Darrin Manning’s case of alleged police brutality took a new turn this week when District Attorney Seth Williams and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey publicly announced they would be combining their efforts in the ongoing investigation.
Thealtercation between the 16-year-old high school basketball player and police happened on Jan. 7, on the 1400 block of West Girard Avenue. Questions remain unanswered as to exactly what happened, and Williams and Ramsey said neither Manning’s family or their attorney, Lewis Small, have allowed the teen to be questioned by investigators with Internal Affairs. Both officials said that fact has slowed efforts to determine the truth about what happened. Williams said both he and the commissioner would use every legal option they have available to resolve the case.
“We don’t normally confirm ongoing investigations,” Williams said. “But given the nature of this case, we felt it was important to let the public know that we have been vigorously investigating this case since it occurred. Both the police commissioner and I have worked extensively to combat the perception that justice is not dispensed equally in Philadelphia, and that is why we are joined together today. We are using all the tools available at our disposal to bring this to a fair and just conclusion. And as has been the case since I took office in 2010, we will continue to investigate and prosecute every person in this city who has committed a crime, no matter who they are.”
When asked if a grand jury was being convened to pursue the investigation, Williams didn’t say yes or no to that possibility.
“What I stated was that we would be using every means we have at our legal discretion to find out what happened. That is the maximum I can say to answer that question,” Williams said. ”We’re going to do everything that we can. We’re getting the Internal Affairs division and the Special Investigations unit of the District Attorney’s Office to gather as much evidence as possible; medical records, documents, video tapes, everything that we can to get the truth about what happened that day and report back to the public.”
Ramsey said the incident has been a difficult case to investigate, and progress has been slowed by the fact that his people have not been allowed to interview Manning. He said that although it would be inappropriate for him to personally reach out to Manning’s family or their attorney, they have been contacted by the Philadelphia Police Department. No complaints have been filed with Internal Affairs or the civilian oversight agency, the Police Advisory Commission. A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Carrie Adamowski, said they are aware of the incident and the ongoing investigation. They would not confirm if a complaint had been filed.
“I have not reached out to the family; it would be inappropriate, it’s not my role to do that. We have reached out to his attorney — he’s represented. If they changed their minds in the next five minutes it would be OK with me. I have not taken these accusations or this investigation lightly,” Ramsey said. He added that some of the officers involved in the incident have already been interviewed and further interviews with responding officers would happen fairly quickly. “If something inappropriate or illegal happened in this case, we will get to the bottom of it, and make sure that the appropriate punishment is administered.”
During the press conference the statement was made that some young men in the Black community are afraid to talk to the police and that could have been the reason why Manning ran from officers on January 7.
“First of all, we don’t know if it’s a fact that the majority of young Black men are afraid of police. A significant number perhaps could be, true, but nothing gets resolved if you don’t talk,” Ramsey said. “How do you expect to fix a problem if you’re not willing to help fix the problem? I’ve been here six years and I think I’ve demonstrated that I will take action against officers who act inappropriately. I don’t know what else I can do; I can’t do anything if people don’t come forward and speak. I don’t know if this officer did anything wrong; which is why I’m not releasing their name. You have to have someone say ‘that’s the person that I had contact with.’ We don’t even have that much. Everything we’re doing right now is based on the information we’ve been able to gather, which is insufficient to draw any conclusion about this case.”
Earlier in the week, Democratic State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas said he was calling for the immediate suspension of the Philadelphia police officer who allegedly injured Manning. Ramsey said calling for such action would be premature.
“The state representative has not called me. The state rep does not have access to information that I have and information uncovered in the course of the investigation,” Ramsey said. “I think his call for dismissal is premature and not something that will certainly influence me one way or the other. I will make a decision based on facts and evidence, not on emotion.”
State Attorney General Kathleen Kane said her investigation into how state prosecutors handled the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case has been delayed by difficulty gathering potential evidence and a need to have the report reviewed by a judge.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Kane said she remained committed to releasing the report on the decisions made by former attorney generals Tom Corbett and Linda Kelly.
