Shooting victims no-show in court

May 16, 2008 6:32:48 PM PDT
The city's case against three shooting suspects beaten by police stalled Friday when the victims failed to show for court and police revised their theory on who pulled the trigger. Nineteen police officers remain on desk duty over the May 5 beating, which was captured on videotape by a news helicopter and, in the words of Commissioner Charles Ramsey, has given the department "a black eye."

Philadelphia police believe the men in the stopped car had been involved in a nearby triple shooting, but initially said the gunman himself had gotten away.

On Friday, police pointed to one of the car's occupants, 19-year-old Pete Hopkins, as the triggerman. But the gun has never been found, Lt. Frank Vanore confirmed.

A preliminary hearing set for Friday was postponed until July 17 after the victims, who had been shot in the legs and torso, failed to show.

"It will be interesting to see what actually is testified to at this preliminary hearing, especially given the fact that police changed their story today," said defense lawyer Evan T.L. Hughes, who represents suspect Brian Hall. "I think that's pretty significant."

He denies that Hall, 23, has any link to the shooting, and describes him as a Wal-Mart employee - at least until his arrest - with no prior record. Hall's family has posted his $300,000 bail, but co-defendants Hopkins and Dwayne Dyches, 25, remain in jail.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Meehan Sweeney said she had assurances from two of the victims that they would appear, and spoke to the mother of the third.

"I fully expected them to be there," she said Friday.

The judge Friday also declined to hold a bail hearing for the jailed suspects, citing a need to recuse herself, the lawyers said.

Dyches' lawyer, Robert Gamburg, said his client had never been charged with any violent crimes, and called his $1.5 million bail "excessive."

"No matter which version of events you believe, he's nothing more than, at best, present - and I'm not even conceding that he was present," Gamburg said.

"My understanding is that they heard gunshots and did what any other citizen would do. They ran away," he said.

Activists affiliated with the Rev. Al Sharpton attended the brief hearing - which was held at a police district courtroom - and complained about the police brutality. Eighteen of the officers reassigned during the investigation are with the city, while the other is a transit officer, Vanore said.

"We are tired. We are paying these police to beat us," Paula Peebles, chairman of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Action Network, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "This has got to stop."

Hopkins' lawyer, D. Scott Perrine, has questioned whether police at the scene thought they had captured a fugitive sought in the slaying two days earlier of a Philadelphia police sergeant. Perrine did not return messages left Friday.

"I don't even want to go there, but it's clear that what they did is not proper police procedure," Gamburg said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-05-16-08 1739EDT


Load Comments