Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Saturday, January 30, 2016

From ProPublica: their lives need to matter

N A DRIZZLY AFTERNOON in January 2013, almost a month after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 first-graders dead, more than a dozen religious leaders assembled in Washington, D.C.

They had been invited by the Obama administration to talk about what the country should do to address gun violence. Vice President Joe Biden had been meeting with victims and advocates all day, and he arrived so late that some in the room wondered whether he would come at all. When he finally walked in, the clergy started sharing their advice, full of pain, some of it personal. “The incidents of Newtown are very tragic,” Michael McBride, a 37-year-old pastor from Berkeley, California, recalled telling Biden. “But any meaningful conversation about addressing gun violence has to include urban gun violence.”

McBride supported universal background checks. He supported an assault weapons ban. But he also wanted something else: a national push to save the lives of black men. In 2012, 90 people were killed in shootings like the ones in Newtown and Aurora, Colorado. That same year, nearly 6,000 black men were murdered with guns.

Many people viewed inner-city shootings as an intractable problem. But for two years, McBride had been spreading awareness about Ceasefire, a nearly two-decades-old strategy that had upended how police departments dealt with gang violence. Under Ceasefire, police teamed up with community leaders to identify the young men most at risk of shooting someone or being shot, talked to them directly about the risks they faced, offered them support, and promised a tough crackdown on the groups that continued shooting. In Boston, the city that developed Ceasefire, the average monthly number of youth homicides dropped by 63 percent in the two years after it was launched. The U.S. Department of Justice’s “what works” website for crime policy had a green check marknext to Ceasefire, labeling it “effective” — the highest rating and one few programs received.

McBride wanted President Obama to make Ceasefire and similar programs part of his post-Newtown push to reduce gun violence. He had brought a short memo to give to White House staffers, outlining a plan to devote $500 million over five years to scaling such programs nationwide. His pitch to Biden that day was even simpler: Don’t ignore that black children are dying too.

In response, the vice president agreed urban violence was very important, McBride said. But it was clear that “there was not a lot of appetite for that conversation by folks in the meeting,” McBride recalled.

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In today's NYT: Facebook bans gun sales on its site

by Vindu Goel and Mike Isaac

Facebook is banning private sales of guns on its flagship social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service, a move meant to clamp down on unlicensed gun transactions.
Facebook already prohibits people from offering marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs for sale, and the company said on Friday that it was updating its policy to include guns. The ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns. Licensed gun dealers and gun clubs can still maintain Facebook pages and post on Instagram.
Although Facebook was not directly involved in gun sales, it has served as a forum for gun sales to be negotiated, without people having to undergo background checks. The social network, with 1.6 billion monthly visitors, had become one of the world’s largest marketplaces for guns and was increasingly evolving into an e-commerce site where it could facilitate transactions of goods.
The ban thrusts Facebook into the center of another major societal debate. Discussions over gun control have flared anew after the mass shootings last year in San Bernardino, Calif., and a community college in Oregon, among others. In January, President Obama gave a speech promising to tighten enforcement of laws governing unlicensed gun sales. In response, some individual sellers said they would turn to sites like Facebook, which allowed them to freely advertise guns for sale.
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Monday, January 11, 2016

In last week's Delco Times: a year of loss and grief

By Rose Quinn:
ROBERT EDWARDS, 31, was shot and killed Sept. 11, 2015, in Chester. According to Chester police, members of the Chester Police Narcotics Unit were requested to assist the FBI with the execution of a search warrant in the 600 block of Highland Avenue. The warrant involved child pornography and, according to Chester authorities, the FBI planned to perform entry “due to the probability of firearms on location, as well as the FBI assessment on child pornography offenders.” About 6 a.m., FBI agents breached the front door, while announcing themselves. Several shots rang out from within the residence. As a result of shots fired, Edwards was killed.
District Attorney Jack Whelan, the county’s top law enforcement officer, said the case is still pending clearance as a justifiable homicide.
JOSHUA THOMPSON is missed by his father, Stanley Thompson.
Joshua died of multiple gunshot wounds on Sept. 26, 2015, in East Lansdowne. He was 25.
According to East Lansdowne police, he was found shot in the street, in the 100 block of Lewis Avenue, about 8 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call East Lansdowne police at 610-259-2308.
JAMES MOORE III, 25, liked nice things. His name on the streets was “L.V.,” for high-end designer Louis Vuitton. He even had “L.V.” tattooed on his arm.
Moore worked for his father’s limousine company for four years.
“I miss everything about him,” James Moore Jr. said.
The younger Moore was one of four children of Moore Jr. and the late Ireanna Moore. At 45, she died from complications from a medical procedure Sept. 7, 2011.
Moore Jr. was at home in Glassboro, N.J., when he got word about his son’s death — not from police but from someone who had been there on the street.
It was shortly after midnight on Oct. 2, 2015, when Chester police were dispatched to the 1100 block of West Carlas Lane for a report of several shots fired in the area. Officer then received an update from Delaware County Communications indicating a victim was on the ground. Arriving officers were flagged down and subsequently found Moore lying face down in the front of residence in the 1400 block of Ruth L. Bennett Place. Moore was pronounced dead at the scene.
Moore Jr. said he’s not sure how his son, who resided with him, wound up in Chester that night.
“I had to ID him at the Medical Examiner’s office. It was the worst day of my life, one of them. The other was when my wife died,” he said.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In today's Delco Times: Lives cut short, too soon

