Man held in N. Phila. slaying of cabbie

Posted: April 03, 2003

A Yellow Cab Co. driver was robbed and shot to death early yesterday inside his vehicle in North Philadelphia, and eight hours later, detectives captured a suspect who was still carrying what police think might be the murder weapon.

Police said they believed that Wesley McKenney, 18, telephoned for a cab to come to a location near his home in the 2000 block of Turner Street so he could carry out a holdup.

"He lured the cab to that particular area," Capt. Thomas Lippo said. "Once he got inside, at that point, he decided to rob the cab driver."

The victim was identified as Aliu Ajoa Ajetunmobi, 29, of East Germantown, who had been working for the company for about four months. Edward Burkhardt, vice president of Yellow Cab, deplored the slaying.

"Just take the money!" he said angrily. "Why do you have to pull the trigger? It's not worth their life."

At a news conference at Police Headquarters yesterday afternoon, Lippo, commander of the Homicide Division, said the shooting was discovered about 1:55 a.m. when a motorist told a Fire Department paramedic crew that a cab was stopped against a pole in the 1600 block of North 22d Street. The engine was running and the driver was slumped over the steering wheel, the motorist said.

Ajetunmobi was pronounced dead at the scene with two bullet wounds to the head.

Based on an anonymous tip and a review of the last assignment Ajetunmobi was sent on, detectives zeroed in on McKenney, arresting him about 10:30 a.m. as he walked on his block. He was charged with murder, robbery and related offenses and held without bail after a preliminary arraignment.

The robber was in the backseat of the cab and fired through an open sliding window built into a protective shield, Lippo said.

"We believe it was a straight-up robbery, at which point, unfortunately, the cab driver was shot," Lippo said.

Investigators believe the gunman got little. "There was money still on the cab driver," Lippo said.

Lloyd Adams, 51, who described himself as a family friend, answered the door of Ajetunmobi's home on East Clapier Street yesterday afternoon. He said Ajetunmobi's wife, Debbie, was at the Medical Examiner's Office identifying her husband's body and was unavailable for comment.

According to Adams, Ajetunmobi came here from Africa several years ago and was studying computers. "It's sad. He was working nights and going to school during the daytime. He was trying to make a better life."

Burkhardt said he welcomed the news that police had a suspect.

"I'm very grateful for the police for the quick arrest," he said. "It's definitely put a lot of drivers' minds at ease."

Contact staff writer Thomas J. Gibbons Jr. at 215-854-2642 or tgibbons@phillynews.com.

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