More inconsistencies alleged in police account of Brandon Tate-Brown's death
They say the devil is in the details. And the details of Brandon Tate-Brown's December death at police hands are getting more devilishly contradictory daily, the lawyer representing the dead man's family said Thursday.
THEY SAY the devil is in the details. And the details of Brandon Tate-Brown's December death at police hands are getting more devilishly contradictory daily, the lawyer representing the dead man's family said yesterday.
Meanwhile, the head of the Police Advisory Commission yesterday viewed videos pertaining to the incident and provided an account of what they show.
Initially, police said that the officer who shot Tate-Brown during a routine car stop on Dec. 15 in Frankford did so because he lunged for a handgun hidden in the console of his 2014 Dodge Charger as he struggled with two cops outside.
But now, they're saying Tate-Brown also "reached for his waistband" in the skirmish, according to a narrative of the incident police posted on their website.
A police spokesman attributed the discrepancies to the preliminary report issued to the public, which contained information that has since been updated as a result of further investigation.
Attorney Brian Mildenberg said Tate-Brown's autopsy report shows that cops gave the Medical Examiner's Office different details than what police officials have released publicly.
Specifically, police told the Medical Examiner that the officers asked Tate-Brown, 26, to step out of his car because they ran his plates and found they were registered to a different car-rental agency than where Tate-Brown told them he'd gotten the car.
One of the officers noticed the gun, the medical examiner's report notes, after he and his partner approached the car a second time - not upon their initial approach, as police officials have repeatedly said.
Police officials have maintained that the officers pulled Tate-Brown over on Frankford Avenue near Magee because his car headlights were out. However, the police statement made no mention of license-plate discrepancies. Meanwhile, the medical examiner's report makes no mention of the headlights. Instead, investigator Natalie Young notes only the license-plate issue.
Kelvyn Anderson, the executive director of the Police Advisory Commission, viewed footage from the incident yesterday at the behest of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
He also reviewed statements from four witnesses at the scene, as well as other evidence.
"I want to stress that the commission has reached no formal conclusions or judgment with regard to this incident, which is still an open investigation by the police and the District Attorney's Office" said Anderson, who noted that the officers involved have not been "cleared" by the D.A.'s office.
That footage shows that Tate-Brown's vehicle did have its lights on when it was pulled over, but that they were "very dim," especially when compared with other cars on the street, according to Anderson.
The footage doesn't contain much more useful information, Anderson said, but witness statements "consistently describe a protracted struggle" between the officers and Tate-Brown.
During that fight, which witnesses say lasted between three and four minutes, the officers ask "where's the gun," and Tate-Brown tells them it's inside the vehicle.
The fight occurs "on the ground by the driver's side," with Tate-Brown eventually breaking free and opening the nearby door, Anderson said.
He's grabbed again by the officers, but escapes a second time and is shot as he "runs to the passenger side toward the door."
Anderson said that, although the details "add to our collective knowledge," the differences between the police statements and the information in the medical examiner's report "remain unclear."
The fatal car stop was not Tate-Brown's first brush with police: He pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault as well as a firearms violation in 2008, court records show.
He was released from prison on those charges in 2012, and was on parole when he was shot, police sources have said.
Tate-Brown's supporters say they believe he was pulled over for "driving while black" with a new car in a mostly white neighborhood.
"We're trying to uncover the truth," Mildenberg said. "But when the officers are constantly changing the story and the police department is releasing various stories at different points in time, it leads to the question of whether the investigation is being handled with integrity or whether details and embellishments are being added to protect the officers involved and paint the shooting as justified."
Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, acknowledged the discrepancies, but said the information pertaining to the investigation hasn't changed in the "official reports" being examined by the D.A.'s office and the police Internal Affairs Bureau.
"These are discrepancies to someone looking at the case from the preliminary account that came out," he said.
Stanford said the department, acting on pressure from the public, issued a preliminary report on Tate-Brown's shooting as fast as possible during the investigation's "infancy stages" based on the information police had at the time.
"The information is always going to be different," he said. "Those initial reports do not have the same accuracy you have days, weeks and months later, when you've had the opportunity to interview witnesses, view video and canvass the area."
It's not common, Stanford said, for the department to provide regular updates to an investigation - regardless of its nature - so as to conserve the integrity of the probe.
Tate-Brown's family and activists have marched weekly to demand police officials release the names of the officers involved in Tate-Brown's death, as well as surveillance video of the incident from nearby stores.
They've kept pressure up on social media with hashtags like #PPDSerialKillers and #WhoKilledBrandonTateBrown and challenged police supervisors who spoke at a raucous "Philly After Ferguson" community meeting two weeks ago in Powelton.
Commissioner Ramsey last week allowed Mildenberg and Tate-Brown's mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, to see the video in a private meeting at the Internal Affairs office.
Mildenberg said it showed that Tate-Brown was shot as he ran behind the car's trunk, nowhere near the passenger-side door or the loaded, stolen handgun police say was partially hidden in the console.
The video also showed Tate-Brown's headlights were on as he steered his car to the curb, Mildenberg said.
Ramsey has contended that other evidence, including statements from four witnesses, supports the department's account.
On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo