More than police tape, teddy bears left behind

A first-person account from Metro city editor Brian X. McCrone.

When I covered the streets of Philadelphia, many neighborhoods stood out for their memorials to the dead, for their crumbling rowhouses, for windblown rags of yellow police tape around utility poles and stop signs.

Kensington, Mantua, Kingsessing, Point Breeze, Hunting Park, Brewerytown.

I must have visited 150-200 murder scenes from 2006 to 2010 across a city now synonymous with murder and mayhem.

After cutting my chops on the streets of Trenton for four years before coming to Philly, there wasn’t anything that would surprise me. Right? Wrong.

Photographer Rikard Larma and I arrived on Taney Street, a decrepit, war torn side street just north of Cecil B. Moore and just east of 27th Street at about 2 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2010.

A teenager, Brian Crosland, 18, died there hours earlier from what else: gunfire. We were to report the scene for color to a story that already had an ending.

Crosland’s murder had more to it than the commonplace North Philadelphia shooting death. Some in Philadelphia may have remembered him from a high-profile slaying in 2006, when Crosland was allegedly with five other boys, ranging in age from 13 to 16, who went into a white neighborhood in nearby Fairmount with the goal of robbing someone.

None of this I’ll remember about Brian Crosland, the teenager from the 1800 block of Taney Street. Let the words I wrote in 2010 tell you what I remember:

“A piece of cardboard didn’t stick out in the garbage-filled vacant lot along the North Philadelphia corner until Debbie Crosland lifted it to reveal a deep puddle of her teenage son’s thick, red blood.

Brian Crosland, 18, died there in the muddy lot next to a partially collapsed house at Taney Street and West Montgomery Avenue 10 hours earlier. Gunmen robbed him of at least his coat and cell phone around 4:30 a.m., police and family said.

‘They tried to rob him. It’s like neighborhood stick up boys,’ neighborhood resident Yasmin Sterling said standing across Montgomery Avenue from the lot.

His mother Debbie Crosland described him as a ‘person who would give you the shirt off his back’ and that he was working toward a GED.”

One of Ms. Crosland’s family eventually pulled her away from the place her son died. He was disgusted I asked her about her son as we stood over Brian’s blood still so fresh. But as we left, I looked back. Ms. Crosland couldn’t keep herself away from the empty, trash-strewn lot forever. She lived several row houses away, just down Taney Street, near the place her son’s blood marked another location for another memorial.

More from our Sister Sites