[Hpn] Officer justified in Amtrak shooting, D.A. says;Philadelphia Inquirer;6/16/01

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Mon, 18 Jun 2001 15:48:18 -0400


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Saturday, June 16, 2001
Philadelphia Inquirer <http://inq.philly.com>
Region section
Local News
Officer justified in Amtrak shooting, D.A. says
<http://inq.philly.com/content/inquirer/2001/06/16/local_news/pamtrak16.htm>

"Charges are not appropriate" against Dennis Kelly, who shot and killed a 
chair-wielding man, Lynne M. Abraham said.

By Jacqueline Soteropoulos
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

An Amtrak police officer acted in justified self-defense last summer when he 
fired a single, fatal bullet at a threatening man at 30th Street Station, 
Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said yesterday.

Robert Brown, 45, was shot in the chest on July 18 by Officer Dennis Kelly 
after Brown swung a metal chair at another Amtrak officer, Lt. Walter 
Wahler. The officers had been trying to calm Brown, a paranoid schizophrenic 
who had been highly agitated and was shouting inside the station.

"We have concluded that while it was unfortunate that Mr. Brown met his 
demise in the fashion that he did, Officer Kelly was acting in appropriate 
self-defense and defense of his fellow officer," Abraham said.

"Charges are not appropriate against either Officer Kelly or [Lt.] Wahler."

Members of Brown's family were angered by that decision.

"I don't think it's the right thing. I think they should be charged with 
what they did," said Brown's niece Odessa Brown, 38. Her uncle had shared 
her South 26th Street home with her and her children before his death.

"I don't feel it was justified," she said. "I understand that he thought his 
life was in danger by a chair, but he could've done other things. I want to 
know why they had to shoot him and kill him. . . . This has caused so much 
pain for us."

Amtrak officials said neither officer was available for comment yesterday.

Abraham said that the officers had been too far away to effectively use 
pepper spray and that approaching Brown might have further agitated him.

"He was really beyond any sort of control," she said.

Abraham said Brown had a 25-year history of emotional and mental illness and 
had stopped taking two prescribed antipsychotic drugs.

The officers came on the scene after receiving complaints that Brown was 
threatening and pushing people, including a child, inside the train station.

"Lt. Wahler responded and attempted to talk Mr. Brown into leaving the 
station, or at least calm him down. Mr. Brown was in an extreme state of 
excitation and agitation," Abraham said.

Witnesses said Brown taunted Kelly and Wahler, and then picked up the metal 
chair and lunged at Wahler. Kelly immediately fired his .40-caliber Glock 
semiautomatic pistol, striking Brown.

More than 50 passengers, customers and station employees said Brown had been 
cursing and shouting at the officers.

"At all times, these employees and members of the public indicated that Lt. 
Wahler was polite, he did not make any threatening or forceful gestures 
towards Mr. Brown," Abraham said. ". . . Mr. Brown was the aggressor, was 
angry, hostile, very agitated and extremely dangerous."

Abraham said Brown had no alcohol, drugs or medications in his system, and 
added: "This points out the difficulty in dealing with extreme, volatile 
situations with members of the community who have emotional or mental-health 
issues."

Sister Mary Scullion, an advocate for the homeless, believes Brown's killing 
is not an isolated incident.

"I think that the case is symptomatic of the law-enforcement community's 
ability to deal with the mentally ill," she said yesterday. "To kill him 
isn't an appropriate response, in my judgment."

Sister Scullion said she serves on a task force organized by Philadelphia 
Police Commissioner John F. Timoney to review police procedures in dealing 
with the mentally ill.

Amtrak officials thanked Abraham for her work on the case.

"We appreciate the thoughtful and thorough deliberation of the district 
attorney and her staff on this matter," spokeswoman Karen Dunn said.


Jacqueline Soteropoulos' e-mail address is jsoteropoulos@phillynews.com.

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Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA


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