Tuesday, August 4, 2020

'They're Definitely Cooking The Books' -- Philly's Hidden Homicides

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net
When police responded to a July 1st radio call about a shooting on the 2100 block of North Lambert Street in North Philadelphia, they found Albert Chestnut Jr., a 67-year black male, with two gunshots in the head.

Medics transported Chestnut to Temple University Hospital where he was admitted in critical condition. He died two days later.

The cops arrested a suspect on gun charges, as well as aggravated assault, in an investigation that was said to be continuing. But instead of classifying Chestnut's death as an "M" for murder, police marked it "S" for "suspicious."   

A veteran commander who looked over the the police report about the death of Chestnut said it was a mistake. "This is a murder. It should not be an 'S' job," he said. "This is absolutely 100 percent a homicide."

"They're definitely cooking the books," agreed one veteran detective. "At least 50 percent of them [suspicious deaths] are really homicides, and that's being generous." 

The murder rate in Philadelphia -- already the second-highest in the nation among the ten largest cities -- is on a  record pace this year with 255 murders as of Aug. 2nd. That's a 34 percent jump over this point in 2019, when we had only 190 homicides. At that monthly rate, the city will hit 437 murders for the year, the highest number since 2006, when the city racked up 406 murders. The all-time record, which could be broken this year if the weather stays hot, is 497 murders in 1990. 

Along with a record number of murders, the number of dead bodies being classified by the cops as "suspicious" is also on the rise. So far this year, there have been a reported 97 deaths classified as "suspicious," which kept them out of the homicide total. While the department faithfully tracks homicides, it does not publish annual statistics for suspicious deaths.

About the rising number of suspicious deaths this year, the veteran commander said, "Most are definitely being used to hide homicides." He speculated that of the 97 suspicious deaths, as many as 80 of the cases marked "S" are probably murders. 

We've already told you about the death of Albert Chestnut Jr. Let's take a look at three other cases marked S this year.

Case No. 2: On July 31st at approximately 3 p.m., police responded to a request for a "check the well being" on a resident at 2600 block of Hagert Street who hadn't been seen in several days. 

Medics gained entry through a front porch window. Inside, they found "an obviously dead black male in the second floor bedroom" who was in "an advanced stage of decomposition" due to the excessive heat. He was pronounced dead by the medics at 3:15 p.m.

"There was blood splattered all over the house and on several household items that could be used to beat someone to death," one cop said. In addition, the cops were told about several fights that the victim had with other individuals in the days leading up to his death.

But the incident was marked S for suspicious, instead of M for murder. Another obvious homicide, according to the veteran police commander. 


Case No. 3: At 9:42 am on July 15th, police dispatched to 3000 block of Wharton Street discovered the dead body of a woman found in a "large plastic container wrapped in Saran Wrap." She was pronounced dead by medics at 10:12 a.m.

It was another death marked S for suspicious. 

The veteran detective was dubious. "One thing you know for sure, she didn't wrap herself up in that plastic bag," he said.

But the veteran police commander said it could have been "a true S job" because the woman could have died after having sex with a married man. The married man could have decided to dispose of the body by stuffing the corpse in a trunk. Instead of a murder, the veteran commander said, it could have been a case of abuse of a corpse. 

Case No. 4: At approximately 12:10 a.m. on July 16th, police officers from the 35th district responded to a radio call about a person with a gun on the 1100 block of W. Loudon Street.  


Police located the victim, Syhee Sharpe,  a 40 year old black male, lying on the street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the body. The victim was transported to Albert Einstein Medical Center by medics and was pronounced dead at 12:39 a.m. Police at the crime scene recovered multiple spent casings from two different calibers of guns.


Video recovered from the crime scene showed a black male wearing a white T shirt and shorts carrying a gun in his right hand. The police walked over to a neighbor's house on the same block and interviewed a black male who was "an exact match in every way" to the unidentified male caught on camera. The police transported the suspect, who was in possession of a pill bottle containing several oxycodone pills, to homicide for further investigation.


