost a parent through school. Widows Ann Skerski, Judy Cassidy and Michelle Liczbinski were among those who attended the pep rally.
“Their husbands lost their lives, but they rested in the security that we would take care of their children,” said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
The Hero Thrill Show Inc. is not affiliated with the Hero Scholarship Fund. For years the two charities both had the same goals, and the show was produced and staged by the Hero Scholarship Fund until it cancelled the show in 2005.
“After carefully comparing revenues of the past several years, including decreases as well as the expenses and difficulty in putting on the show, it has been decided to discontinue the show,” wrote Ruth A. Silwinski, former president of the organization. She clarified her reasons in a second letter.
“The reason for our discontinuance of the show is that it was originally established as a city function and operation,” Silwinski wrote. “Since 1994, we have been forced to operate the show simply because there was no city backing. We cannot continue to lay out money necessary to fund the show each year.”
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and former Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson backed a new entity for the purpose of raising money for the survivors of fallen first responders. Binns, who is a longtime supporter of local law enforcement charities and programs, took over operations in 2006. The Hero Scholarship Fund still remains in business,
“He resurrected the show and gave it new life,” said Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby. “In 2005, only about three hundred people attended the show. Last year we had 40,000.”
The Hero Show was established in 1954 after 10 firefighters were killed in an explosion while battling a fire at a chemical plant in North Philadelphia. Since then, more than 800 families have benefitted from the charity’s financial aid. Some of the most recent recipients are Amber Liczbinski, daughter of slain police officer Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, John Cassidy, whose father Police Officer Charles Cassidy was gunned down during the robbery of a Dunkin Donuts in 2007. Robert Skerski is the son of Police Officer Gary Skerski who was killed while attempting to stop the robbery of Pat’s Café in Northeast Philadelphia.
“When I grew up we knew the police officers who patrolled our neighborhood. We spoke to them and interacted with them, and we’ve gotten away from that,” said former basketball player, now WIP AM sports announcer Sonny Hill. “The next time you see a police officer or a firefighter, do me a favor, do yourself a favor and say hello to them. Thank them for all they do for us in helping to keep us safe.”
Philadelphia homicide detectives have released the name of the victim killed in a triple shooting over the weekend; a victim who was part of a complicated police brutality case that stemmed from what police believed was a retaliatory killing.
The victim, Pete Hopkins, 23, of the 1900 block of North Marshall Street, was fatally wounded by gunfire shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sunday in the 2000 block of North Fourth Street. Hopkins was shot in the chest and taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:57 a.m. A second victim, a 19-year-old male, sustained gunshot wounds to the chest and left arm, and a third victim was picked up by police after attempting to drive himself to the hospital. They are both in stable condition at Temple University Hospital.
Hopkins was a co-defendant in the retaliation shooting of Andrew Couch, who was killed on May 4, 2008. Hopkins, Dwayne Dyches and Brian Hall all stood trial for the shootings of Brandon Crow, of the 400 block of West Raymond Street, D’Angelo White, of the 300 block of West Raymond Street and Gerald Cooper, of the 400 block of St. Luke Street. All three survived the May 5, 2008, incident but what followed made national headlines.
At least 19 officers were videotaped by a camera team in a Fox News helicopter in the beatdown that followed the shooting. The alleged assault by police happened a few days after the murder of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski by a trio of bank robbers.
Hopkins’ court records show he was first arrested at age 13. He had juvenile convictions on weapons offenses and drug dealing. Dyches, Hall and Hopkins denied their involvement in the shooting, and a jury acquitted the trio of attempted murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy and related offenses, even though several undercover narcotics officers observed the shootings.
No arrests have been made as of Tribune press time, but the motive has been determined as an argument.
In an unrelated shooting investigation, police are looking for suspects in a shooting that left a mother and son wounded by gunfire.
The incident happened on May 6 in the Richard Allen Homes complex in the 1000 block of Parrish Street. The victims are a 38-year-old female who was wounded in the left leg and her 15-year-old son, who was wounded in the lower back. Investigators said the victims were innocent bystanders shot when an unidentified gunman in a maroon colored car opened fire on some males standing on the street.
No arrests have been made and the incident remains under investigation.
