Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Why the accused Roxborough gunman was out on bail at the time of the shooting, despite his conviction for another crime

“Obviously, with hindsight, it is a truly awful situation,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said.

DA Larry Krasner on the scene of the shooting outside Roxborough High School on Sept. 27.
DA Larry Krasner on the scene of the shooting outside Roxborough High School on Sept. 27.Read moreMonica Herndon / Staff Photographer

Yaaseen Bivins was free on bail when police say he took part in a shooting of five teens outside Roxborough High School last month, eight weeks after he was convicted of plowing his car into a pregnant woman and killing her unborn baby while drag racing.

Bivins, 21, was found guilty in August of aggravated assault by vehicle, illegal racing, and causing an accident involving death while unlicensed, but he walked out of the courtroom because prosecutors didn’t ask the judge to revoke his bail and jail him while he awaited sentencing.

Now, Bivins stands accused of joining four other gunmen in a shooting that killed a 14-year-old and wounded four other teens after a football scrimmage last month.

That he was allowed to walk free — and went on to allegedly commit another crime — has heightened criticism of District Attorney Larry Krasner, who has come under scrutiny for policies that detractors say have failed to appropriately punish people who commit crimes.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, for one, has complained in recent weeks that her officers make arrests, only to see those charged set free.

“When we repeatedly see the extensive criminal histories of those we arrest for violent crime, the question needs to be asked as to why they were yet again back out on the street and terrorizing our communities,” she said last week after three SWAT officers were injured in a shooting.

Outlaw declined to comment on Bivins’ case, but a department spokesperson said, “Her previous statement speaks for itself.”

Krasner said in an interview that, in hindsight, he wishes his office had asked for Bivins to be jailed after his conviction. But he said the prosecutor assigned to the case could not have known that Bivins — who had no criminal record and never missed a court date — would go on to commit other crimes.

“Obviously, with hindsight, it is a truly awful situation,” he said. “I’d love to be able to tell you we asked for it. I’d love to be able to tell you the judge did it. But we can’t go back in time.

“The picture of the defendant that was available to the court, and was available to the attorney ... was a very different picture than what we know now,” he said.

Prosecutors routinely ask for bail to be revoked after a conviction if they intend to ask for jail time, former prosecutors said, so the defendant can start serving the sentence immediately.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t ask to revoke bail if you believe this person actually deserves to be incarcerated,” said Chris Lynett, who worked as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia for five years before going into private practice in 2020. “You want him to serve his time and get out.”

Bivins was arrested in July 2020 after he crashed his car into a 27-year-old woman on the sidewalk while drag racing down North Broad Street at 4:30 a.m. The woman, who was seven months pregnant, was seriously injured, and her unborn child died. Bivins was charged with third-degree murder and related offenses.

Bivins’ arrest came during the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic, a time when the courts were attempting to limit the number of people in the jails to limit the virus’ spread. Two weeks after the crash, Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon reduced Bivins’ bail from $1 million to $150,000.

The District Attorney’s Office, which supported the effort to thin the city jail’s population as COVID cases peaked, did not object to that reduction, records show.

The next day, Bivins paid $15,000 bail, or 10% of the full amount as required, and was released on house arrest.

» READ MORE: Roxborough shooter bought the ammo despite his felony record— and state law allowed it

At Bivins’ trial in August, Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Ehrlich called Bivins’ conduct “criminally reprehensible,” but said prosecutors had not proved that he acted with malice, according to a trial transcript. So he rejected the third-degree murder charge and found Bivins guilty of aggravated assault by vehicle and causing an accident involving death while unlicensed, crimes that could have put him behind bars for up to 14 years.

Bivins’ lawyer, David Mischak, asked whether his client could look for a job while awaiting sentencing.

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Chung, a 10-year veteran prosecutor, objected.

“I mean, they’re lucky we’re not asking to revoke bail at this point,” she said, according to the transcript.

Since Bivins had no criminal record, Krasner said, a judge would likely sentence him to up to two years in jail and would likely deny a request to increase or revoke bail.

Lynett, the former prosecutor, questioned that decision.

“Even if you think the judge is going to reject it or you’re pretty sure, why not make a record of it?” he said. “He almost killed somebody and he killed an unborn child. That is a basis to hold someone in prison.”

Bivins’ attorney, Mischak, did not respond to a request for comment.

The month after Bivins walked out of the courtroom after his conviction, while he was permitted to leave his home to pick up his siblings from school, he bought 100 bullets and a speed loader from a South Philadelphia gun shop. His felony conviction made that illegal, but Pennsylvania does not require a person to undergo a background check to buy ammunition. So he paid $132.84 and walked out with the ammunition that police say he used in the shooting outside Roxborough High.

He then loaded those bullets into a gun, and with four other shooters, police say, he fired 64 rounds at the teens as they walked to their locker room. Nicolas Elizalde died. A 17-year-old was struck nine times. Three other teens were injured.

Two other alleged shooters — Troy Fletcher, 15, and Zyhied Jones, 17 — have been arrested, and one remains a fugitive.

Hindsight is 20/20, Krasner said. Based on what prosecutors say they knew about Bivins at the time, they handled the case the way they felt was best. Now charged in a second murder case, Bivins faces a potential life sentence.

“A lot of the way people look at this,” he said, “assumes some kind of crystal ball that just isn’t there.”

Staff writer Craig McCoy contributed to this article.