"This is absolutely 100 percent a homicide, even if bad guy no. 1 was shooting at bad guy no. 2," the veteran police commander said. 

Another problem with suspicious deaths: some cops will tell you that Inspector Anthony Washington, the man in charge of the Police Department's Homicide Unit, doesn't exactly inspire confidence with his checkered past.

Between 2011 and 2014, as the Inquirer reported, the city spent $198,000 to settle five lawsuits filed against Washington over allegations that included workplace harassment, civil rights violations, and physical abuse .


Washington was accused of allegedly harassing four female cops as well as a Temple student he met back in 2006 as part of a school project. The student claimed that Washington ogled her and asked what was the sexiest thing she had ever done. She filed a complaint with Internal Affairs but it wasn't sustained. 


Former Police Commissioner Richard Ross defended Washington last year, arguing that no complaint against him had ever been sustained. Ross also expressed confidence in Washington's ability to do the job. But because of the bad publicity over the sexual allegations against him, Washington lost oversight of the Special Victims Unit. 


The veteran police commander I talked to was not a fan. He described the inspector known among his fellow cops as "T Wash" as  "the most corrupt individual I have ever met" in the police department. 

The way the system is supposed to work, when the Medical Examiner decides a suspicious death is really a murder, it should be changed from an S to an M. But cops can tell you plenty of stories about cases where that didn't happen.

When I contacted an official spokesperson for the department, I got a response that my sources claim is B.S.

Here's what was said.

"Good Morning, Mr. Cipriano," wrote Staff Inspector Sekou Kinebrew, commanding officer of the Police Department's Office of Public Affairs and Media Relations. "Thank you for reaching out to us and bringing this matter to our attention, as we are certainly not above reexamining and reassessing investigations."

Kinebrew then told me that "S" numbers don't actually refer to suspicious deaths, they refer to "Special Assignments." And Kinebrew defined special assignments as "sudden death investigations, assistant to other law enforcement agencies, the killing of a civilian, intimidation of a witness, missing persons with suspicious circumstances, and other type incidents investigated by Homicide that are not [or not yet] classified as murders."

My sources thought this explanation was nonsense. "He doesn't even know what the 'S' stands for," one source said.

Kinebrew went on to explain department procedures.

"Procedurally, when a death is clearly the result of criminal murder, the case is issued an 'M' or Murder control number," he wrote. "All other investigations that are assigned to the Homicide Unit receive 'S' or Special Assignment control numbers."

"In many instances a case that is initially assigned an 'S' number is reclassified and given an 'M' number when the investigation determines that the death is, in fact the result of a criminal murder."

Kinebrew then explained that three of the four deaths that I brought to his attention, which were initially reported as S deaths, have since been reclassified as murders. 

For example, in Case 1, the death of Albert Chestnut Jr. was officially reclassified as Murder No. 215 this year, because of a "murder cleared by arrest," Kinebrew said.

Case No. 2, where Kinebrew identified the victim as Johnathan Twitty, became Murder No. 253 this year as part of an "active murder investigation," Kinebrew said.

Case No. 4, Syhee Sharpe, became Murder No. 225, as part of an active murder investigation, Kinebrew said. 

Apparently, Case No. 3, the dead lady wrapped in plastic, is still classified as a suspicious death.

My sources aren't buying it, saying the department was reclassifying S jobs to "cover their asses because you called them out."

In his official explanation, Kinebrew appeared to absolve Inspector Washington of any responsibility for supervising whether a dead body gets an S or an M. Instead, Kinebrew placed that responsibility on the captain of homicide.

"In addition, on a quarterly basis, the Captain of Homicide conducts a review of every Special Assignment to ensure that the correct designation has been given, and that the investigation is proceeding in a satisfactory manner," Kinebrew wrote.

