Passenger recounts shooting terror on SEPTA bus
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
For Lefenus Pickett, what began as a routine ride home on SEPTA's Route 47 bus became a near-death experience June 18 when a woman who took offense at his parenting advice called friends who strafed the loaded bus with semiautomatic weapons fire in North Philadelphia.
A Philadelphia courtroom was riveted today as Pickett narrated a video made by seven cameras on the bus that showed two men, brandishing a handgun and an rifle, taking aim at Pickett who then jumps over his seat and runs with other passenger to the front as bullets fly through the bus windows.
"At first I froze for a minute as I stood up," testified Pickett about the moment when he saw the men outside on Seventh Street at Cecil B. Mooore Avenue aim their weapons at him through the bus' rear door. "But when I saw them actually shooting, I was just trying to move toward the front of the bus."
The video, and Pickett's testimony, became the key evidence at the preliminary hearing for six people charged with attempted murder, conspiracy and related charges for the assault that early Saturday evening.
At the end of the hearing, Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon ordered four of the six held for trial including Penny Chapman, 20, the young mother who allegedly took offense when Pickett chastized her for spanking her young son.
Also held were brothers Karon and Raheem Patterson, the alleged gunmen who fired 13 shots at the bus - remarkably not hitting a single passenger - Angel Lecourt, the brother of the father of Chapman's son, to whom Chapman pointed out Pickett and told him: "I want you to shoot that [racial slur]."
DeLeon dismissed charges against two others present at the scene but whom he said appeared to do nothing. The District Attorney's office announced it would refile the charges against the pair.
Pickett testified that he was riding the bus with his brother when he saw Chapman board with her son and sit a few seats in front of him. The child started running up and down the aisle, Pickett said, and Chapman started spanking him.
"I told her that's child abuse, that's a little boy," Pickett said.
The argument escalated, Pickett continued, and then he saw Chapman calling someone on her cell phone.
When the bus stopped at Seventh and Cecil B. Moore, Pickett said, there were already a half-dozen people waiting. The rear door opened and Chapman and her son left but paused long enough for her to point out Pickett to a man later identified as Lecourt.
As the shooting begins, passengers rush to the front, some piling on top of each other in the stairwell of the bus's front door.
The driver, Desmond Jones, an Army veteran from South Philadelphia, floored the bus and called police and then rushed to the emergency room of Temple University Medical Center.
As it turned out, no one was wounded. But police used the hospital parking lot to interview witnesses among the passengers.