Charleston Shooting’s Unique Sorrow for Society Hill Congregation

Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia (Photo by Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons)

Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia (Photo by Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a difficult day for Reverend Mark Kelly Tyler. Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, wanted for Wednesday’s murder of nine people inside Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, has just been captured, and Tyler, like most Americans, is grieving over the tragic shooting.

But for Tyler and his congregation at the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Society Hill, it runs deeper.
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Could Brandon Tate-Brown Family File Criminal Charges if D.A. Won’t?

Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray's police-custody death. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray’s police-custody death. Photo | Matt Rourke, AP

So D.A. Seth Williams won’t bring criminal charges against the officers who shot Brandon Tate-Brown. That doesn’t means the chances for a criminal prosecution in the case have been completely eliminated.

Tate-Brown’s family could still try to press criminal charges. So could activists groups here.

Pennsylvania law allows private citizens to initiate criminal complaints, a feature of the law that is mostly used in relatively minor cases. But a similar law in Ohio is being used by activist groups to press criminal charges against the officers who shot the teenager Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Philadelphia activists say they’re watching that case, and are willing to follow suit in similar cases here.

“I do think there are situations — perhaps the situation of Brandon Tate-Brown — that we should use that law to exercise our rights for justice in Philadelphia,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER, the activist organization that has helped organize #BlackLivesMatter protests in the city in recent months. (He also plans to join Tamir Rice protests in Cleveland during an upcoming trip to the city.)

It might not be easy, however. Read more »

Fatal Texas Shooting Has Another Philly Connection

Police officers stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building.

Police officers stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building.

When two gunmen were killed during an ill-fated attack on a “Draw Muhammad” context in Garland, Texas last month, we pointed out that contest was sponsored by the same organization that paid to put anti-Islam ads on SEPTA buses this spring. But that’s not the only Philly connection to the case.

Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, 43, was arrested last week on charges he hosted the gunmen at his Phoenix home and provided them with weapons for the attack. “He was born and raised in Philadelphia as Decarus Lowell Thomas and changed his name to Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem in 2013,” AP reports. (See the indictment below.) Read more »

Penn Study: Trying Kids as Adults Can Reduce Recidivism

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

A number of academic studies have found that prosecuting juveniles as adults increases the likelihood that they’ll end up back in the criminal justice system, with recidivism going up as much as 20 percent to 30 percent in such cases. This has led some policymakers to try to raise the age that kids can be tried as adults.

But a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania flips that narrative on its head.

In a paper published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, assistant professor Charles Loeffler and doctoral candidate Ben Grunwald tracked the outcomes of 78,142 felony drug arrests of teenagers. They found that processing these juveniles as adults actually reduced their chances of being arrested or charged again after being released — by a significant amount.

“Processing juveniles who are close to their 17th birthday in the adult system is associated with a roughly 28 percent reduction in the relative odds of rearrest or a 5 percent reduction in the probability of recidivism,” the authors wrote. Read more »

“All Clear” Given After Navy Yard Evacuation

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

An “all clear” has been given at the Navy Yard after it was evacuated this morning due to an unspecified “security threat.”

“The threat was reportedly made about 10:30 a.m., and the Navy Yard, in South Philadelphia, and the Naval Support Activity facility (part of the Defense Logistics Agency), in the city’s Lawncrest section, were both evacuated and employees sent home for the day,” KYW reported.

NBC News added: “The U.S. Navy Yard in Philadelphia was placed under heightened security measures Tuesday after the FBI informed the base of a potential threat of a terrorist attack, officials told NBC News.” Read more »

(UPDATED) Lawyer to Seth Williams: Reopen Brandon Tate-Brown Investigation

Brian Mildenberg, center, presents a "Certificate of Truth" to Tanya Brown-Dickerson Monday at City Hall. Mildenberg is representing Brown-Dickerson in a lawsuit over the death of her son, Brandon Tate-Brown. | Joel Mathis

Brian Mildenberg, center, presents a “Certificate of Truth” to Tanya Brown-Dickerson Monday at City Hall. Mildenberg is representing Brown-Dickerson in a lawsuit over the death of her son, Brandon Tate-Brown. | Joel Mathis

Updated with response from D.A. Seth Williams.

The lawyer representing the family of Brandon Tate-Brown called on District Attorney William to reopen the criminal investigation into circumstances surrounding Tate-Brown’s December shooting by police.

Brian Mildenberg said video released by City Hall last week showed that Tate-Brown had been shot near the rear of his car — and not, as police contended for months, at the passenger door of the car, reaching in for a gun.

“That. Was. Never. True.” Mildenberg said at a noon press conference outside City Hall. Read more »

Ramsey Defends Police Statements in Tate-Brown Case

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey on Thursday defended his department’s handling of the Brandon Tate-Brown case, saying his department provided an early, inaccurate account of the shooting because it was rushing to provide the media with the details it sought.

After the December shooting, the department said Tate-Brown was reaching into the passenger side of his car toward a gun when Officer Nicholas Carrelli shot him. Video released by the city on Wednesday showed that Tate-Brown was running around the back side of his car when he was shot. Read more »

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