How much grief can one man bear?
A month ago today, the Rev. Walter Little was just a day removed from having laid to rest his 90-year-old mother. He was despondent, of course, but found solace in the fact that his mother’s funeral had given him a chance to see his son, Army Staff Sgt. Walter Keith Rogers.
Rogers, who grew up in North Philadelphia, was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. He hadn’t seen his family in four years.
“He was due to be deployed to the Middle East in two months,” Little said, “so this was like a homecoming. Everybody was so pleased to see him.”
But the happiness that was inspired by Rogers’ impromptu return didn’t last.
The married father of two was killed the following morning, Dec. 9, in a car crash that involved an off-duty Philadelphia police officer on a rain-slicked road in Fairmount Park.
“I had to bury my mother, then bury my son a week later.”
Little, 55, said his family was devastated by the double dose of tragedy.
Their heartache was further compounded, he said, because Rogers’ relatives never got an explanation from police of what caused the crash.
Little said they worried that the incident was being covered up. Police did not publicize the case.
Yesterday, police officials said it simply had been an oversight that kept investigators from sharing details of the crash with the family.
This much the family knew: Rogers, 34, went out on the night Dec. 8 to visit friends in West Philadelphia with his sister, Jennifer Lee, 21, and stepbrother, Anthony Warren, 32.
The three were riding home in heavy rain in Lee’s car in Fairmount Park, Little said. Lee was driving, while Rogers and Warren were in the back seat.
About 2:30 a.m., Lee was making a left turn off East Memorial Hall Drive onto Concourse Drive when her car was struck by an SUV driven by an off-duty 37-year-old cop, said Sgt. Albert Gramlich of the police Accident Investigation Division.
The SUV slammed the rear driver’s side of the car, where Rogers was sitting. “He took the brunt of the impact,” Gramlich said. Rogers died soon after. The cop, whom Gramlich declined to identify, suffered minor injuries, as did Lee and Warren.
Gramlich said investigators determined that Lee believed that the off-duty cop had a stop sign and had expected him to slow when she made her turn. The sign in the cop’s lane turned out to be a construction sign. It appears no criminal charges will be filed against the cop or Lee.
Little said his family had other questions about the accident. “I’m not trying to point fingers,” he said. “I just want to know what happened. Why all the quietness? Why didn’t they ever tell us this?”
AID Capt. Michael said he was “surprised” that an investigator hadn’t shared his findings with Little. “Please tell them it was an oversight,” Murphy said. “I’d be more than happy to speak to them.”