How accused cop-killer slipped free

Posted: August 26, 2012

When a judge on July 25 sentenced alleged cop-killer Rafael Jones for violating his probation on a gun conviction, she ordered him confined to house arrest at his grandmother's North Philadelphia rowhouse.

But the state Board of Probations and Parole failed to set up the electronic monitoring bracelet mandated by the judge, and Jones never returned to live at the house, his family said Friday.

The day he got out of prison, Aug. 8, Jones was hanging out at 18th and Susquehanna Streets - the corner where he was shot last winter - without the bracelet ordered by Common Pleas Court Judge Susan I. Schulman.

Ten days after that, police say, he and another man stalked and killed Officer Moses Walker Jr. in a pre-dawn robbery attempt.

On Friday, Jones, 23, was arraigned on murder, robbery, firearms, conspiracy and related charges in the shooting of Walker, a 19-year veteran of the force killed while walking home after his shift at the 22d District in North Philadelphia. As is police custom when an officer is killed, Walker's handcuffs were placed on Jones' wrists by Walker's fellow officers from the 22d.

Jones was held without bail and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 12 in Municipal Court.

Jones, a thin man with a shaved head, said nothing except to acknowledge his identity and the charges.

Police also issued an arrest warrant Friday for Jones' alleged accomplice, Chancier McFarland, 19, of the 1400 block of North 23d Street in North Philadelphia.

The circumstances around Jones' release remain unclear. Although Schulman on July 25 ordered him released to house arrest with electronic monitoring by the state, he did not leave the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility until Aug. 8.

On that date, Schulman e-mailed prison officials to release Jones "with instructions to report directly to state parole," according to a city official who reviewed the e-mail.

Schulman's e-mail order followed one from a Philadelphia prison system representative, said the official. That e-mail appeared to state that a monitoring system was being set up for Jones.

As a result, Jones walked out of prison that day unfettered, instructed only to report to his state probation officer. He apparently did report in the days after that, a source said, but there is no indication he was ever placed on electronic monitoring.

Jones' grandmother Ada Banks said Friday afternoon that Jones' probation officer contacted her before last month's probation violation hearing, asking if Jones could come live with her.

Banks said she declined. Jones had been shot in the neighborhood earlier this year, she said Friday, and she worried that if he returned to her neighborhood, he would only find trouble.

"This is a house of peace," she said, surrounded by some of her grandchildren, in front of her Bouvier Street home, just a block from the 22d District station, where the flag hangs at half-staff. "I didn't need the drama."

She said the probation officer was in a hurry and told her Jones could be released as soon as that day. Banks said she told the officer that Jones could live with his aunt in West Oak Lane. "He said, 'I'm just going to tell the judge he's being released to you, and when he comes to you send him to his aunt's," she said.

The probation officer said he would find Jones to get him fitted with the ankle bracelet, Banks said. That never happened, she said.

Banks was not at the July hearing, and her grandson did not stay with her again.

At the hearing, state parole agent Jose Rodriguez recommended that Jones be released on probation and put on electronic monitoring.

Rodriguez told the judge that officers are trained in fitting ankle bracelets and could outfit his home with equipment that would be monitored from Harrisburg - "We get either e-mail alerts, phone call alerts or - should he violate it, leave the house at an unauthorized time."

But Rodriguez questioned whether Jones could live at his grandmother's, based on the conversation with her.

Jones' attorney, Rosemary Zeccardi, told the judge that Jones would be living with with his grandmother.

Neither Rodriguez nor Zeccardi could be reached for comment Friday. Schulman has declined to comment.

Based on the assurance in court, Schulman ordered that Jones serve six months' house arrest at the grandmother's home.

And she ordered Rodriguez to get police to detain Jones if he left the house for any reason other than looking for a job, completing his GED, or doing required community service work.

"There will be no other reasons for him to be out of the house," she said. "None."

Schulman, who in 2008 sentenced Jones to a four-year prison term for a gun conviction, noted Jones' juvenile record and warned him that she was not impressed with his record since had finished his sentence in October.

Jones' juvenile record goes back to age 12, when he was charged with throwing a rock through his mother's front door. He was arrested at 15 for selling drugs and then caught in a stolen Jeep.

His first gun arrest was when he was 17, when officers said they caught him with a loaded .38-caliber revolver.

"To see that I am concerned about you would be an understatement," Schulman told Jones.

Jeremy Brooks, Jones' cousin, said he and Jones' mother saw Jones hanging on the corner the night he was released.

"I pulled up and said, 'It's good to see you,' " Brooks said. "He said he was 'laying back,' trying to stay out of trouble."

Jones' family said the West Oak Lane home where he stayed did not have a phone line, a must for house arrest.

Sherry Tate, a state parole board spokeswoman, said even general information about how her department conducted house arrests and monitoring was confidential.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, asked about the apparent failures between the state probation and justice systems, said, "Right now our focus is simple - getting the second person in custody so we can wrap this up."

About Jones, he said: "Thank God we got him and he won't be able to harm anyone else, and this time perhaps the system will put him away for the rest of his miserable life."


Contact Mike Newall at 215-854-2759 or mnewall@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @MikeNewall.

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