What started as an investigation into a hyper-violent North Philadelphia drug gang in 2003 came to a conclusion Monday when U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick formally imposed 13 death sentences on Kaboni Savage after the jury unanimously voted on Friday that the defendant deserved the state’s harshest penalty.
Savage was convicted recently of 12 counts of murder and 1 count of retaliation of a witness by murder, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson Patty Hartman. Federal prosecutors allege that Savage, a former boxer, ordered the Oct. 9, 2004 murders of six members of the family of Eugene Coleman, a former associate who cooperated with federal authorities and testified against him during this latest trial.
Savage was also sentenced to life in prison for racketeering conspiracy, 10 years for arson and 10 years for conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. If the death sentence is never carried out, Savage will remain in federal prison for the rest of his life.
On May 13, the federal jury found Savage, 38, and his sister Kidada Savage, 30, guilty of orchestrating the Coleman murders and of conspiring to participate in a long-term, large-scale violent drug trafficking enterprise.
The co-defendants in the case, Robert Merritt, 32, and Steven Northington, 41, were also convicted of the racketeering conspiracy. Savage was convicted of 12 counts of murder in-aid-of racketeering. Kidada was convicted of six counts of murder in-aid-of racketeering, all related to the firebombing murders of the Coleman family home. Both of the Savages were also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering, retaliating against a witness by murder and of using fire to commit a felony in the Coleman family murders.
Northington was convicted of two counts of murder in-aid-of racketeering and he is also eligible for the death penalty.
According to federal investigators, Savage’s drug gang operated primarily in the North Philadelphia area from at least late 1997 to 2010. During the course of the investigation into the activities of the gang, federal agents also began to focus on Shamsud-din Ali, a former imam and politically connected community leader. The Ali investigation led to federal agents to the late attorney Ron White, a political ally of former Mayor John Street.
Federal prosecutors allege that witness intimidation backed by murder was the way things got “taken care of” when it came to those Savage thought might testify against him.
In the summer of 2004, federal agents learned that Savage, who had been indicted on drug charges, had determined Coleman might testify against him. With the help of another associate who was also in the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center, Savage allegedly managed to convey his threats against the Coleman family.
Savage allegedly ordered the murders of the family of government witness Eugene Coleman through Kidada, who federal agents learned handled her brother’s affairs while he was in custody. She allegedly recruited Lamont Lewis who had already allegedly carried out several other deadly shootings on behalf of the gang. Along with Merritt, the two men allegedly firebombed the Coleman family home on Savage’s orders which Kidada Savage relayed to Lewis.
On Oct. 8, 2004 Kidada allegedly promised to pay Lewis $5,000 to burn down the Coleman home and kill members of the family. Lewis and Merritt broke down the door of the Coleman residence and threw in filled burning gasoline cans, incinerating the home. The payment turned out to be $2,000 to $5,000 worth of PCP oil and a few ounces of cocaine to resell. Lewis gave Merritt $500 and a used car.
In addition to the murders of the six people inside the Coleman home, Savage was convicted of:
the March 19, 1998, murder of Kenneth Lassiter, age 44, of Lansdale, Pa., near the corner of 8th and Butler Streets in Philadelphia.
the Sept. 6, 2000 murder of Mansur “Shafiq”Abdullah, age 22, of 11th Street, Philadelphia. Abdullah was shot and his burned body was later recovered in the 4200 block of North Park Avenue, in Philadelphia.
the Sept. 13, 2001 murder of Carlton “Mohammed” Brown, age 27, of Darien Street, Philadelphia.
the Feb. 26, 2003 murder of Barry Parker, age 32, of Susquehanna Avenue, Philadelphia, by Kaboni Savage and Steven Northington, in the 3900 block of North Franklin Street, in Philadelphia.
the March 14, 2003 murder of Tyrone Toliver, age 26, of Cherry Hill, N.J. In the 3500 block of North Palmetto Street in Philadelphia.
the March 1, 2004 murder of Tybius Flowers, age 32, of K Street, by Kaboni Savage and Steven Northington, in the 3700 block of N. 8th Street in Philadelphia.
Federal prosecutors allege that Toliver was a customer of Savage’s who was seen as being untrustworthy, so Toliver was shot to death inside Coleman’s apartment. Tybius Flowers was a witness to the murder of Kenneth Lassiter, a rival drug dealer and Flowers was going to testify against Savage.
According to prosecutors, Savage’s vows of revenge against those who either crossed him or threatened to testify against him were wide ranging. After the deaths of Coleman’s family, on Nov. 9 and 10, 2004 he allegedly threatened to kill more witnesses, their families and government informants.
