4 held for trial in bus strafing: Video captures targeted shooting at rider following his remark to a young mother.
Joseph A. Slobodzian - INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Riding SEPTA's Route 47 bus late on the afternoon of June 18, Lefenus Pickett couldn't sit by as a young mother spanked her toddler for running in the aisles.
"I told her, that's child abuse, that's a little boy," Pickett said.
It turned out that the woman was not interested in unsolicited parenting advice.
Pickett, 37, told a Philadelphia judge Thursday that he watched the angry woman call someone on a cellphone, then sat stunned when the bus stopped at Seventh Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue and he saw two men with guns waiting on the sidewalk.
Pickett riveted the Municipal Court hearing as he narrated the incident - projected in court from a video captured by seven cameras on board the bus as it was hit by 13 shots, with passengers diving to the floor.
At hearing's end, Judge James M. DeLeon ordered four of six people held for trial on attempted murder, conspiracy, and other charges in the assault in which Pickett and a dozen other passengers were terrorized. No one was wounded.
Those held included Penny Chapman, 20, who seemingly took offense when Pickett chastised her.
Also held were brothers Karon and Raheem Patterson, 19 and 21, the alleged gunmen, and Angel Lecourt, 18, paternal uncle of Chapman's son. Prosecutors say Chapman allegedly pointed out Pickett to Lecourt and said, "I want you to shoot that [racial slur]."
DeLeon dismissed charges against Lawrence Rahyle, 18, and Keith Bellamy, 23. Both appear in the video with the Pattersons and Lecourt outside the bus. A police officer in the neighborhood 15 years identified all six, all North Philadelphia residents, and said they knew each other. But DeLeon said there was no evidence to show that Rahle and Bellamy were more than spectators.
Assistant District Attorney Morgan Model Vedejs asked DeLeon to stay the pair's release and said she would move to refile the charges.
Chapman's attorney, Joseph D. Lento, and Louis A. Mincarelli, representing Lecourt, asked DeLeon to set bail, but the judge refused.
DeLeon said the video shows Lecourt holding open the bus' rear door as Chapman identifies whom she wanted shot.
As for Chapman, who wept periodically through the hearing, DeLeon was unmoved by Lento's plea to let her see her son: "She started this thing. She put them in jail. She can stay in jail with them."
Pickett, who was seated across from the bus' rear door behind a short metal partition, said he was stunned when the bus stopped and he saw the men with guns waiting outside.
"At first I froze for a minute as I stood up," Pickett testified. "But when I saw them actually shooting, I was just trying to move toward the front of the bus."
In the video, the gunmen are seen raising their weapons at the open door. Pickett stands and hurdles the partition and other seats to join passengers in the rush to the front.
As the bus pulls away, a bullet shatters a side window and goes through a seat occupied by a woman who had just hit the floor. Passengers rush forward, some piling on top of each other in the stairwell of the front door.
The driver, Desmond Jones, an Army veteran from South Philadelphia, floored the bus, called police, and rushed to Temple University Medical Center.
Police used the emergency room parking lot to interview the passengers.
"It's pretty amazing that no one was killed," said Vedejs.