If you're looking for an explanation of why there are more shootings and more murders in Philadelphia -- as most recently evidenced by the murder of a 7-year-old boy shot in the head while he was sitting out in his front porch -- look no further than District Attorney Larry Krasner. 

As our Progressive "reform" D.A., Krasner has presided over the emptying of the city's jails. It began before he took office, but under Krasner's oversight, the great emancipation has proceeded at an accelerated pace.

From July 2015 until June of this year, the city's jail population has declined from 8,082 to 3,875, a decrease of 52.1 percent, according to the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, which has been tracking these criminal justice "reforms."

Many of these criminals let out of jail are armed and dangerous. And when they, and others, are caught illegally carrying guns on the streets of Philadelphia, Krasner's office can be counted on for low bail and favorable treatment, or, in the worst case scenario, plea bargains way below sentencing guidelines. 

The result: more mayhem on the streets. Such as last Friday, when a 32 year-old woman was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle on the 2500 block of Ingersoll Street. According to the cops, seven heavily armed men got out of two vehicles and opened fire on another group.

On Saturday, 7 year-old Zamar Jones was caught in the crossfire while playing on his porch in the 200 block of North Simpson Street. The boy subsequently died from his injuries.

Data cited in an Action News report written by Dann Cuellar shows that Philadelphia is behind only Chicago among major cities when it comes to murders. And that for the fourth year in a row, Philadelphia has more annual murders than neighboring New York City, which has five times Philadelphia's population.

If all our suspicious deaths were marked as murders, we'd be giving Chicago a run for its money as the country's murder capital. Chicago, with more than a million more residents, has 432 murders so far this year. Add up Philly's 255 murders and 97 suspicious deaths and you get 352 dead bodies.

Not only are homicides in Philadelphia up 34 percent over last year, but so are shooting victims. Police crime stats show 1,091 shooting victims this year, a 36 percent increase over this point in 2019, when we had 803 shooting victims.

And so far this year, the city has had 1,815 shooting incidents, where nobody is hit but shots are fired. That's a shocking 57 percent increase over 2019, when at this point we had 1,160 shooting incidents.

Why the big jump in shooting incidents? It's clear that shooters aren't afraid of the consequences of being caught with a gun, or the consequences of being caught for actually shooting someone. 

And that's all on Krasner, because of his lax enforcement of gun crimes.

To document what Krasner is up to, Big Trial has previously tracked 236 gun arrests from July of 2019. Of those 236 gun cases, as of March 16th, the last day the courts in Philadelphia were open, 66 cases, or nearly 28 percent, had either been dropped, dismissed or lost in court by the D.A.'s office.

Of the 236 cases stemming from July of 2019, only 37 defendants, or 15.6 percent, were found guilty, all as the result of plea bargains. In those plea bargains, the result was either probation, where the defendant immediately walked, or a prison term way below sentencing guidelines for gun crimes. Often, the criminals taking the guilty pleas walked immediately for time served.

Of the 236 cases from July of 2019, not a single defendant to date has been convicted by a judge or a jury of being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Out of the 236 cases, only two went to trial, and the D.A. lost both cases.

If you're looking for a poster boy for Krasner's revolving door for armed and dangerous drug dealers, consider Vernon Harris. As previously documented by Big Trial, Harris, only 19, was arrested three times over a 14 month-period for possessing a firearm. The first two times Harris got arrested, it cost him a total of $2,500 in bail to get out of jail both times.

Of course, the most egregious example to date of armed and dangerous drug dealers being freed by Krasner involve the two main suspects charged with the murder of Corporal James O'Connor. Before they murdered O'Connor, drug dealing gang members Hassan Elliott and Bilal Mitchell were repeatedly granted favors and were repeatedly let out of jail by Krasner's office. 

