By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –Neighbors in West Philadelphia have launched two efforts to support the 20-year-old pizza delivery man who was shot three times by plainclothes police officers last month under circumstances that have raised community concern.
Philippe Holland was left in critical condition following the April 22nd shooting, near 51st Street and Baltimore Avenue. The official word from police was that the shooting may have been the result of a “misunderstanding” (see related story).
“There’s a bit of dismay and a bit of alarm about how this happened,” says Patty Bulack, who started “48th Street Neighbors,” a loosely organized group of residents who live in the area. She says the group was founded three years ago after a rape-robbery in the area and has a good relationship with the 18th police district.
But in the weeks following the shooting, residents have expressed concerns that this type of incident could happen again.
“It was heartbreaking — my heart broke for him and his family,” says Bulack, who lives near the scene of the shooting and recalled hearing helicopters that night. “We want to ask if there is another way to look at this.”
She says the 48th Street Neighbors are circulating a letter requesting police transparency surrounding the incident, as well as details on the department’s policy regarding use of undercover police officers.
So far, Bulack says, about 100 neighbors have signed on.
“It seems to us [Phillipe] didn’t know who [the cops] were and thought that perhaps he was being robbed, and this led to his desire to leave the scene, which caused the situation to escalate,” she says.
The neighbors say they want plainclothes officers identifying themselves more clearly during altercations to prevent future misunderstandings. They also have asked questions about the experience of the officers who shot Holland.
“We’re not out to crucify the department in any way, but we do want to give neighbors an opportunity to express their concern,” says Bulack, who praised police commissioner Charles Ramsey for visiting Holland’s bedside.
“We’re asking the department for more accountability around these types of incidents,” says Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the city’s Police Advisory Commission. Anderson lives near the site of the shooting and is a member of 48th Street Neighbors.
“The department has been remarkably candid with regard to what has happened this far,” says Anderson. He says this incident rests in the shadows of the federal investigation surrounding the Philadelphia Police Department’s allged use of excessive force. “We are watching very closely to see what the outcome is in this investigation and all the investigations,” he says.
In addition to the petition, 48th Street Neighbors and others in the area started a “Fund for Phil,” to raise money to help the family pay for Holland’s rehabilitation. So far they have raised more than $2,400.
“We want the family to know that they are in our prayers and we are behind them,” says Bulack. “We’re not going to let this issue drop.”
You can make donations in person at the Mariposa Food Coop, 4824 Baltimore Avenue, or online via Paypal, where the family has set up an account. Specify “FundforPhil@gmail.com” as the recipient of the funds.
For more on the community letter or to sign it, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.