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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia family is still grieving a tragic loss and are left asking questions about why an alleged killer was on the streets in the first place.
Christine Smith Starks buried her niece on Tuesday in a Hunting Park Cemetery. She clings to a picture of Amber Therese Jackson. The 25-year-old was fatally shot by her boyfriend last week, according to police.
“She was fun. She was outgoing, lovable,” said Smith Starks. “Everybody loved her. She could go anywhere and be OK.”
Ironically, Jackson was gunned down inside the family business — an advocacy organization to spotlight the city’s gun violence dilemma.
“She was one of the good ones. My niece thought she was safe at our spot,” said Smith Starks.
CBS3 uncovered a troubling past. The alleged shooter, Khaleem Martin, had been arrested in February for aggravated assault and weapons charges.
On Feb. 28, court records show Municipal Court Judge Sharon Losier granted a request from Martin’s lawyer to reduce his bail from $50,000 to $12,000 at 10 percent.
“I just feel that the city failed us tremendously, because that man should not have been out. That man should not have been out of jail,” said Smith Starks.
Records show an assistant district attorney objected, but was overruled by the judge. Martin was out of jail on March 2.
“That man was not supposed to be walking these streets at all,” she said.
A detailed message left for the judge early Wednesday afternoon was not returned.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said it didn’t appeal the bail ruling, saying it would likely have been unsuccessful.
In a lengthy statement, a spokesman pointed out Martin’s February charges were ultimately withdrawn.
“The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is deeply sympathetic to the victim’s family and the pain that they are experiencing, and we want to be clear that we are aggressively pursuing justice in the defendant’s current murder case. Our office strongly objected to the Judge’s reduction of bail for this defendant on February 28th, 2018 for aggravated assault and weapons charges. We did not file an appeal at that time because we did not have any new arguments or information to present. We felt that an appeal was unlikely to be successful. The prior weapons and assault case was withdraw on May 2nd, 2018 because of the repeated failure of a witness to appear. The reduction in bail ultimately was not a factor in why the defendant was released. His release would have happened regardless of the bail amount when the case was withdrawn. Again, we respect the anger and frustration felt by the family of the victim. We will do everything in our power to ensure that justice is done in this case,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
Still, this family is angry at the system, and are convinced warning flags were tragically missed.
“They just don’t want to help,” said Smith Starks. “There’s no help out here.”
A vigil is planned for Thursday evening outside the business where Jackson was shot and killed.
Martin is now being held without bail on a murder charge. Calls to his attorney were not returned.
Philadelphia Police declined to comment for this story.
Jackson leaves behind a 5-year-old son.