He was slain over a slice, but cop who shot him was never charged

Terry Bowen seeks justice for her son Lawrence Allen, who was shot in 2008 over a slice of pizza that an off-duty officer thought had been stolen from the cop's son.
Terry Bowen seeks justice for her son Lawrence Allen, who was shot in 2008 over a slice of pizza that an off-duty officer thought had been stolen from the cop's son. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 21, 2012

ON THE DAY after Valentine's Day, when chocolates still line candy-store shelves and rosy-red hearts hang from picture windows, Terry Bowen goes to the cemetery.

"It's a memory that's just not going to go away," Bowen, 44, said Wednesday in the dining room of her North Philly rowhouse. "I just don't think it's fair at all."

She was speaking of the events that culminated on Feb. 15, 2009, the day after Valentine's Day, when her son Lawrence Allen, 20, died at Moss Rehabilitation Hospital.

For three months, Allen, a father of three, was paralyzed from the waist down. He couldn't breathe on his own and had withered to almost nothing while his family prayed around him.

On Nov. 17, 2008, Allen was shot by an off-duty police sergeant near 20th and Renovo streets in West Oak Lane, over a slice of pizza. The officer, Chauncey Ellison, believed that Allen and a group of young men with him had assaulted his son and had stolen a slice from him near Bruno's Pizza, around the corner at 19th Street and Cheltenham Avenue.

Since the day of the shooting, when Allen was handcuffed to his hospital bed, Bowen has been seeking justice in the case.

"He was yelling to me from the hospital bed: 'Mom, I didn't do anything! I didn't do anything!' " Bowen recalled. "Right after that, he went into a coma."

Ellison and his girlfriend, Officer Robin Fortune, also off duty, confronted the group, and Ellison argued with Allen. At one point, according to police accounts, Ellison thought Allen was reaching for a gun, so he allegedly went for his own police-issued Glock. Allen wound up "like a pretzel" on the ground, his sister said, his lung punctured and his spine shattered.

He didn't have a gun.

"Then the cop stood over top of him, like he was going to shoot him a couple more times," said Allen's sister, Mecca Drake, 29.

Ellison and Fortune took off. They didn't call 9-1-1.

Both Ellison and Fortune were fired for violating the Police Department's off-duty policy. "It wasn't directly for the shooting," Officer Tanya Little said of the officers' dismissal.

But Bowen wants someone in authority to acknowledge that it was criminal to shoot her son - not just a departmental violation.

Before leaving office, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham declined to prosecute the two officers.

District Attorney Seth Williams had run for office with a promise to overhaul the way police-involved shootings were handled, to remedy complaints that some investigations, he said, took longer than did the Warren Commission's. In February 2010, his office told the Daily News that it was reviewing the Lawrence Allen case. And Drake said recently that she testified before a grand jury in the summer of 2010. The Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, lasted 10 months.

"Every investigation takes its own amount of time; there is no clock that you can put on any investigation," Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for Williams' office, said in an email. "The ultimate goal in every investigation is to bring justice to the victim."

Jamerson said the District Attorney's Office wouldn't comment further on the case unless charges were filed. The Daily News was unable to reach either Ellison or Fortune. Both are still represented by city attorneys in a civil case involving potential damages that could be collected for Allen's three children, attorneys for Allen's estate said. A determination by the D.A.'s Office would help move it forward.

"We're working on the civil end to take care of the family, his children," attorney Sonia Silverstein said.

Every other weekend, Bowen takes care of her grandchildren, occasionally choking up when she notices their resemblance to their father. She tells them stories about him.

Bowen is baffled. If a civilian shot her son, that person would be in prison today, she says.

"It's a clear-cut case," said Bowen. "Everybody knows what happened."

Bowen struggled to return to a normal routine after her son died. She lost her job and was even homeless for about a month but quickly righted herself and started to speak up about her son's death. She organized protests and tried to keep herself in the minds of the police, the D.A.'s Office and lawyers.

"The problem is that no one returns my calls anymore," she said. "I've never been to court."

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