Terror on the bus II

It was hard not to be impressed with the video made public Thursday of the June 18 assault on a SEPTA bus as it stopped at Seventh Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia.

The Route 47 bus was equipped with seven cameras that provided video of the attack, in which the bus was shot 13 times by two men outside with semiautomatic guns.

The video proved crucial in enabling SEPTA and Philadelphia police to arrest seven people, four of whom were held for trial on attempted murder, assault and others charges.

Amazingly, no one was even wounded in the attack, which began when a young mother apparently took offense when a fellow passenger chastised her for spanking her toddler and then called friends to retaliate.

In one way, police lucked out. According to Assistant District Attorney Morgan Model Vedejs, not all SEPTA buses are so equipped. For the past few years, SEPTA has been gradually installing the camera systems on new and existing buses.

But the arrests of seven people was also a vindication of the concept of community policing.

The intended target of the assault, a 37-year-old passenger named Lefenus Pickett, was able to identify by sight in court the young woman he offended though he said he never met her before. But Pickett could not identify anyone else, including the two gunmen who tried to shoot him through the bus’ rear door.

Those identifications came from city police Officer Joseph Goodwin, who testified that he has spent all 15 years of his career in North Philadelphia’s 26th Police District.

As Vedejs replayed the video, stopping regularly as new faces appeared, Goodwin stood near the large screen and identified one person after another, in some cases even describing their relationships.

Goodwin said he had come to know all seven patrolling the 26th District. The young woman, Goodwin testified, was Penny Chapman, 20, who young son was fathered by Peter Lecourt, whose brother Angel, 18, is seen in the video holding open the bus’ rear door while Chapman points to Pickett.

The two men holding guns outside the bus, Goodwin testified, were brothers Karon and Raheem Patterson, 19 and 21. And two other men, Goodwin testified, were Lawrence Rahyle, 18, and Keith Bellamy, 23, outside the bus near the Patterson brothers.

Based on his experience in the neighborhood, Goodwin told Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon, all knew and associated with each other.

Defense attorneys objected strenuously to Goodwin’s testimony, arguing that the officer’s past contacts with the seven people did not mean they were part of the conspiracy to kill Pickett.

DeLeon agreed with the defense in the cases of Rahyle and Bellamy. Despite their appearance on the scene as the mayhem erupted, DeLeon said there was no evidence to show they were more than spectators.

Vedejs immediately moved to refile the charges against the pair and a hearing has been set for Oct. 24 before Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Palumbo.