PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Tuesday morning, the family of a retired Philadelphia police officer shot and killed 20 years ago will go before a judge to ask him to leave a man involved with the murder behind bars for another decade.
Retired Police Officer Frank King’s life was cut short just a few days before Christmas 1998 and his two sons who spoke with Eyewitness News say they are still devastated.
“He was a larger than life type individual when it comes to the middle class. Salt of the earth type regular guy,” Ace King said of his father.
Frank King and friends were relaxing at Regan’s On The Boulevard when authorities say several men walked in to cause trouble.
“A shotgun was put to a woman’s head. The barmaid; and he intervened and probably saved her life,” son Tommy King said.
King was retired from the force at the time and was unarmed when he protected the bar employee. He was shot and killed. The man who pulled the trigger, Robert Ramirez, is behind bars for the rest of his life.
Another man, Aaron Smith, who was with Ramirez but did not pull the trigger was convicted of second-degree murder. He has been in jail for almost 20 years. He was sentenced to life in prison, but a U.S. Supreme Court decision put out in 2016 indicated cases like Smith’s, must be resentenced. Juvenile life in prison cases are currently being resentenced across the United States.
“We understand the ruling. Do we totally agree with it? No, but we will accept it,” Ace King said.
What the family will not accept is Smith getting out of prison in the near future. Ace King says he met personally with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner who indicated he would possibly recommend parole for Aaron Smith.
“Overwhelmed. Disgusted in how this family has been treated,” Ace King said.
Though Smith didn’t pull the trigger, King and his family believe he should be behind bars for another ten years. Ace King will read a victim impact statement in front of Aaron Smith and the judge on Tuesday.
“I’m going against two defense attorneys on Tuesday. I am battling both sides. I am my own advocate for my own family and other families. I am the law on my family’s side and for my dad’s name,” King said.
Krasner, through a spokesman, released the following statement to Eyewitness News about the case:
“Our heart goes out the family of retired Officer King, who lost his life some 20 years ago heroically resisting a robbery that occurred in a bar he was patronizing.
I and other high-level DAO supervisory personnel met with Officer King’s son and spouse at length at his request. We appreciate his interest, questions and input. We are still following up on one of his requests. We also understand the re-traumatization families go through when re-sentencings of juvenile lifers take place as required the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that life sentences for juveniles violate the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court held it is unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to mandatory life sentences due to their immature brains, which make them less capable of consequential thinking and more capable of rehabilitation than adult offenders.
As a result of that ruling, only one of the men involved will be re-sentenced. He was a juvenile when the killing occurred almost 20 years ago. The two men who carried guns and used them that day continue to serve life in prison without any possibility of parole.
The defendant who is being re-sentenced did not fire, provide, or handle the gun used. He did not struggle with Officer King. He did not mastermind the robbery, lead it, or transport the other participants.
He was convicted of the lesser charge of Second Degree Murder, also known as felony murder, rather than pre-meditated murder (First Degree), because of his lower level of participation and culpability compared to other participants. The defendant’s positive adjustment in custody and other important factors supporting the DAO’s sentencing recommendation have also been considered, as required by the Supreme Court.
The sentencing recommendation of the Philly DAO, in this case, is consistent with other juvenile lifer re-sentencings by the Philadelphia courts. It is consistent with plea offers currently and previously given by the Philly DAO in this and prior administrations. It consistent with the DAO’s policy of evenhanded treatment and of using public resources to support services that actually prevent violent crime in the future–by making resources available for public education, drug and mental health treatment, economic and community development, and community policing. Finally, the sentencing recommendation by the DAO is also consistent with public safety as shown by the very low level of recidivism for juvenile lifers who have been re-sentenced and are no longer in custody in Pennsylvania.”