Judge calls ex-officers 'shameless' in fatal shooting over a pizza

Robin Fortune (left) and Chauncey Ellison received sentences that were twice the length recommended under state sentencing guidelines.
Robin Fortune (left) and Chauncey Ellison received sentences that were twice the length recommended under state sentencing guidelines.
Posted: January 19, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Saying they acted "in a reckless and shameless way," a Philadelphia judge sentenced two ex-Philadelphia police officers to 111/2 to 23 months in prison Friday for an off-duty showdown over a stolen pizza that ended in the fatal shooting of a West Oak Lane man.

The prison terms for Chauncey Ellison and Robin Fortune were twice what is recommended by state sentencing guidelines for reckless endangerment.

But Common Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd called the Nov. 17, 2008, killing of Lawrence Allen, 20, "not the typical recklessly endangering another person case."

Byrd noted that Ellison and Fortune did not call for backup, were in street clothes, and did not identify themselves.

"To the whole world around them, they were just two people, one with a gun, acting in a reckless and shameless way," Byrd said.

On Nov. 26, a jury deadlocked on the manslaughter and conspiracy counts, convicted the pair for reckless endangerment, and acquitted Ellison - who had claimed self-defense - of gun and conspiracy counts. It was not known whether prosecutors would retry the two.

Ellison, 40, was a sergeant with nine years on the police force; Fortune, 45, an officer for 13 years.

Both made emotional apologies to Allen's family.

"I never intended any injuries," Fortune said. "I'm a mother and a human being, and I pray you accept my apology."

Ellison stood, turned and faced Allen's family, buttoning his suit jacket and standing straight as if at attention.

"I know you feel I'm a monster and some may hate me," Ellison said. "This was a very tragic event. I'm sorry for your loss from the bottom of my heart."

But Ellison insisted he had to shoot that night on the 1900 block of Renovo Street: "As God is my witness, that night Mr. Allen did have a gun. He pulled it on me, and I had no choice but to defend myself."

Whether Allen was armed was a key trial issue. Several witnesses said they thought they saw Allen make a movement as if drawing a gun, but no gun was found near his body.

Allen's mother, Terry Bowen, railed at the ex-officers and defense lawyers Brian J. McMonagle and Gerald S. Stanshine for "assaulting my son. You made him out like he was the devil dropped to Earth."

Bowen said Allen was a loving and friendly person with a wife and three young children.

"Robin Fortune, you I really do forgive," Bowen said. "You, Chauncey, no, I don't forgive you. You knew better."

The judge excoriated the pair.

Byrd told Fortune that, though unarmed, she "profanely egged on" the situation by threatening Allen and his friends and yelling at Ellison to "be a man."

Byrd told Ellison that if he had the presence of mind to extract himself from the situation and her influence, he "might not be here today."


jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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