“Approximately one year ago I appointed H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. to lead the Office of Attorney General’s (OAG) internal review of the Sandusky child sexual abuse investigation,” Kane said in a press release. “At that time, I stated that Mr. Moulton would assist in providing a comprehensive and independent examination of the facts surrounding the handling of the Sandusky investigation’ and that, once the facts have been uncovered we would make these findings available to the public. However, certain factors have combined to slow the process, not all of which were anticipated. Chief among them have been significant and time-consuming challenges in obtaining important written records, particularly emails. For reasons that will be described in more detail when the report is made public, until last fall we believed that OAG emails for the relevant time period had been permanently removed from OAG storage systems (pursuant to a then-existing document-retention policy) and were unrecoverable. Since then, we have developed a recovery process that is ongoing.”
After her election, Kane indicated that prosecutors working under Corbett should have moved faster in investigating the allegations against the former assistant football coach. In 2009 a grand jury was empowered to investigate both Sandusky the late Joe Paterno. Former Penn State University president Graham Spanier, retired vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley are awaiting prosecution in the case. Investigators allege they covered up evidence of Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
Teen charged with multiple robberies
The United States Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday that Abdullah Sirleaf, 19, of Philadelphia, was charged with multiple robbery and gun charges for armed holdups at six different businesses, in Philadelphia and Lansdowne, Pennsylvania throughout June and July of 2013.
United States Attorney Zane David Memeger said Sirleaf is charged with the armed robberies of: Metro Self Storage, 2240 Island Ave. on June 15, 2013; Gulla’s Auto Tag & Insurance, at 6301 Buist Ave. on June 17, 2013; the Sunoco gas station/convenience store, 2500 Island Ave. on June 21, 2013; Kerr’s Building Materials, Inc., 1528 Washington Ave. on June 22, 2013; the 7-Eleven store, 1337 South 58th St., Philadelphia, on June 28, 2013; and the Papa John’s Pizza, 7 North Lansdowne Ave., Lansdowne, on July 3, 2013.
If convicted of all charges,thedefendant faces a mandatory minimum term of 107 years in prison with a maximum of life.
When a vacant warehouse became a raging five-alarm inferno on April 9, 2012 and two Philadelphia firefighters lost their lives, a lot of questions were raised as to who was responsible.
This week, District Attorney Seth Williams was able to answer some of those questions. Two allegedly unscrupulous real estate developers, Nahman and Michael Lichtenstein, allegedly didn’t maintain the property. Scrappers were allowed to strip copper and electrical wiring and investigators allege nothing was done to keep squatters out.
Then, according to the report, the Department of Licenses and Inspections didn’t do its job. Inspections were performed and notices of code violations were issued, Williams said, but nothing happened. In the end, Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney paid with their lives.
The Nutter administration said that a major review of the policies, practices and procedures of the Department of Licenses and Inspections is already underway. A Special Independent Commission to review the Department of Licenses and Inspections was initiated in the wake of the building collapse on June 5, 2013 in which several people were killed.
“The administration is in receipt of the very detailed grand jury report released today by the Office of District Attorney Seth Williams. We thank the grand jury for its lengthy review and hard work. Administration officials will carefully review the report and respond further in the days to come,” said Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison. “For the past six years, the administration has been committed to the continuous improvement of service delivery by city departments, none more so than in the area of public safety. The grand jury report provides a detailed list of legislative and procedural recommendations to further improve safety, and the administration will carefully consider all of them. In connection with these recommendations, the administration has already named a Special Independent Commission to review the Department of Licenses and Inspections practices, policies and procedures with recommendations expected in June 2014. And recently the Philadelphia Fire Department and L&I began regular meetings to identify and address dangerous building conditions, including the use of clean and seal where trespass is an issue.”
Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced the creation of the Special Independent Advisory Commission last year to review and evaluate the Department of Licenses and Inspections through Executive Order No. 6-13. The purpose of the Commission is to review and evaluate L&I’s past and current operations. A final report is due by July 1, 2014.
