[Hpn] angry crowd irked by ruling in homeless man's death

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Tue, 19 Jun 2001 13:05:02 -0700


Philadelphia Daily News
Tuesday, June 19, 2001

They're irked by ruling in homeless man's death


An angry crowd of about 50 called for a federal probe into the killing of an
unarmed, mentally ill homeless man by Amtrak officers last July.

Mental-health and homeless advocates who picketed outside Philadelphia
District Attorney Lynne Abraham's office yesterday afternoon said the
officer who shot Robert Brown should be held accountable for his death.

Abraham last week decided not to charge the officer, saying Officer Dennis
Kelly, a 12-year Amtrak police veteran, had shot Brown in self-defense.

But Joseph Rogers, president of the Mental Health Association of
Southeastern Pennsylvania, who organized the protest, disagreed.

"There's enough questions surrounding this case that the evidence needs to
be presented in front of a jury. The police action is questionable, and I
think the community feels that way. We want justice, and Lynne Abraham
didn't give us that," Rogers said.

Late yesterday, Rogers mailed a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice,
asking Chief Albert Moskowitz to investigate.

Moskowitz heads the criminal section of the department's Civil Rights
Division, the same office that prosecuted the Los Angeles police officers
involved in the Rodney King case.

U.S. Attorney Michael Levy of Eastern District of Pennsylvania declined to

Kelly shot Brown, 45, in the chest after he raised a 16-pound chair over his
head and threw it at Lt. Walter Wahle at the 30th Street Station. The shot
was fatal, killing Brown and prompting an investigation headed by Abraham.

Doris Washington of the Coalition Advocating for Disability Rights and
Empowerment, a statewide nonprofit organization that fights for the civil
rights of disabled people and their families, also questioned Abraham's

"Abraham's decision was unfair. Brown had a chair, the officers had a gun. I
think they made an uninformed decision on someone who's mentally ill.
Besides, they could have shot him somewhere else," she said.

Sister Mary Scullion called it a miscarriage of justice.

"It seems to me that people who are poor, homeless or mentally ill don't get
the same kind of status or power as other people in the eyes of the law,"
she said.

Scullion is the director of Project Home, a nonprofit organization that
helps homeless people in the city. Since January, she's been taking part in
a task force organized by Police Commissioner John Timoney to examine other
methods of crisis-intervention programs seen around the country.

The task force is planning to present a program to Timoney that can be
implemented by the city's police to prevent cases like Brown's.

Scullion said the task force was set to make a recommendation within six

*  2000 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.

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