Meeting held to stop violence in Chester

Pictured: David Johnson and Robel Laboy

April 13, 2011 8:53:16 PM PDT
As the warm weather approaches, and the memories of last week's deadly shooting are still fresh, some residents are asking, "Is it time for another state of emergency in Chester?"

Hundreds of residents showed up at a meeting to address the violence in the city of Chester with special concern for the shooting at a teenager birthday party Friday night.

Many were mourning, but others were angry and fed up with the culture of violence that the city has become known for.

The Mayor of Chester was humbled by the standing room only crowd that showed up at City Hall for what was deemed a meeting of minds; a meeting for the soul of Chester as the blood of its youth continues to spill in yet another outbreak of gun violence and murder.

"Once a child pulls the trigger and takes a life, whether it's a child, man or woman, they're no longer children, they are murderers."

Police say it was late Friday night that the gun violence erupted between two rival groups during a teenage birthday party at the Minaret Temple at 4th & Ward.

When the smoke cleared, 9 people had been shot, 2 of them killed, 18 year old Robel Laboy and 19 year old David Johnson.

Johnson was the nephew of Pennsgrove, New Jersey Councilman Carl Washington.

"It's very painful. Our family has been through enough," said Carl Washington. "Now with this, it's just devastating for us."

Mayor Wendell Butler himself has been touched by the violence proving once again, that no one in Chester seems immune to it.

"I lost my nephew two years ago the same way," said Mayor Wendell Butler. "And every time an incident like this happens, you just re-visit it emotionally all over again."

Some believe it is time for a new "State of Emergency" in Chester, like the 30 day period declared last summer.

"I think we should have a curfew because of the fact we do have so much stuff going on in the city as far as the violence is concerned," said Pat Demioranda.

And with the killer from Friday night's carnage still on the loose, some say it is time to end the "don't snitch" mentality.

"If you do something in front of me, I ain't talking about I heard this or I heard that cause we can only talk about what we witnessed. If you do something in front of me, I'm telling," said James Miller.

Chester has imposed a tough curfew for minors beginning July 1. It is as stiff as last summer's, but so far there are no outright plans for a formal State of Emergency.

Chester Police say they have made three arrests in connection with the violence, but they are still looking for those responsible for the two killings.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Chester Police at 610-447-7931.

The mayor of Chester and Chester City Council members beamed early Wednesday as they presented a big check to the local library. But beneath the smiles, growing concern about another outbreak of gun violence and murder.

Crime-ridden Chester had seen only one murder in 2011 until last Friday night. That is when two teens were shot and killed and eight others wounded. 18-year-old Robel Laboy and 19-year-old David Johnson died outside a rented social hall where a large birthday party was being held. Police believe a neighborhood feud was to blame.

A 16-year-old boy, Kanei Daniel Avery, is charged with weapons offenses. His bail is set at $2.5 million. Chester police say ballistics tests will determine if he will be charged with murder.

According to the Associated Press, 3 others from nearby Claymont, Del., are also charged, including the 19-year-old woman who rented the hall for a party, authorities said.

At Wednesday's City Council hearing David Johnson's grieving uncle, David Nichols, said more city police should be deployed at social events like Friday night's tragic venue.

"In the future, if there is a party in the city of Chester, there should be professional police officers there, not just security guards hired off the street," said Nichols.

At Chester High School, police patrols have been increased as fears spread amid Facebook rumors and threats of retaliation. There is also a growing drug scourge out here involving "wet," a combination of marijuana, PCP and formaldehyde.

"Our children and our youth are walking around in the city of Chester with hoodies on all day in all different temperatures because they are all high off of 'wet,'" said community activist Daryl Sheldon.

Some believe it is time for a new State of Emergency in Chester, like the 30-day period declared last summer.

"If the mayor effects a curfew like last year, a lot of the violence will stop. The cops will be more strict on the streets," said resident David Milbourne.

Information for the Associated Press was used in this report