“This Special Commission will take an in-depth and independent look at the Department of Licenses and Inspections,” Nutter said in a press release at the time. “As mayor, I want to ensure that all of our departments are performing to the highest standard, and this commission will provide a detailed analysis on L&I’s practices and procedures as well as recommendations for improvement.”
The commission will be led by Chair Glenn P. Corbett, an Associate Professor of Fire Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York, and Executive Director Peter Vaira, an attorney at Vaira & Riley, PC.
The Nutter administration’s response followed the announcement by the District Attorney’s Office on Monday about the report on the York Street Fire. Williams said that although Nahman and Michael Lichenstein were the most culpable and failures on the part of L&I contributed to the fatal scenario, there wasn’t enough evidence to criminally prosecute anyone.
The Lichtensteins purchased the empty building at 1817-41 York St. that once was the Thomas W. Buck Hosiery factory in 2008. The grand jury alleged the father and son team took over control of the property but that they did not care about the physical state of the building, or the neighborhood. They turned off the electricity, allowed scrappers to steal cooper and wiring, and did nothing to keep squatters out of the building. The Lichtensteins allegedly paid zero real estate taxes, water and sewer fee. By the time of the fire in 2012, the delinquent taxes totaled near $60,000, and water and sewer fees $13,000.
“The evidence currently available therefore presented significant barriers to an attempt to prove criminal causation beyond a reasonable doubt,” Williams said. “There was no doubt, though, about the actions, and inactions, of various municipal agencies, in particular the Department of Licenses and Inspections.”
According to the district attorney, L&I repeatedly failed to act on serious building and fire code violations that piled up on York Street. The revenue and law departments failed to collect huge debts owed by the owners and never seized the property. Overdue tax notices were allegedly sent to the same incorrect address, four times in a row but city officials had the proper address in their records.
In their report the grand jurors stated that their conclusions were about a failure of government — the failure of city agencies to do their jobs. Unfortunately, they wrote, the available evidence can’t establish that the property owner’s various violations caused the fire.
“Unfortunately, we have reluctantly concluded that there is currently no appropriate criminal penalty for the tale of misdeeds we found,” the report said. “While the building owners violated virtually every regulation that got in their way, they were never held accountable for doing so, and we do not believe that the available evidence can establish that their flagrant code violations and tax delinquencies caused the fire that eventually destroyed their property and the firemen’s lives. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned. Had city departments done their job, these deaths might never have occurred.”
Democratic State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas said he is calling for the immediate suspension of the Philadelphia police officer who allegedly injured local high school student Darrin Manning during a pedestrian stop in January.
On Jan. 7, Manning, 16, a student at the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School, got into a confrontation with a Philadelphia police officer in the 1400 block of West Girard Avenue. Allegations were raised that Manning was injured when a still-unidentified female officer pulled his testicles while he was being searched. According to Officer Thomas Purcell who arrested him, Manning allegedly punched him three times and ripped the radio off of the officer’s uniform. He has been charged with simple assault, resisting arrest and recklessly endangering another person. He has a hearing in Family Court set for March 4.
“This officer should be suspended immediately,” said Thomas, who represents the 181st District, where the incident happened. “If the facts we hear are true, desk duty is a slap in the face of the family. She should not be working at all. There was no reason for her to put her hands on him when he was already under control. Further, a female officer is not supposed to pat down a male, especially when there were male officers present.”
Thomas said that Manning was racially profiled and arbitrarily stopped.
“This was an unprovoked assault and battery on that young man,” Thomas said. “The Philadelphia Police Department and the community need to be clear on what she did to cause the extent of his injury. It is my understanding that Darrin’s attorney has called for a federal investigation into the matter. Due to the extent of his injury I think that city, state and federal agencies need to investigate this incident. I don’t understand why the District Attorney has charged Darrin with assault when he’s the one who’s been brutalized.”
The investigation into allegations that Philadelphia Police officers roughed up Manning remains open.
