Black clergy, NAACP join calls for justice in Tate-Brown case

Tanya Brown-Dickerson (left), the mother of Brandon Tate-Brown, holds hands with Eric Mines at a press conference while members of the Black Clergy and NAACP pray around her. (MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

THE ACTIVISTS demanding a new investigation into the controversial police shooting death of Brandon Tate-Brown got a surprising ally yesterday: a police-advocacy group.

The Guardian Civic League, which advocates for black officers, joined several other groups - including Philly's NAACP chapter, the Philadelphia Black Clergy, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild and the National Action Network - on the Mayfair street where Tate-Brown, 26, died Dec. 15.

The community leaders called on District Attorney Seth Williams to reopen his probe and on Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to fire and arrest officer Nicholas Carrelli, who shot Tate-Brown during a routine car stop, and Heng Dang, Carrelli's partner.

"He [Tate-Brown] was murdered, and we need to get to the bottom of it," said Rochelle Bilal, a retired Philly officer who is the Guardian Civic League's president. "When you have sworn officers who lie, basically perjure themselves, this case should be reopened, re-examined. People need to be taken off the streets."

That won't happen.

"At this point, we don't have any plans to reopen the investigation. We stand by our earlier decision," said Cameron Kline, a Williams spokesman.

Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, said, "There was a thorough and complete investigation done, by us and the D.A. The officers are not being removed from the street. The officers have been cleared. At the end of the day, there's no new information."

Yesterday marked the first time organized community groups backed the small but steadfast group of activists who have marched and protested on behalf of Tate-Brown.

The Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church in Society Hill, blamed his delay in embracing the activists' calls for justice on a false narrative he said police, the Fraternal Order of Police and others created to cover up an unjustified shooting.

"Many of us were duped into believing a story that never happened," Tyler said yesterday.

Cases of police brutality elsewhere, such as Ferguson's Mike Brown and Cincinnati's Samuel DuBose, also changed his mind.

"You can't be uncomfortable about Mike Brown if you're not uncomfortable about Brandon Tate-Brown," Tyler said.

While some activists still groused about "Johnny come latelies," one welcomed their support.

"We're up against a system that's going to protect their own," said Asa Khalif, Tate-Brown's cousin and founder of Racial Unity USA. "Now that we are together, we can strike that blow that we need to get the officers arrested."

On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo