Chester High School athlete charged with murder

A 16-year-old Chester High School basketball player was charged with murder Wednesday in connection with the death of an armed companion during an attempted robbery and shoot-out in which a police officer was wounded.

The teen, Shaquille Byrd, was listed in critical but stable condition at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, according to a hospital spokesman. He is charged with murder in the death of Andre Morales, 16, of Chester, according to court documents.

The two were accused of entering the garage of a two-story house in the 300 block of Rose Street just after 4 p.m. Tuesday with the intent of robbery.

At least six people were in the garage at the time, police said. "We believe they were playing a card game," said Chester Police Maj. John E. Gretsky.

When police, alerted by 911 calls, arrived, the two youths attempted to flee and a gun battle with officers ensued. Residents reported hearing dozens of shots.

One officer, Luis Rodriguez, working part time for the Chester Housing Authority, was shot in the arm. He was released Wednesday from Crozer-Chester, according to authorities.

"He is at home resting and enjoying his family," said G. Michael Green, Delaware County district attorney.

Morales, 16, of Spruce Street, died of multiple gunshot wounds. He was shot by police, according to a report by the county's medical examiner.

Byrd was charged with murder because Morales' death occurred during the commission of an alleged felony, according to Green. Other charges include aggravated assaults, robbery, and weapons crimes.

In a report that turned out to be false, police sources on Tuesday said two people had died in the encounter.

A 34-year-old man, who was in the garage at the time and caught in the gunfire, was listed in stable condition at Crozer-Chester. Police did not release his name.

About $300 in cash was found at the scene, along with playing cards scattered around, according to Green.

A shotgun and a handgun were recovered by police. Green said all guns used by police and the suspects were taken for further forensic examination to determine who fired the shots that killed Morales and wounded Rodriguez.

Rodriguez came to the scene to back up other officers. He also works part time for the Borough of Trainer, according to police.

About 100 officers, many from departments in the southern part of the county, responded to the incident, along with state police. SWAT teams were brought in when it was believed a gunman could still be barricaded inside the house with hostages. About 9 p.m., police gave the all-clear after a search of the property found nothing.

Scott L. Kramer, Byrd's attorney, said the youth plays basketball for the high school and numerous basketball leagues. "We believe he was going to be picked up to play in a basketball tournament," said Kramer.

In response to a spate of murders and violent crimes, city officials declared a state of emergency between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. for five high-crime areas of the city until July 23. The Rose Street block was not in the curfew area.

 


Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149 or mschaefer@phillynews.com.