Third in a four-part series profiling the 34 victims of homicide in Delaware County in 2015.

MICHAEL COLLIER will forever be remembered by his older sister, Mynisha Collier-Toombs, as a sweet man. He would have celebrated his 34th birthday on Jan. 5.

“His family misses him,” the 35-year-old Toombs said. “The pain is unbearable.”

Toombs said Collier left the streets to get his barber’s license, “only to get gunned down in front of our house.”

Colllier was one of five children.

“Everybody loved him. There wasn’t a nasty bone in his body. He did anything for anyone. That’s how we were raised,” Collier-Toombs said. Growing up, Collier-Toombs and her brother had a lot of fun.

“Being only a year apart, we did a lot together,” she said.

The person who killed her brother, she said, took a good man.

“For what?” she asked.

“Nobody ever said anything bad about him. It’s crazy,” Collier-Toombs said. ““People are being shot. It’s not normal. We have to do better in Chester. This ain’t how life is supposed to be. We are supposed to grow old together.”

It was about 9:46 p.m. on May 31, 2015, when Chester police were dispatched to the area of Third and Engle streets for a shooting. Collier was found in the street, bleeding profusely from multiple gunshot wounds. A female was lying at his legs, crying. Collier was pronounced dead at the scene.
A homicide investigation is continuing by Detective Larry Weigand of the Chester Police Department and Detective Thomas Scarpato of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division. Anyone with information is asked to call Weigand at 610-447-8426, Scarpato at 610-891-4900 or 911.

to read more, click here.

In yesterday's Delco Times: 8 lives lost; 8 families picking up the pieces

Second of a four-part series profiling the 34 victims of homicide in Delaware County in 2015.
In a series of profiles running through Wednesday, the Daily Times will be sharing glimpse into the lives of the 34 individuals whose lives were lost at the hand of another in 2015.
DERRICK BURRELL Sr., 47, was one of 11 children, and the 10th born sibling.

Most people called him Ofie. Except for the children; they called him Mr. Ofie.

“He was my baby brother,” said Cardrina “Cardy” Manning, 71, of Chester. She raised him from about the age of 14.

A handyman, she said he liked to help others, especially senior citizens. He also liked to carry candy to give out to the children in the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what kind.

“If he came to your house and you had a dish of candy, he’d take a handful for the kids,” said Manning.

Since he didn’t have a car, a bicycle was his mode of transportation. He had a couple to choose from.
He was residing on Second Street in Chester at the time of his death.

It was on April 21, 2015, when he was found stabbed to death in a vacant lot near Third and Kerlin streets in Chester. Officers’ attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Manning believes her beloved brother’s spirit lives on, and that he may even be checking in with the family, on occasion.

After Christmas dinner, while Manning was cleaning up the dishes, she said one of the utensils hanging from the wall fell for no reason. It wasn’t the first time something like that has happened. When a photograph of Ofie recently fell to the floor for no reason and the frame broke, Manning replaced the frame and returned it to its rightful spot on the TV stand in her living room – only for it to fall again.

If it’s Ofie, Manning said, it’s OK with her.

A homicide investigation is ongoing by Detective Charles Bothwell of the Chester Police Department, and Detective William Wright of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division. Anyone with information is asked to contact Bothwell at 610-447-7908, Wright at 610-891-4700 or 911.

DOMINIC GEORGE was fatally shot on April 24, eight days after he had a party celebrating his 22nd birthday.

He talked to mom on the Monday before his death.

“He told me, ‘I got it right,’ ” recalled Kristina George-Wright. When she asked her son what he meant, he explained that he’d found a job and would be moving soon to Philadelphia.

George-Wright, who said Dominic was easily “the most challenging” of her eight children, was happy for her son. Before the call ended, they both said, “I love you.”

Throughout his life, her son was surrounded by many good people who loved him. He was the godson of the Fred Pickett, Chester High School’s legendary basketball coach, and Marrea Walker Smith, a former Chester councilwoman, and like a nephew to Chester Police Capt. Darren Alston, she said.

“He was a good hearted young man,” Alston said. “I took him in as family because his stepfather was one of my best friends.”

Alston said Pickett mentored him.

It was about 10 p.m. on April 24, 2015, when Chester police were dispatched to the 900 block of McDowell Avenue in response to reports of shots fired. Arriving officers found paramedics working on George before he was transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. He’d been shot numerous times.

George-Wright now keeps tabs on all the homicides in Chester. She has a banner honoring 193 homicides, dating back to 1980.

Having watched crime shows on TV, she believed her son’s case would have been swiftly solved.
“Here I am, crying the same tears,” she said. “I miss everything…I miss him walking into my house. I miss his smile. I miss his conversation. I miss him being around his brothers and sisters, because they miss him, too.”

Dominic was a special needs child, according to his mother.

“He caused me more hell some days. But he still loved me, and I loved him,” she said. “He’s the one I went to court for, visited in juvenile. But that was in his youth. As a young man, he had changed. He got a job. He took care of his son, and he had a baby on the way.”

Her son sold drugs, and he did time for robbing people, George-Wright said.

“But he did change into a good man,” she said.

A homicide investigation is ongoing by Detective Nelson Collins of the Chester Police Department and Detective Sgt. William Gordon of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division. Anyone with information is asked to contact Nelson at 610-447-8431, Gordon at 610-891-4700 or 911.

DOLAN T. ALSOP was a 60-year-old Darby Borough man who walked with a cane and was known as a harmless drug addict in the neighborhood. He had a crippled left arm – from which stemmed his nickname, “Chicken Wing,” a moniker that those who knew him said he never seemed to mind.

“He was a great guy, everybody loved him. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” said Paula Brown, former Darby Borough mayor and longtime borough resident. “He was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy and it’s a shame his life was taken that way.”

Alsop was found dead in the entrance hallway of a boarding house in the 400 block of Main Street in Darby Borough in the wee hours of May 8, 2015. Early on in the homicide investigation, Darby Borough Police Chief Robert Smythe said Alsop’s killer was lying in wait.

In announcing murder charges May 14 against 17-year-old Rashon Sargent, Smythe said, “This guy at 17 is a cold-blooded murderer.”

In November,2015, Sargent, 18, was convicted of first-degree murder, following a two-day trial. He was also found guilty of possessing an instrument of crime, but not guilty of robbery. Jurors deliberated for more than five hours.
to read more, click here.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

In today's Delco Times -- the Faces behind the numbers

by Rose Quinn

First of a four-part series profiling the 34 victims of homicide in Delaware County in 2015.
Delaware County’s homicide rate was down by 30 percent in 2015, but the emotions of loved ones left behind are as high as ever, regardless of circumstances.
In a series of profiles beginning today and running through Wednesday, the Daily Times will talk to many of those surviving family members, including mothers like Deborah Anderson and Lita Smith, who both lost sons to gun violence in Chester within the first 24 hours of 2015. By sharing some of their most precious memories, they and other parents, grandparents and siblings offer a glimpse into the lives of many of the 34 individuals whose lives were cut short by the hand of another in eight municipalities in Delaware County – Chester, Yeadon, Norwood, Upper Darby, Darby Township, Darby Borough, East Lansdowne and Eddystone.
Of the 34 homicides last year, the Jan. 25 shooting of Terrance Reason in Chester and the Feb. 4 shooting death of Tyler Williams in Upper Darby were ruled justifiable, while the shooting deaths of 16-year-old Fasaad Johnson and 31-year-old Robert Edwards in Chester are pending justifiable clearance, according to District Attorney Jack Whelan, Delaware County’s top law enforcement officer, and Chester and Upper Darby police.
Edwards was one of two police-involved shootings in the county last year.
“I’d love to get to zero,” said Chief Robert Smythe of Darby Borough, which had two homicides in his town last year.
RAMON ANDERSON, 22, could play chess by the time he was in the fourth grade.
“He’d give me a run for my money,” said his mother, Deborah Anderson, who taught him the board game. “He was highly intelligent.” He also liked fencing and wrestling. Before graduating from Upper Darby High School in 2010, Anderson attended The Christian Academy in Brookhaven. His mom, 61, who resides outside Chester but in Delaware County, said his fencing and wrestling talents could have taken him to Temple University on a scholarship, but his heart wasn’t in that.
“He loved baseball. He wanted to play professional baseball,” she said.
Anderson, the youngest of five children, was deeply spiritual, according to his mom. When he lost a friend to gun violence in Upper Darby six or seven years ago, “he was devastated that someone could be gunned down for no reason,” she said.
“That is what happened to him … he was defending someone he considered a friend from a group of people when he lost his life,” she said.
It was about 12:52 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2015, when police were dispatched to the 1400 block of Culhane Street in Chester for a report of a subject down. Arriving officers found Ramon Anderson, 22, laying on the ground in a side yard on the block, unresponsive and with multiple gunshot wounds.
At the time of his death, Ramon was residing with his father in Chester, though his mother said he had plans to move out of the city.
In addition to his parents and siblings, Ramon left behind his two children, son Ramon Jr., 1 ½, and daughter, Ramya, 3.
“Ramon accomplished a lot at 22,” Deborah Anderson said. After working at a day-care facility for six months, he was promoted to manager.
“People that knew Ramon remember his tight hugs, and his genuine love for them,” she said. “When he hugged you, you knew it.”
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Friday, January 1, 2016

