(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 »

Alice Goffman’s Book on “Fugitive Life” in Philly Under Attack


Last year, Alice Goffman published On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, an adaptation of her dissertation at Princeton. For six years, while a student at Penn and at Princeton, Goffman immersed herself in a Philadelphia neighborhood that she writes is “a lower-income Black neighborhood not far from [Penn’s] campus.” The book is an ethnography of the lives of the young men (and a few women) she hung out with in the neighborhood. She changed names and calls it “6th Street,” to avoid identifying her subjects.

In the book, her subjects are profiled, beaten harassed and tracked by the Philadelphia Police. She writes of police stealing from suspects. She says she witnessed 24 different police raids, including one where she was handcuffed, and four instances of men from 6th Street released from police custody with bloody fingertips.

It was met with massive praise upon release. Goffman, the daughter of esteemed sociologist Erving Goffman and a Philadelphia native who went to the Baldwin School, had already won a major award for her dissertation. Malcolm Gladwell called it “exceptional … devastating.” Cornel West said it was “the best treatment I know of the wretched underside of neo-liberal capitalist America.” The New York Times said it was “a remarkable feat of reporting.”

Goffman, now a professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, has recently come under criticism. An anonymous take-down has floated around in academic circles. Northwestern law professor Steven Lubet, in an essay in the online book review site The New Rambler, accused Goffman of being “an accomplice in the evident commission of a major felony,” as well as getting facts wrong about policing in Philadelphia. Read more »

Here Are the City’s Investigative Files in the Brandon Tate-Brown Shooting

Tanya Brown-Dickerson greets supporters after a press conference at Dilworth Park.

Tanya Brown-Dickerson greets supporters after a press conference at Dilworth Park.

[Update 1:05 p.m.] The documents identify publicly — for the first time — the two officers who were involved in the shooting: Nicholas Carrelli and Heng Dang. Commissioner Charles Ramsey had previously declined to identify the duo, saying he feared for their safety.

Both testified they stopped Tate-Brown’s car for running without headlights. It was during the stop, Carrelli told investigators, “I noticed the butt of a gun between the center console and front passenger seat. I think told the male to ‘Do me a favor, step out of the car.’”

Next Carrelli said:

Carrelli testimony

The struggle reached its conclusion, Carrelli said, when Tate-Brown broke away “and started running towards the car.”

“I didn’t chase after him because I wanted to create some space and draw my weapon,” he told investigators. “As he getting (sic) to the car, he runs around the trunk, and after he gets to the other side of the trunk, but before he gets to the roof of the car, that is when I discharged my weapon one time. The male drops to the ground.”

Carrelli was asked what he was thinking when he fired at Tate-Brown.

“What was going through my mind was that he was going to get to the passenger side and get to the gun. I wanted to discharge before I lost sight of him because I feared he would be able to get the gun before I would be able to protect myself.”

More to come.

[Original 12:24] Investigative files in the Brandon Tate-Brown case were released to the public today by order of Mayor Michael Nutter.

The files — made available on a public Dropbox link — include five videos and two written reports, one examining DNA evidence in the case, the other recounting redacted testimony from the incident that took Tate-Brown’s life.

“Good,” said Brian Mildenberg, the attorney for Tate-Brown’s mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, when told of the document release. He is suing the city on her behalf, alleging that Tate-Brown’s death at the hands of Philadelphia Police constitutes a civil rights violation. Read more »

Hero Cop Stops Rising Sun Pizza Robbery In Northeast Philly

Rising Sun Pizza via Google Maps

Rising Sun Pizza via Google Maps

A Philadelphia Police detective stopped a robbery Thursday night at a popular pizza joint in Northeast Philly, getting in a shootout with a gunman who, it turned out, was literally firing blanks. That suspect died, but another is still being sought.

Late on Thursday night, around 11:30 p.m., an off-duty Philadelphia Police detective dressed in regular street clothes stopped by Rising Sun Pizza at 6919 Rising Sun Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia to pick up some dinner. Read more »

Killer of Off-Duty Officer Sentenced to Life in Prison

Rafael Jones (left); Moses Walker (right)

Rafael Jones (left); Moses Walker (right)

The man convicted of killing an off-duty Philadelphia Police officer in 2012 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after a dramatic hearing.

Rafael Jones, now 25, killed officer Moses Walker Jr. early the morning of August 18, 2012. The Fraternal Order of Police had urged off-duty members to attend today’s sentencing hearing in large numbers.

“The sentence of Rafael Jones followed a dramatic and emotional hearing in which one of Walker’s fellow officers was reduced to tears as he testified that he felt he let Walker down because he was unable to save Walker’s life after being sent to the scene of the shooting,” KWY reports. “Today, Walker’s mother testified that her life has been a living hell since that day. And she told Jones directly, ‘I hope you rot in hell.’” Read more »

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt


For those of us who have been pleading the cause of police reform since before Ferguson spotlighted the issue, Thursday’s acquittal of six Narcotics Unit cops accused of shaking down drug dealers is bound to be a disappointment and discouragement.

This process was never going to be easy.

The truth is: While the case against the six seemed pretty devastating back when you read the indictment or listened to prosecutors announcing the charges, it was rather less impressive once it got back to court.

I attended a couple of days of the trial in the early going. While the details were salacious  — one drug dealer, testifying that the officers had threatened to throw him off a balcony, quoted one as saying, “This is fucking Training Day for real” — the truth is that the case boiled down to the word of drug dealers (and one admittedly corrupt cop) versus the word of a half-dozen police officers. Read more »

Will Philly End Its Rape Kit Backlog?

Natasha Alexenko was a sophomore in college, majoring in film, living in New York City. She’d grown up in a small town in Ontario, raised by a single mom, and all she wanted, all her life, was to move to Manhattan, the place where she’d been born. It had a mythical appeal to her, and when she moved there in the early ’90s, it did not disappoint: she loved every inch of it, and she felt no fear. “I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg,” she says now, riding in a car with her mother after an appearance on the cable news network HLN. Back home, people worried about her, but when she found the perfect apartment with the perfect roommates — a place where she could have a dog, another dream realized — it seemed things couldn’t get much better. It was all going according to plan.

Until the day a man, a stranger, accosted her in the stairwell of her perfect apartment building, jamming the metal of a 9mm semiautomatic into her back and bending her over a railing. He raped her there, he sodomized her, then he fled. Now Natasha, dirty with his fluids, shocked, traumatized, made her way back to her apartment, where a roommate persuaded her to wait for an ambulance. All she wanted was to shower, to get rid of him. But she waited — so close to her soaps and shampoo, so close to clean clothes! — because she’d been raised to respect law enforcement, to cooperate. She wanted to help them do their job, and, well, “my body was a crime scene,” is how she puts it now. Read more »

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