A civil-rights lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court against Philadelphia and two police officers in the death of Brandon Tate-Brown, who was fatally shot by one of the officers during a struggle following a traffic stop in December.
The suit, filed on behalf of Tate-Brown's mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, seeks to be certified by a judge as a class action, opening the door for other people who were subjected to excessive use of force by Philadelphia police to seek nonmonetary relief.
Tate-Brown, 26, was driving a Dodge Charger from the rental company where he worked when he was stopped Dec. 15 by Officers Nicholas Carrelli and Heng Dang in the 6600 block of Frankford Avenue in Mayfair. Police alleged that he had a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol with eight rounds inside the car and that a struggle ensued. He was shot in the back of the head by Carrelli and died at the scene.
In April, attorney Brian R. Mildenberg filed a similar complaint in Common Pleas Court, and that was amended in July after the Police Department identified the officers and released surveillance video that showed part of the confrontation.
The new complaint contains civil-rights claims, and seeks to be linked to a settled case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that monitors the city for racial profiling.
The federal lawsuit calls for the court to supervise implementation of 91 recommendations contained in a U.S. Department of Justice report released in March to change the Police Department's deadly force practices.
As with the previous complaints, the federal suit strongly suggests that police planted the gun in the car after Tate-Brown died.
The city did not respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.
The police initially said Tate-Brown was reaching into the passenger side of the car for the gun when he was shot.
That explanation was repeated until June, when the department revealed that Carrelli had told internal investigators in march that Tate-Brown was closer to the rear of the car when he was shot.
"The powers that be did not want 'another Ferguson' in Philadelphia, and came out strong, from the morning of the shooting and for a period of six months after, in an effort to taint Brandon's name, and paint him as the aggressor reaching for the gun, when none of that was ever true," the suit states.
Records show that Tate-Brown was arrested at age 19 on attempted murder and related charges in Juniata Park after police said he walked up to two men sitting on a porch, pulled a .40-caliber handgun from his waistband, and opened fire, striking one of the men three times in one leg and grazing the other.
In 2008, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, aggravated assault, and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in September 2012, about four months after serving his minimum sentence. He was scheduled to be on parole until 2017.
The complaint alleges that Tate-Brown's body or the car were moved to make it appear he had been shot near the passenger door to fit the original story.
District Attorney Seth Williams has decided against criminal charges for the officers. He said Tate-Brown was a danger to the officers and the public during the struggle, which lasted several minutes.