Suspect still at large; reward offered
A $30,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in the shooting death of an off-duty Philadelphia Police officer early Saturday morning, August 18.
Police said Officer Moses Walker Jr., 40, a 19-year veteran who was up for retirement this year, had just completed his shift at the 22nd District at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue when he was shot several times around 6 a.m. in the 2200 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia. Walker, who was not in uniform, monitored a holding cell at the district. He was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Walker, who was a deacon at Deliverance Evangelistic Center at 2001 West Lehigh Ave., was walking westbound on Cecil B. Moore Avenue when he was approached by a suspect. Ramsey said robbery may have been a motive. Reportedly, Walker was found face down and lying on his unholstered gun
A graduate of Ben Franklin High School, Walker graduated from the police academy in 1993. He had been stationed at the 22nd District since 1994.
Walker, who was not married and had no children, is survived by his mother and five siblings.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Michael Nutter said the city is offering a $20,000 reward and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 is offering a $10,000 reward.
“For the third time this year, Philadelphians and members of the Philadelphia Police Department have been visited by tragedy with the violent death of a respected, veteran police officer,” said Nutter’s statement. “I am calling on all Philadelphians with information about Officer Walker’s death to help the police identify the suspect and bring that person to justice. To that end, the city of Philadelphia is offering a $20,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the suspect in the murder of Officer Walker. I have also ordered that all city flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Officer Walker.
In addition, the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 is offering a $10,000 reward for the arrest of the suspect in the case.”
Nutter also said three other homicides occurred in the city late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Police said there were no witnesses or known motives in those murders.
The first death came at 11:40 p.m. when a 47-year-old male was shot once in the head on West Rockland Street in Logan. The victim was taken to Einstein Medical Center by police and pronounced dead at 11:58 p.m.
The second homicide occurred on the 4900 block of W. Girard Avenue when a man in his 20's was shot at 2:19 a.m. while inside a green Toyota Camry. The victim was shot multiple times and pronounced dead the scene by medics.
The third death came at 3:40 a.m. on the 2200 block of S. 63rd Street when a 23-year-old man was shot once in the back and once in the right arm. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by medics.
“I also want to note that Officer Walker’s tragic death this morning comes following a night where three civilian Philadelphians lost their lives to senseless gun violence,” said Nutter. “We offer our condolences and prayers to the families of these men.
“We will not make headway in dramatically reducing the scourge of gun violence and the proliferation of illegal guns until we as a community stand together and offer all information that we have on the perpetrators of violence in our city.”
Ramsey said Walker's death is a blow for a department still mourning the loss of Highway Patrol motorcycle officer Brian Lorenzo, who was killed last month in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 95.
"We literally just removed the mourning bands from our badges last week for Officer Lorenzo, and now it appears we may be putting them right back on again, so it's tough," said Ramsey. "This department has been through an awful lot. In just the 4½ years that I've been here, this would be the seventh officer we've lost, which is more than some departments get in 20 years."
From 2006 to 2009, eight officers died in the line of duty from either gunfire or vehicular assault. Half of those deaths occurred in 2008, two of them when stolen vehicles rammed their cruisers.
The general homicide rate in Philadelphia has risen sharply in recent years. After falling to more than 300 a year in 2009 and 2010, the City of Brotherly Love recorded 324 homicides last year and is reporting just under one homicide every day so far this year.
In May 2006, Officer Gary Skerski became the first officer slain in the line of duty in Philadelphia in a decade when he was shot responding to a robbery at a bar.
In October 2007, Officer Chuck Cassidy, 54, was shot to death when he interrupted a robbery at a Dunkin' Donuts.
In May 2008, 39-year-old Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was shot and killed following a bank robbery.
A few months later, 30-year-old Officer Patrick McDonald was shot and killed by a fugitive he had chased down after a traffic stop.
Officer Isabel Nazario was killed in September 2008 when a teenager crashed a stolen SUV into her cruiser. Sgt. Timothy Simpson, 46, was killed in November 2008 when a man fleeing police in a stolen car hit his vehicle.
In 2009, Officer John Pawlowski, 25, was killed while responding to the attempted robbery of a cab driver despite wearing a bulletproof vest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.