There are many unanswered questions abound in the case. Manning was allegedly headed to a basketball game scheduled to be played at Berean Institute. Exactly what precipitated the confrontation between him and police remains unanswered. The police claim they had probable cause to stop him. Exactly which female police officer caused the injury that ruptured one of Manning’s testicles also remains open, although a female office was placed on desk-duty.
No complaints have been filed with either the Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau or the civilian oversight agency, the Police Advisory Commissions. As for official complaints with federal agencies, Carrie Adamowski, spokesperson for the Philadelphia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the agency is aware of the matter. She offered no further details regarding the filings of any official complaints.
“Obviously this is a serious issue and we are watching how this unfolds, but they have not filed a complaint with the Commission and I’ve not heard from the parents or the boy’s attorney asking for our involvement,” said Kelvyn Anderson, Executive Director of the Police Advisory Commission. The Commission is the official civilian oversight agency of the Philadelphia Police Department. It conducts investigations of complaints of police misconduct.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey also reiterated that no complaints against any of the officers involved in the reported incident have been filed.
“No, no complaints have been filed,” Ramsey said. “We’ve reached out to them but they refuse to allow us to speak with the young man.”
Two women were shot, one fatally in the latest in a series of deadly purse snatchings in Philadelphia.
On Sunday night police were called to 53rd and Market streets just after 2:30 a.m. in response to a shooting outside the Tropical Heat Bar. When officers arrived at the scene they found a woman suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest.
She was pronounced dead at the scene and has been identified as Melissa Thomas, 29. A second woman, age 35, was wounded in the arm by gunfire; her name has not been released by authorities. She was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in critical condition.
Investigators said the two women were leaving the bar when they were approached by two young armed Black males wearing hoodies. They demanded money and the women gave them their purses.
The robbers decided to open fire anyway and fled the scene. Detectives are reviewing surveillance videos from the area for leads, but as of Tribune press time no arrests have been made.
In an unrelated purse robbery police arrested two suspects in connection with an incident that happened on Jan. 30 at 26th Street and Lehigh Avenue. A couple was walking toward their car when an armed man grabbed the woman’s purse and fled down Lehigh Avenue. The boyfriend pursued the robber and a second man shot him in the chest. He was rushed to Temple University Hospital where he is listed in critical condition.
Almost a half hour after the shooting, police officers stopped and questioned three men, two of whom fit the descriptions of the men they were looking for. After further investigation, police arrested Rasheed Hall, 26 and Clinton Brown, 20. The two have been charged with robbery, theft, weapons offenses, assault and related charges.
On Jan. 19 another unrelated deadly purse snatching happened in the city’s Northern Liberties section. On the date in question Amber Long, 26 and her mother, Stephanie Long was walking in the vicinity of Front Street around 10:30 p.m.
Two still unidentified males approached the women and snatched their purses. One of the men shot Long once in the chest. Responding medics rushed her to Hahnemann University Hospital where she pronounced dead.
A standing $20,000 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any murder suspect in Philadelphia. Anyone with information can call the Homicide Unit at (215) 686-3334 or 3335.
On Feb. 2 at 11:21 a.m., police responded to a report of a shooting in the 1700 block of West Juniata Street. When officers arrived they found the victim inside the doorway of his residence suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. He has been identified as Marcus Robinson, 31. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by responding medics at 11:25 a.m. The motive remains undetermined and no arrests have been made.
A second deadly shooting happened a few hours later at 3:17 a.m. Officers from the 12th District responded to a report of gunfire in the 1200 block of South 57th Street. When they arrived at the scene officers found the victim on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to the head and multiple gunshot wounds to the back.
He was rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where he was pronounced dead by physicians at 3:35 a.m. He has been identified as Pierce Johnson, 27, from Berlin, N.J.
Police found a second shooting victim later in the 5700 block of Hoffman Street. The 23-year-old male, whose name has not been released, had been wounded in the chest and face.
He was rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in critical condition. The shooters have been described as two young Black males; one was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt. The other was wearing a tan hooded sweatshirt.