Cop ordered to pay 138G in '06 fatal shooting

Posted: October 26, 2010

Raymond Pelzer and two other guys were shooting dice on a West Philly street corner when a pair of patrol cops approached.

They wanted to see everyone's identification. Pelzer, 25, handed his ID card to one of the cops. And then he booked it.

It was a spring night back in 2006, and Pelzer ran and ran until Officer Marvin Burton caught up with him in a yard behind someone's house.

Burton fatally shot Pelzer, police have said, after he gripped his waistband and flashed something shiny - his cell phone.

The case sparked community outrage and a civil lawsuit that was filed in 2007 against Burton, the city and then-Police Commission Sylvester Johnson by attorney Gregg Zeff on behalf of Pelzer's family.

All stories have an ending, and the Pelzer case finally reached one on Oct. 15, when a federal jury ruled that Burton has to pay Pelzer's family $138,000, according to court documents.

News of the jury's findings was still making the rounds yesterday.

John McGrody, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said he was stunned by the outcome of the case.

"Police officers are called to make split-second decisions, which other people have months and years to second guess," he said.

"The city needs to stand behind our officers."

The lawsuit had claimed that Burton shot Pelzer on April 27, 2006, in the chest "without provocation, justification or cause."

Zeff contended that John-son and the city were at fault for ignoring the recommendations of its former chief integrity officer, Ellen Green-Ceisler, who issued a report in 2005 that urged the Police Department to create a stringent pursuit policy.

The federal jury, however, did not find Johnson or the city liable for Pelzer's death.

Authorities have previously said that Pelzer ran on the night he died because he was wanted on a probation violation. His family disputed that claim.

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