Mom Says Philly Police Used Drop Gun to Justify Shooting

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The mother of a black man whom Philadelphia police shot in the back of the head during a traffic stop claims in court the officers planted a gun on him.
     Before describing the Dec. 15, 2014, altercation that took her son, Tanya Brown-Dickerson’s April 28 complaint points to a report last month by the Justice Department that slammed the Philadelphia Police Department for its escalating use of deadly force amid a drop in violent crimes.
     Brown-Dickerson says the officers lacked cause to stop her son, Brandon Tate-Brown, and have made contradicting statements about why they did so.
     The officers were aggressive from the get-go, according to the complaint, which says that they instigated a struggle and then shot him from behind when Tate-Brown tried to run away from the beating because he feared they would kill him, according to the complaint filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
     Official police reports quote the officers as saying that they stopped Tate-Brown on Frankford Avenue before dawn because he was driving without headlights, but Brown-Dickerson says surveillance video of the “long interaction” shows otherwise.
     Tate-Brown allegedly explained that he was driving the late-model Dodge Charger with permission from his employers at a rental-car company, but the officers claimed that there were inconsistencies in his story since the rental car was registered to a subsidiary of the company Tate-Brown named, according to the complaint.
     Brown-Dickerson says her son complied with the officers’ instructions, but the officer she describes as “Officer #1” had his gun pointed at Tate-Brown “for the duration of Brandon’s time inside the vehicle.”
     Noting that the officers claimed they “were just pulling him over to check on him,” Brown-Dickerson says the fact that “Officer #1 appeared to have his gun drawn during the interaction with Brandon Tate-Brown while he was still in his vehicle is not in accordance with standard police procedure or in accordance with the statement that they were just checking on the safety of a motorist.”
     There is another inconsistency when one considers that a Philadelphia parking authority officer who helped police at the scene “stated that the discharging officer came up to him and told him that Brandon was pulled over because he matched the description of a suspect from an earlier robbery,” according to the complaint.
     “There was no mention of headlights as an issue,” the complaint states.
     Brown-Dickerson says that the officers also never mentioned headlights to the medical examiner.
     “The police officers and the police department have made several inconsistent and seemingly dishonest claims and statements concerning the decision to pull over Brandon Tate-Brown,” the complaint states.
     Though police said that Tate-Brown was reaching for a gun when he was shot, and there was a gun at the scene, Brown-Dickerson says “these police officers have no credibility.”
     “The alleged gun was not recovered from the vehicle for several hours after the shooting,” the complaint states. “During this time, it would have been possible for Defendant police officers to plant a ‘drop gun’ in the vehicle.”
     The officers lied when they said Tate-Brown reached for a gun, and they planted the drop gun to “bolster this lie, and protect themselves from discipline or prosecution,” according to the complaint.
     Though Tate-Brown’s DNA was on the gun, the mother notes that his DNA was “all over the street and sidewalk after the shooting.”
     If the officers didn’t wipe some of that DNA onto the gun they dropped, crime-scene technicians might have done so inadvertently when they placed the gun on the hood of the car, as shown by news coverage.
     Brown-Dickerson says the trajectory of the bullet that killed her son also disproves the claim that he was reaching for a gun.
     “In addition, an unauthorized photograph taken at the scene, from behind police lines, and then posted online, by an unknown person, appears to suggest that Brandon’s body, or the car, was moved after Brandon was killed to position Brandon near the passenger side of the door,” the complaint states. “Supporting this assertion, the Medical Examiner noted in his report that the scene was disturbed.”
     Brown-Dickerson insists that “if Officer # 1 saw anything, it was a cell phone, and not a gun.”
     She claims that there is another red flag in the fact that, “although police claim that Brandon’s DNA is in this DNA ‘mixture’ [on the gun], police have not claimed that Brandon’s fingerprints were on the gun.”
     Brown-Dickerson says the ensuing police investigation that found the shooting justified “lacks all hallmarks of accuracy and integrity.”
     “The police changed their story several time during events,” the complaint states. “The statements and findings of investigation appear to have been embellished to lead to a conclusion that the shooting was justified.”
     Noting that “the police department has refused to release evidence, or the video surveillance of the shooting, to the public,” Brown-Dickerson says the lack of transparency leads to further “questions as to what they are hiding.”
     “The police department has engaged in a failed attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, by refusing to release the video and claiming that Brandon Tate-Brown was reaching into the passenger side door when he was shot, a fabrication,” the complaint states.
     Insisting “that the police evidence cannot be trusted in this case,” Tate-Brown’s mother “seeks a formal finding that the police department has lied during the investigation, and that the jury be instructed as to such lies, and that the jury be instructed that if it believes the police lied or tampered with evidence, that they may find in favor of the plaintiff.”
     Brown-Dickerson seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, false arrest, assault, and violations of the Pennsylvania Constitution and civil rights law.
     She is represented by Brian Mildenberg.
     The complaint calls for the police to implement the 91 recommendations that the Justice Department made “for the department to improve its deadly force practices.”
     “With the 91 recommendations from the DOJ, those deficiencies create situations that can further the mistrust between the police and the community,” Mildenberg said in an interview. “Therefore, we believe that it’s very important for a judge to take jurisdiction over those reforms to insure that each and every one of them are implemented.”
     A representative from the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office declined to comment on behalf of the defendants, stating that the City’s policy is to respond to pending litigation by filing a response in court.

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