[Hpn] No charges against cops in Amtrak shooting

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 18 Jun 2001 14:00:30 -0700


Philadelphia Daily News
Saturday, June 16, 2001

No charges against cops in Amtrak shooting

No charges will be filed against the Amtrak police officers involved in the
shooting death last July of an unarmed homeless man at 30th Street Station.

Robert Brown, 45, was killed by Officer Dennis Kelly after Brown raised a
16-pound chair over his head and threw it at Lt. Walter Wahler, District
Attorney Lynne Abraham said yesterday.

"Officer [Dennis] Kelly was acting in appropriate self-defense and in
defense of his colleague," the DA said at an afternoon news conference.

Brown was a paranoid schizophrenic who had a "long history" of emotional and
mental illness, she said.

But her decision immediately came under attack by advocates for the mentally

"I'm pretty outraged that we live in a society where an unarmed person could
be gunned down," said Joseph Rogers, president of the Mental Health
Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

"It's not surprising that Lynne Abraham appears to be not the friend of the
man on the street but of the police officer," he said.

Sister Mary Scullion, an advocate for the homeless for more than 20 years,
called the decision "disturbing" and said the police needed to make some

"This isn't the first time that someone who was mentally ill wasn't handled
properly by police," she said. "This situation is really unacceptable."

Abraham said both Philadelphia and Amtrak police were developing guidelines
to deal with the mentally ill.

An Amtrak statement said the transit agency appreciated the "thoughtful and
thorough deliberation of the district attorney and her staff on this

Abraham's investigators interviewed more than 50 witnesses - at least 30 of
whom were civilians - during the probe. Witnesses said the Amtrak officers
had been courteous to Brown and had made every attempt to calm him down
peacefully, the DA said.

The events that led to his death began shortly before 10 a.m. on July 18,
when Brown began threatening and pushing people, Abraham said.

He went into an Italian restaurant and attempted to take a pair of
food-service tongs, and the manager called police. By the time Amtrak police
arrived, Brown was in the 30th Street concourse.

Brown then grabbed the chair and threw it at Wahler, and Officer Kelly fired
one shot, which hit Brown in the chest and killed him, the DA said.

Brown had stopped taking his medication for his schizophrenia for a
"considerable period of time" before he died, she added.

"His history is that when he decompensates from failure to take his drugs,
he becomes violent and acts out," Abraham said. *

 2000 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
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