The two Philadelphia police officers involved in December's shooting death of a Mayfair man during a routine car stop have been cleared by the department of wrongdoing and returned to street duty, the Daily News has learned.
While police Internal Affairs investigators decided the cops violated no departmental policies, the case remains under review by the District Attorney's Office.
Brandon Tate-Brown, 26, died early Dec. 15 after two officers stopped him on Frankford Avenue near Magee, allegedly because Tate-Brown was driving a 2014 Dodge Charger with its headlights off. The officers said Tate-Brown resisted being handcuffed, violently struggled with them and then lunged for a handgun inside his car, prompting one officer to shoot him.
But TV footage of the scene minutes later shows the car's headlights on, and Tate-Brown's family say they believe he was stopped for "driving while black" and shot in the back of the head by a racist cop. They disputed cops' claim he had a gun in the car and suggested it was planted. Nearby stores' surveillance cameras recorded the incident, but police have refused to release the footage, saying it was part of an open investigation.
Police policy requires officers involved in on-duty shootings to be placed on desk duty until an investigation is complete. A police spokeswoman confirmed that both the homicide unit and Internal Affairs finished investigating Tate-Brown's death and found no evidence that the officers broke departmental rules or otherwise erred. Investigators' findings were given to the District Attorney's Office for review to determine if criminal charges are warranted. D.A.'s spokesman Cameron Kline said his office still is investigating, and he couldn't comment further.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
The officers returned to street duty a few weeks ago, police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said. After the Daily News asked about their return today, Ramsey called Tate-Brown's mother to tell her. Tanya Brown-Dickerson said she learned of her son's death from a TV news report and has publicly complained that police have never talked to her about her son's case.
Since Tate-Brown's death, his family has demanded the cops' names and surveillance footage of the incident, both of which police officials have refused to divulge.
Attorney Brian Mildenberg, who represents Tate-Brown's family, said he wrote to the city Law Department's civil-rights unit several weeks ago to formally ask for the videotape and other evidence in the case. He has gotten no answer yet.
"If the evidence is in favor of the officers and the videotape shows that, that will provide closure to the family and will remove any unwarranted suspicion from the officers and the department," Mildenberg said. "The fact that they are not releasing it has left open questions. Our purpose is not to stand up and say we know this is a wrongful death. We don't know that yet because we have not been presented with the evidence. And in a democracy, that's scary."
The officers' return to active duty didn't surprise Tate-Brown's mother, who does consider her son's death wrongful.
"Of course I'm disgusted with it. But it doesn't discourage me, because that's what they always say," Brown-Dickerson said. "Show us the proof now. They said once the investigation is up, I would get proof. Then show me. Show me the footage. Until I see that, it's not over."
Brown-Dickerson has marched with supporters almost weekly since her son's death, protesting police brutality and demanding answers about her son's case. This Saturday, she and other protesters will march from the scene of her son's death to the 15th District headquarters at Harbison Avenue and Levick Street. On Feb. 28, she'll speak at a rally in Bridgeton, N.J., protesting the Dec. 30 police-involved shooting death of Jerame Reid.
"We're not settling for your systemic oppression," Brown-Dickerson said of the Police Department. "We're not settling for you say, 'Well it's going get better, we're working on it.' You've been saying that for 75 years."