On Nov. 12, 2004, federal agents recorded Savage allegedly plotting to kill the children of witnesses to keep them from testifying. “You took me away from mine; I’m gonna try to take you away from yours. The fight don’t stop ‘til the casket drop.”
As police often expect, once the warmer weather sets in, the number of shootings start to rise across the city. There were several unrelated weekend shootings in the city according to police, one of them fatal.
On Sunday around 10 p.m., officers from the 19th Police District were called to the 6000 block of Jefferson Street in response to a report of gunfire. When police arrived at the scene they found a 29-year- old Black male on the ground dying from multiple gunshots. The victim, identified as William Ware of the 500 block of North Paxon Street was rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in critical condition. Ware was pronounced dead at 2:33 a.m. As of Tribune press time no arrests have been made.
At 11:24 p.m. officers from the 12th District were called to the 6700 block of Trinity Street in Southwest Philadelphia in response to another report of gunfire inside a residence on the block. When officers arrived they entered the residence and found a 30-year-old male suffering from a gunshot wound to the lower back. He was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where he remains in stable condition. As of Tribune press time no arrests have been made.
Around the same time officers in the 22nd District were called to the 1900 block of North 32nd Street in response to a reported shooting in that vicinity. Police learned that an 18-year-old Black male was transported by a private car to Hahnemann University Hospital. The victim had been shot in the chest and remains in stable condition. Police arrested a suspect whose name was not released to the media as of Tribune press time.
Also on Sunday just before 2 a.m. police were called to the 600 block of South Street in response to a man who fired a gun at a group of women.
Investigators said the suspect, identified as Isaac Carmichael, 43, got into an argument with the women after unsuccessfully trying to make a pass at one of them. When the women asked Carmichael to leave them alone, he allegedly continued arguing with them and pulled out a handgun. Carmichael began walking away but then turned around and fired once. Fortunately no one was hit. Officers on patrol saw the incident and pursued Carmichael to the 700 block of Kater Street where he fired several times at the pursuing officers. Officers did not return fire because of the crowded streets and Carmichael was arrested without injury.
The suspect has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and related offenses.
Straw Purchaser Arrested
The District Attorney’s Office and Attorney General’s Gun Violence Task Force arrested 24-year-old Kurt Kramer of West Chester for allegedly straw purchasing two handguns from a gun show held over the weekend at the National Guard Armory on Southampton Road in Northeast Philadelphia. Kramer is charged with making a false written statement in conjunction with the purchase of a firearm, conspiracy, tampering with public records, unsworn falsification and possession of marijuana.
According to Tasha Jamerson, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF) agents observed Kramer and two other males enter the gun show and check out various guns at different dealers. One of the other males filled out the paperwork to purchase a .380 caliber handgun, but was denied. The other male was then overheard asking gun dealers how many guns could be purchased in one day.
All three males went into the bathroom where GVTF agents overheard Kramer allegedly offer to purchase the .380 handgun for the other two men. All three men walked to Kramer’s car in the parking lot at separate times. When Kramer got to the car, one of the males allegedly passed him a large amount of cash through the car window. Investigators alleged that Kramer went back in to the gun show, filled out paperwork for a background check and purchased four guns from the same dealer, including the .380 that his friend had tried to unsuccessfully purchase earlier. When Kramer returned to the car, he was immediately stopped by GVTF agents who recovered the weapons. The guns included: a .380 handgun, a 9mm handgun, a .40 caliber handgun and a .22 caliber H&K handgun-sized rifle. Agents also recovered a loaded 9mm under the driver’s seat and an AR-15 rifle from elsewhere in the car.
The wife of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell appeared downcast as she left the Criminal Justice Center this week following her sentencing hearing, threading her way through the crowd of reporters and photographers and trying not to make eye contact.
Pearl Gosnell, 51, was accused of helping her husband perform illegal later-term abortions at their environmentally-compromised facility and pleaded guilty in the case. On Wednesday she was sentenced to seven to 23 months in prison. Earlier this month Kermit Gosnell met his fate by being sentenced to three life terms in prison after agreeing to waive all of his appellate rights in exchange for the District Attorney’s Office agreement to take the death penalty off the table.
In addressing the court, Gosnell said her husband displayed cowardice by not pleading guilty in the case.
“I am the wife of Kermit Gosnell. I’m not happy about that now, and I haven’t been for a long time,” Gosnell told the court in a published report. “By choosing to take the cowardly course that he did, my husband has left me to make the apologies. My husband is in jail forever, which is where he should be.”