Krasner's culpability for the surging gun violence and record murder rate is so obvious that only the Progressive reporters at The Philadelphia Inquirer, such as longtime Krasner apologist Chris Palmer, can continue to cover for the D.A. by writing stories that absolve Krasner of any guilt

In Palmer's latest opus, about the murder of the seven-year-old, Palmer quotes Krasner as blaming "the availability of guns, as well as poverty, a lack of opportunity, and substance abuse for the ongoing spike in shootings."

In other words, it's everybody's fault but Krasner's. But many people in town know the real story.

As one prominent criminal defense lawyer told me, "All of my clients are out on the street." And they're all packing.

Also deserving of blame for the surging gun violence -- Mayor Kenney and his hand-picked rookie Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. Months ago, the mayor and Outlaw were justly ripping Krasner for his lack of prosecution of gun crimes.

Now, both the mayor and Outlaw are silent, and Outlaw has joined forces with Krasner in an ill-advised collaboration that has Krasner's incompetent assistant district attorneys working banker's hours while hanging out at every police district.

Meanwhile, whether they're marked S or M, the body count continues to grow.

On Aug. 1st in the 200 block of N. Simpson Street, video recovered from several locations on the block show that a driver of a Chevy Silverado stuck his left hand out the driver's side window and opened fire on a group of people standing on the block.

Two males returned the fire. And in the gun battle, seven-year-old Zamar Jones got shot in the head.

The crime was initially classified, not as the city's 256th murder, but as the city's 98th suspicious death.

When I asked Kinebrew if that S had been changed, he wrote back, "Yes, it was an 'S' until the child was pronounced" dead. "It was converted to an 'M' yesterday."

"He's lying to you," a source responded. "It doesn't change that quickly."

That accusation from an anonymous source upset Kinebrew, who called back to clear the record. 

"I answered that question correctly,"he insisted. "Homicide was already investigating. It became an M the minute poor Zamar was pronounced yesterday."

After informing me that most cops know where his office is, Kinebrew issued an invitation to his anonymous critic.

"I invite that person to discuss that with me," he said. "If he or she believes that something else needed to be done [to change an S to an M] I invite that person to explain that to me."


  1. Please keep your foot on the pedal, the grunts in the ppd need you, to let people see behind the curtain is a unique postion to be in.

  2. Ralph, as often is the case, when unjustified or unprofessional conduct or decision making is uncovered, it is impossible for any official to take responsibility for his / her role in the case or issue. I feel like that Pontius Pilate figurines with bowls where each official washes his/her hands of any blame should be passed out to each participant in the case. In city government, we could even have a yearly Pontius Pilate of the Year Award 2020 where the most egregious example of duplicity, scapegoating and spinelessness is recognized at a ceremony where the news media (silent partners) are also invited

    1. Wow, what fun that would be. My nominees in government include Mayor Kenney, D.A. Krasner, and Police Commissioner Outlaw.

      Such a ceremony might be crowded, however, as when you got to spineless enablers, you'd have to invite the entire staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    2. As long as it's crowded, might as well shove City Council in there, as well.

  3. There will never be truth to the numbers, it has always been S and M a S was given one particular case where both def and victims had guns victim dead was S because he had a gun SMH!

  4. According to rules of Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) which the PD is supposed to follow, they should not wait for the ME to classify whether something is a homicide or not. A decision whether a death is a homicide or not is solely up to the police who are responsible for making the initial call. If later the ME says it was an accidental or some other classification, then the detective is supposed to reclassify it. The police deliberately do it backwards because they don’t want the publicity of constantly escalating homicide numbers. If anyone doesn’t believe this, check out the UCR Manual which is available on line from the FBI website.

    There is a flip side to the homicide numbers which the press never reports on. It involves homicide clearances - presently somewhere below 50%. For example, Ifthe city has 300 murders and the clearance rate is 50% the average reader assumes the police made an arrest in 150 of these cases. Not true. Many of those clearances may be for old homicides - some of which may have occurred years or decades ago. A good question to pose to the police is how many of this year’s crimes have been cleared. The percentage will be even worse than most people realize.

