The short life and senseless death of former Frankford High School football star Christopher Spence has been memorialized online, on a building mural in Frankford, and in an forthcoming documentary.
That was cold consolation Monday for Spence's mother, Javese Phelps-Washington, who could not stop crying as she tried to talk to the judge who was about to sentence her son's killer.
"Chris was a good kid," Phelps-Washington said as she wept. "I raised my son to have morals and values. He had a bright future."
"He was no corner boy," she said. "People need to rear their kids to know it's always OK to walk away."
Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson agreed that there was no way to make sense of her son's murder and little he could do to help but offer condolences.
Bronson then did what he could, sentencing Tyrese Ford to 18 to 40 years in prison for shooting Spence, 20, in the chest during an argument last year inside the T&T Lounge, a now-shuttered nuisance bar at Hawthorne and Margaret Streets in Frankford.
Ford, now 21, said nothing before Bronson sentenced him to the term, agreed to as part of his guilty plea to third-degree murder.
"Unbelievable," Phelps-Washington blurted from her gallery seat.
"You extinguished the life of a very special person who could have had a lot to offer the world," Bronson told Ford. "You extinguished his life over a trifle."
That trifle was a perceived insult between two underage men in a bar at 1:30 a.m. Feb. 19, 2011.
Spence had gone with friends to the T&T and was talking to a woman at the crowded bar when Ford accosted him.
Witnesses at Ford's preliminary hearing last year said Ford grabbed Spence's hand and said, "Don't touch her butt."
"You don't know me, so don't put your hands on me," Spence replied, according to witnesses. Ford lifted his shirt, showing a gun in his waistband, warning: "I don't fight."
Witnesses said Spence punched Ford in the face. Ford stumbled, steadied himself, and shot Spence in the chest before fleeing.
Phelps-Washington subsequently joined City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez and others in a successful campaign to close the T&T.
Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman said the bar had a history of violent incidents. On the night of the shooting, Fairman said, bar staff told police nothing had happened, because Spence's friends had already taken him to a hospital.
A month later, after the bar reopened as Deuce's Lounge, Phelps-Washington and others picketing outside were fired on and two protesters were wounded. Bar manager Shamus Armstead, Armstead, 38, was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 7 to 20 years in prison.
In a tearful victim-impact statement, Phelps-Washington recalled hearing her son's voice the day after he was killed telling her to "forgive that boy."
But that did not assuage her anger over the fact that Ford got a plea deal instead of a jury trial - though the sentence was the same.
"Where is the justice today? You tell me, where is the justice?" Vernon Washington, Spence's stepfather, asked Bronson as he wiped away tears.