During the investigation Pearl Gosnell testified before the grand jury that she assisted her husband with abortions on Sundays; the day reserved for special cases. Other staff testified that the clinic was closed on Sundays. Pearl testified that she alone assisted on Sundays, and that her role was to “help do the instruments.” Latosha Lewis and Stephen Massof also testified that they believed that Dr. Gosnell dealt with patients who were very late-term pregnancies on Sundays when his staff was not at the clinic. When Massof came in on Monday mornings he would find bloody instruments in the sink even though they had all been cleaned before the facility closed on Saturday night. When Massof asked Gosnell if he had seen patients on Sunday, the doctor answered, according to Massof, “Oh, yes, I took care of it. I had my wife or somebody help me or whatever.”
Anna Higgins, J.D., director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council said the Gosnell case is evidence of two major problems with the abortion industry; the callous disregard for the health and safety of women and the inhumanity of abortion, especially late-term abortion. She said the problems aren’t confined to the Gosnell case
“For too long, abortion facilities have been allowed to self-regulate. Since these atrocities have been made public, other clinics, such as Planned Parenthood of Wilmington, Delaware, have had to shut their doors due to the discovery of unsafe and unsanitary conditions. These recent closings are indicative of a more widespread problem,” Higgins said. “The lack of concern for both unborn babies and babies that survive an abortion is not an attitude isolated to Kermit Gosnell. More recent reports show other abortionists have no respect for human life and are willing to kill babies, very late-term, or even let babies who are born alive die. One report reveals LeRoy Carhart aborted an unborn baby at 33-weeks gestation in February, and sadly the mother later died from complications. Another report shows D.C. abortionist Cesare Santangelo admitting he would let a child who survives an abortion die.”
Eric Ferrero, Vice President of Communications for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said the case only serves to demonstrate what would happen if stricter laws against abortion come into play.
“This case has made clear that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell,” Ferrero said.
Caesar Holloway, one of eight co-defendants in the slayings of Rian Thal, 34, and Timothy Gilmore, 40, pleaded guilty on Thursday to two counts of third-degree murder. Thal and Gilmore were gunned down inside the Piazza at Schmidt’s apartment complex in June 2009 in a drug-related case.
The defendant pleaded guilty to the two murder counts and two counts of robbery and conspiracy Thal, a party planner and club promoter known as “White Girl”, and Gilmore, a long-distance truck driver, were allegedly moving large amounts of cocaine transported out of Texas and into Philadelphia by Gilmore.
On Saturday, June 27, 2009, just before 5:45 p.m. police responded to a report of a shooting inside the Piazza at Schmidt’s apartment complex, an upscale collection of residences, art galleries, restaurants and night clubs.
The victims were shot multiple times. When investigators gained access to Thal’s apartment on the seventh floor, they found four kilos of cocaine with an estimated street value of $400,000 and over $100,000 in cash. Right away investigators believed it was a drug robbery gone wrong; the would-be robbers got nothing for the lives they took, and the entire incident was recorded by the many surveillance cameras that were strategically placed outside and inside the building.
Police fire on gunmen in three separate incidents
Philadelphia police officers were forced to fire on three suspects during a violent Wednesday night in the city in which one man was killed and two others wounded in unrelated incidents.
On Wednesday around 10 p.m. in the vicinity of Wayne Avenue and Berkeley Street, officers responded to a report of a shooting. The suspect, whose name is being withheld as of Tribune press time, was ordered to drop his weapon and when he refused, officers discharged their weapons. The suspect was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
This was the third incident in which officers had to fire on an armed suspect this week. They were confronted by men wielding guns in the 5600 block of Osage Avenue and on the 400 block of West York Street , also on Wednesday. Both suspects were shot but not fatally wounded.
The three shootings followed a day after Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey requested a federal review of the department’s deadly force policies.
“I recently took the initiative to inquire into having a study done within this department to review our practices, training and policies regarding police related shootings,” Ramsey said in a press release. “I reached out to the COPS office to secure funding and assistance in accomplishing this task. This is not a Department of Justice Audit or Investigation. I am taking a proactive approach to make the Philadelphia Police Department better in this area. Consulting with an independent party will ensure credibility and an objective view in this process of evaluating our policies and procedures. My primary concern is the sanctity of life equally for members of this department and the public we serve. At no point am I looking to compromise the safety of our officers; however, researching and implementing the best practices to be used by the department is essential.”
Woman gets 30 years to life for murder of vet
India Spellman, 20, was sentenced this week to 30 years to life in prison for the murder of George Greaves, 87, on Aug. 18, 2010. Greaves, a World War II veteran, was killed outside his home on the 7900 block of Pickering Street in the Cedarbrook section of the city during an attempted robbery, allegedly by Spellman and Von Combs, who is now 17. Spellman was found guilty of murder in the second degree and related offenses. Combs was convicted in 2011 of second- degree murder.
Investigators said that Greaves’ slaying was part of a mini crime spree in which the two teens allegedly committed an earlier armed robbery in the 7700 block of Rugby Street.
Being a police officer anywhere in the United States is a dangerous and often dirty job where the rewards can be outweighed by the risks.
This week, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey asked that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice conduct a review of the force’s policies concerning the use of deadly force. It’s a request that was made following a spike in police related shootings in Philadelphia over the last few months and Ramsey said the review is the right thing to do.
Ramsey’s request also comes a day before Philadelphia police officers wounded a suspect in an incident that happened on Wednesday afternoon just after 10:30 a.m. in the vicinity of the 2400 block of Fourth Street. The suspect was struck in the back by police gunfire.
“First off, this is not a Civil Rights investigation — this is being conducted through C.O.P.S., Community Oriented Policing Services which offers grants for these kinds of things. C.O.P.S. worked with the Las Vegas Police Department on a similar situation out there and that’s what we’re doing here,” Ramsey said. “When you have as many shootings as we’ve had recently — and we had one just this morning, people start wondering if they’re all justified. We’ve been looking at this issue since December and this is a good course of action.”
According to Police Department Statistics, officers in Philadelphia discharged their weapons at 52 suspects while in the commission of their duties. In 15 of those cases, the suspects were killed. As of 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 24, 2013 there were 18 police involved shootings and 28 police involved shootings for the same time period in 2012.
But under exactly what circumstance can and should a law enforcement officer discharge his or her weapon in the line of duty? When is it appropriate and necessary to use deadly force?
According to the United States Department of Justice, law enforcement officers may use deadly force only when necessary, in other words, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person. Deadly force may also be used to prevent the escape of a fleeing subject if there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury or death, and if the escape of the suspect would pose an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.
In Las Vegas a similar deadly force policy review was conducted in 2012 with the intention of reducing the number of shootings, reducing the number of people killed and to transform the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s organization culture as it relates to the use of deadly force. One of the immediate findings was that officer initiated stopper were more likely to result in a shooting of an unarmed suspect than any other type of contact. The recommendation was that Las Vegas Metro should conduct uniform training on the legal parameters of officer-initiated contacts with civilians and that it should be department wide; starting with the proactive units such as the Gang Crimes Bureau.
In Philadelphia and in nearby Upper Darby several police involved shootings have taken place. On Tuesday night, a team of U.S. Marshals and state police were forced to shoot and kill a former police officer who was being pursued by law enforcement officers following a shooting in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Officials said that Anthony Galla, 32, allegedly broke into the residence of a former girlfriend at about 1:00 a.m. Tuesday and fired several shots at a male occupant, wounding him in the foot. A team of Marshals and state troopers caught up to Galla at the Summit Inn in Upper Darby, where he engaged in a shootout with officers.
Last Wednesday night Philadelphia police were forced to fire their weapons at a pair of armed suspects in unrelated incidents. The first incident happened at 6:30 p.m. in the vicinity of Frazier Street and Wyalusing Avenue where police responded to a report of two armed men. When officers arrived the observed the armed men, who tried to flee from police. One of the suspects headed down the 5600 block of Wyalusing Avenue and was struck by an oncoming car. When officers attempted to arrest him, the suspect raised and pointed his weapon at the officers who fired their service pistols, striking the suspect once in the chest and recovering his weapon. The suspect was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. As of Tribune press time the second suspect remains at large.
On May 22 at around 9:00 p.m. officers responded to multiple calls of a man with a gun in the vicinity of Devon Street and East Locust Avenue in the Germantown section of the city. When officers arrived, the suspect, later identified as 35-year old Belton Lomax, allegedly fled the scene. At some point during the pursuit, authorities said that Lomax pointed the gun at police who fired their weapons. Police report they recovered a Ruger near the body. Family members of Lomax claim he was unarmed and the incident remains under investigation.
“We’re putting people into some very dangerous areas and we want to know we’re employing the best training and equipment. We want to make certain that shooting a suspect is an action of last resort,” Ramey said.
Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW and president of Black Men at Penn said the review is long overdue.
“I think this is the right thing for our police force to do and I welcome the fact that it’s going to be conducted by an outside agency,” Lassiter said. “We should also note that most of these shootings take place in the Black community and most of the suspects are Black males. With that said I would like to see a diversity training component to the recommendations when the review is completed because police need to see the full humanity of the suspects. Some officers might see them as sub-human and when that’s the perspective it becomes easy to use deadly force.”