After Ferguson, specter of police violence haunts Philly

A public meeting on community-police relations turned into an occasion for Philadelphians to express anger over the December killing of a black man by police, still an open wound for many.

“We want justice,” said Tanya Brown-Dickerson, mother of 26-year-old Brandon Tate-Brown, who was killed by police Dec. 15. “In Ferguson and New York, those people know the face and name of who killed their loved one. And I have the right to know, too.”

The “Philly After Ferguson” town hall, which was held at Catalyst for Change Church Wednesday, was intended to discuss “policing, politics and perceptions” in the post-Ferguson era.

But many in the crowd took the meeting as an opportunity to question the panel, which included deputy police commissioner Kevin Bethel and SEPTA police chief Thomas Nestel, about Tate-Brown’s death.

Several repeatedly asked the name of the 15th District officer who fatally shot Tate-Brown, and requested the release of surveillance video showing Tate-Brown’s encounter with officers.

“They completely evaded the questions,” said Megan Malachi, 33, a member of Action Against Black Genocide, who called the meeting in general “a farce to placate the public.”

Police said after Tate-Brown’s car was stopped by police Dec. 15, he allegedly scuffled with officers and was running for a gun inside his car when officers fatally shot him.

Tate-Brown’s mother denied that he would initiate violence with police.

“I don’t care what they say. You can’t turn him into a monster,” she said.

According to police, the identity of the officer involved in the shooting and surveillance footage can’t be released while Tate-Brown’s death remains under investigation.

Metro filed a Right-to-Know request to obtain surveillance footage from nearby stores which may show the incident. That request was denied on Feb. 6 in part citing the open investigation.

“For that woman to stand up and say, ‘I have no recourse for my child’s death’ — that’s so tragic,” said Catalyst’s pastor, Keon Gerow, of Brown-Dickerson. “You can only hope that justice is served.”

Brown-Dickerson has no such hope, but did say the meeting sent a message.

“The activists and organizations made it quite clear that we are serious, it is not going away,” she said. “I’m fighting until I get [an indictment].”

She also wants a change in how law enforcement treats suspects, she said.

“I’m hoping for new protocols, new rules, new ways of detaining your offender. You don’t have to kill them. You can disable them. Use a taser. Use a metal baton,” she said.

Chris Norris, the local writer who organized the town hall, said the goal was to help community members meet people in power and learn how to contact them with their complaints. In that respect, it was a success, he said.

“You don’t solve this in one day,” Norris said.

Tate-Brown’s death

Tate-Brown was killed by 15th District police officers after a traffic stop on Dec. 15 in Frankford.

Police say after they saw a gun in the car, he fought the officers, then ran for the gun when they shot him.

But Brown-Dickerson is convinced there’s more to the story.

“They would have already put video out to humiliate me and shut me up if my son was wrong and it was the way they say it was,” she said.

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