In today's Washington Post -- each murder was a person, not a statistic

DIED JAN. 3, 2015

Rahji Jerod Ross, 35

(Family photo)
Ronald McConnell held his son Rahji in the delivery room just moments after he was born on Feb. 8, 1979. He pulled the child, his first, close to his chest, and the tears started falling. McConnell says he felt a life force fill the room. He cried and cried more.
“It was so powerful,” he says. “It was something I can’t explain.”
Starchild. As he held him in the hospital, that’s what McConnell wanted to name his son. It was the end of the ’70s after all, and McConnell has always been a spiritual seeker. Laughing now, he says his wife, Joy Ross, quickly talked him out of it. Instead, he named Rahji after a co-worker he respected.
But that intense closeness he felt for his son would never go away. McConnell, 65, sits on a bench in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill remembering how he brought Rahji here as a child to run around and play football. Lincoln Park is just a few blocks from McConnell’s childhood home, and he likes to think about how it intersects both of their early years. They played in the same playground, ran between the same trees, looked up at the same Lincoln statue, talked on the same benches.
As Rahji grew older, the conversations grew deeper. There were some difficult years. In his teens, Rahji had two children of his own, a boy and a girl. Drugs were an issue for a while. He was locked up and spent some time at the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center.
McConnell doesn’t block out those years, but they don’t begin to define his son for him. “He had some rough times as a youth, but he turned it around,” his father says. “He was working at two jobs. He always provided for his children. He molded himself into a productive citizen.”
What the father remembers most are the things that connected them. He worked out with his son. Running, chin-ups, push-ups, skipping rope, lifting weights. They pushed each other. At 35, Rahji was cut like the boxer Michael B. Jordan plays in the movie “Creed.”
He loved listening to music. All kinds. The Temptations and Stevie Wonder and Lou Rawls. But also Led Zeppelin and Three Dog Night. And Common and Nas. He composed songs on his keyboard and filled notebooks with poetry in beautiful longhand, with lines that revealed his spiritual searching side.
In a poem he titled “Sibling Soul,” Rahji wrote: Aware I know this book of life has more in store than I shall ever know.
The last time McConnell saw his son was on Jan. 2. Rahji, who worked setting up for events at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, was at his parents’ Fort Dupont home with a friend. They were making sandwiches and discussing how dangerous the streets had become.
“They were talking about how much madness there was out there,” McConnell says.
Earlier that day, a stranger had asked Rahji for a cigarette and became belligerent when he didn’t have one. It unsettled him.
The homicide detectives knocked on the door of McConnell’s home on the morning of Jan. 3. Rahji, they told his parents, had been a passenger in a car that had been carjacked in the 2700 block of Bruce Place in Southeast D.C. early that morning. In a crime that remains unsolved, two men wearing ski masks and black clothing had pointed guns and ordered the occupants out of the car. There was a struggle. Rahji was shot multiple times. He was dead by the time police arrived, becoming the District’s first homicide of 2015.
McConnell says he listened as the detectives talked, but none of it was sinking in.
“I heard them, but I didn’t hear them. I didn’t want to hear it. I couldn’t let myself hear it,” he says. “It was like my heart left my body. It was like my whole soul left.”
After the detectives were gone, McConnell tried to make sense of Rahji’s death. It was fruitless. He went upstairs to his bedroom and looked through old pictures of his son. He cried and cried more.
— Joe Heim
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