    I once spoke to an old homicide Inspector who told me he always kept a few clearances in his drawer for when he needed them. I didn’t understand what he meant until he led me to a very specific UCR rule. UCR permits the police to take a clearance when they can prove that all legitimate suspects for a particular homicide are now dead. The Inspector showed me a clearance he had in his desk from a homicide which occurred in Philadelphia 50 years prior ( I am not kidding) in which all the suspects were dead. He submitted a clearance according to the rules and, at least for that month, the Homicide Unit looked good. Again, if you don’t believe this, go to the UCR manual and look it up! Makes you wonder how many other shenanigans they are using to keep the homicide numbers low.

  5. Wow, is this amazing commentary!!! Definitely has the ring of an insider who knows where the bodies are buried. Would love to hear more!!

  6. Look, I got a lot of flack from cops I know about this blog post. Basically, they say the system at present functions correctly, and that most S jobs that are really murders are eventually changed to M by the medical examiner.

    But with the city under so much media heat for the escalating crime rate, it seems to me that this system is ripe for abuse. There are too many side doors to hide a body in, and the pressure to suppress the true count must be through the roof.

    Human nature tells me such a system, especially if what Anonymous above is saying is true, is too easily subject to manipulation for political purposes.

  7. LIVES MATTER obviously not to themselves!-So sad to wake up and wonder
    r if you;ll be alive for dinner or beyond-and all protests are show-ALL know city is a war zone where any time zips can hit!!!!!@#$%^&

  8. A murder classification should be left up to the Medical Examiner after conclusive evidence is discovered. But you need to watch the ME office too. What happens when the police says it was a homicide, and the ME said it wasn't, WHO DO YOU GO BY?
    Many police in Phila are corrupt and internal affairs failure to arrest the bad ones to protect the good ones are appalling. Selling drugs as a police officer, having sex with suspects as a police officer, stealing suspect vehicles and having them in your home as a police officer. I wonder when the IG for the city will publish abuse in police overtime totaling $18 million in waste will be reported?

  9. This is right from the FBI’s website:

    The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines murder and nonnegligent manslaughter as the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. The classification of this offense is based solely on police investigation as opposed to the determination of a court, medical examiner, coroner, jury, or other judicial body.

    Years ago homicide used to classify some murders as ‘M’ jobs - meaning miscellaneous. If the ME found the case was, indeed, a homicide, it would be reclassified. This runs counter to the FBI rules as indicated above. Here was the benefit of doing this. A questionable death which comes in around late November or December which is sent to the ME rather than be initially classified as a homicide would likely not hit the official homicide counts until the following year. The homicide is not counted in the official stats until it is reported the the FBI regardless of when the crime actually occurred. This has the effect of skewing the numbers lower for the present year but artificially raising them for the next year.

    The whole point is that if the homicides were scored as such when the investigator believed a homicide occurred the counts would be higher. Waiting for the ME to rule is just kicking the can down the road.

    I don’t believe the homicide detectives are responsible for any of this. Making sure the homicide numbers don’t make the press is not their concern. But it is a very big concern to those above them. A homicide commander who can’t keep the numbers in check could be out of a job. No one would ever think the homicide numbers could be wrong or manipulated but they have been in the past and, if this initial article is correct, it is still going on.

  10. They've been fudging the numbers for the last 35 years (at least).
    They also manipulate the numbers for thefts from autos. If 20 people on 1 block have their cars broken into, they generate 1 report. 1 set of incident numbers. Same goes with certain burglaries and vandalism. Didn't a bunch of high ranking cops get in trouble with the FBI for doing this around 20 years ago?

  11. Is there any way to get info on all the "S" deaths in Philly and share them here? They changed 2 of the 3 to "M" after you exposed them, if the full 97 are exposed we have a small chance of honest murder stats.


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