“I think you are a very dangerous gentleman.”
Those were among the final words that Common Pleas Court Judge Mia Roberts-Perez uttered to Michael Lockhart on Monday before delivering a pair of stiff sentences to the North Philadelphia native, whose shocking double life was detailed by the Inquirer and Daily News last year in the series “Undercover Gangster.”
Assistant District Attorney Cydney Pope recounted for Roberts-Perez how adept Lockhart had been at juggling different identities, dividing his time among volunteering with a local anti-violence nonprofit, serving as an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and rolling with a West Philadelphia drug gang.
That last role proved to be Lockhart’s undoing. On Aug. 18, 2015, Lockhart and two other men shot Lawrence Downs in West Philadelphia, paralyzing him.
Pope argued that the shooting was the result of an elaborate plot hatched by Lockhart, who had stolen three handguns that belonged to a local drug kingpin, and then covered his tracks by blaming the theft on Downs and two other men, Hassan Williams and Kashif Love. Lockhart eagerly helped plan the daytime ambush on Downs, who was shot 14 times near his house on Angora Terrace near 55th Street.
Downs was left paralyzed, while Williams was killed several days later. No one has been charged in connection with Williams’ death, but Pope said Lockhart provided the handgun that was used to commit the crime. Love was never attacked.
Lockhart, 22, pleaded guilty in September to attempted murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy, and a handful of related charges for shooting Downs. Five other men who were involved in the ambush had separately pleaded guilty as well.
But before Roberts-Perez sentenced Lockhart for his role in the Downs saga, Lockhart pleaded guilty to another crime as well. On June 15, 2015, he and two other men barged into an 82-year-old woman’s home in West Philadelphia. Lockhart and his cohorts brandished handguns and ran through the woman’s house, stealing a safe that belonged to her grandson and terrifying her, her teenage granddaughter and another female relative.
Detective Joe Murray, who gradually untangled the vast web of Lockhart’s lies and crimes in the summer and fall of 2015, described Lockhart as a “chameleon” on Monday. “He assesses the situation,” Murray testified, “and adapts to be what you want him to be.”
Edward Meehan, Lockhart’s attorney, said “both crimes are horrific incidents,” but noted that Lockhart had accepted responsibility for his actions. He asked Roberts-Perez for a sentence of 15 to 30 years for the attempted murder charges, and five to 10 years for the home invasion case.
Lockhart sat quietly in the seventh floor courtroom inside the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice as Roberts-Perez read out his punishment. He wore a long black robe, and his beard was trimmed to a point. He spoke briefly, offering apologies to the families of his victims, and asked the judge to give him a chance to turn his life around.
The judge was unmoved.
“You manipulate people for your own benefit,” Roberts-Perez said to Lockhart, and then sentenced him to 30 to 60 years — 15 to 30 years for shooting Downs, and 15 to 30 years for the home invasion, which, she said, made victims out of “the most vulnerable of our society.” The sentences will be served consecutively, and Lockhart also received 10 years of probation.
“I hope that we were able to give all of the victims of the crimes he was charged with at least a modicum of closure and justice,” Pope said afterward. “They can know that the person who crafted and masterminded all of this won’t be able to hurt anyone else for a long time.”
Meehan declined to comment.