Tuesday would have been Sean Toomey’s 16th birthday.
Instead of celebrating it with his son, John Toomey attended a rally in Harrisburg hoping to get some small measure of justice by supporting the impeachment of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Sean was carrying a case of bottled water from his dad’s car in the Wissinoming section of the city when would-be carjackers assaulted him, shooting him in the head and killing him.
“Someone who commits terrible acts like this should be in prison. The D.A.’s culpable,” said Toomey, his voice breaking with emotion as he spoke. “It’s not his responsibility to act as a defense attorney for those who should be in jail. They already have a defense attorney. That’s taken care of…This individual calls himself a man. Who’s going to bring him back to me, who’s going to bring my boy? I say, impeach this son-of-a-b***h.”
Toomey isn’t alone. An angry mob of heartbroken parents and outraged lawmakers gathered to support an effort to remove the controversial district attorney from office. Krasner, one of the most progressive prosecutors in the nation, has overseen a huge spike in violent crime and murders in his city. At the same time, notes Kevin Williams at National Review magazine, prosecutions of gun crimes on his watch have plummeted.
“In Philadelphia, the majority of gun cases—60 percent—are simply dismissed with no prosecution, according to the local district attorney’s office. That’s double the dismissal rate of 2016 — and the district attorney is bragging about how few gun crimes get prosecuted,” Williamson wrote.
That dichotomy has energized the impeachment movement.
State Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), who introduced the speakers at Tuesday’s gathering, supports a resolution to impeach Krasner for failing to do his job that is being circulated in the House. The legislators who introduced it —Reps. Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington), Torren Ecker (R- Adams/Cumberland), and Tim O’Neal (Washington)—were also on hand.
“Larry Krasner corrupted that position by ignoring certain offenses and in the process, is usurping the authority of this legislative body,” said White. “Let me be clear that his actions have real consequences. This is about the lives of the many men and women and children who experienced the tragedy and hurt that is the direct result of the dereliction of duty by the district attorney.”
“He has been coddling criminals rather than holding them accountable for their actions,” White said. By not prosecuting crime, Krasner has “violated his oath of office,” she said. “The proof is overwhelming.”
“The impact on our communities is devastating,” she said. “Lives are lost and our citizens are living in fear.”
People have died after being shot, others were injured or traumatized by criminals who should have been in jail, White added. In 2021 there were 562 homicides in Philadelphia, an increase of 78 percent from the year before Krasner took office.
Nakisha Billa told the story of her son Dominic Billa-Lewis, 20, who was gunned down in the food court of the Northeast Philly mall in March. Billa-Lewis, who had worked since he was 14 years old and “paid taxes,” was at the mall to buy a new pair of pants for a job interview.
Billa said she was on her way to the mall when she saw police, an ambulance, and a helicopter heading that way. She prayed her child was okay. She did not know she was “feet away from my baby, laying in the mall, dying,” she said.
“Never would I have guessed that he would encounter criminals, repeat offenses criminals,” she said. “Never would I have imagined this would happen…At what point do we hold those that are responsible to account? How many sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, that we have to lose before someone makes it right and stops it? Never had I heard so many homicides of women that are pregnant, children that are dying, babies?”
Billa, who voted for Krasner because he was a civil rights attorney, now says the lawlessness in Philadelphia “is beyond out of control.
“We need to do whatever it takes to change. Never would I have supported him if I knew he’d be offering deals for murder, for taking someone’s life,” she said.
Julio Moran Jr. spoke about his mother, describing her as church-going and less than 5 feet tall. She had gotten a protection-from-abuse order against a man who had hurt her.
However, the district attorney’s office refused to help her in court in January 2021 and the abusive person killed her, Moran said.
“They would not hold the offender accountable for his actions,” said Moran. “This was a violent predator.”
“She didn’t just fall through the cracks of the criminal justice system,” he said. “She fell through a trap door created by Krasner and his group of false public servants. For us, this is not about politics. This is about keeping malicious politicians from destroying the institutions that protect us.
“We’re devastated by the loss of our mom. Her grandkids miss her…One day they will have to fully understand why she isn’t able to be part of their lives anymore.”
Sukhvir Thind, who runs a convenience store, complained that “retail theft is at an all-time high. Criminals know that he [Krasner] is not going to prosecute. So they [are released] before our shift ends. My employees, they are scared to come to work. They know they could be the next victim of any gun violence or any crime. So we want the D.A. to start prosecuting retail theft and be aggressive on gun violence. Do your job and bulletproof the city.”
White insisted the opposition to Krasner isn’t just more partisan politics.
“This is more than a call to action,” she said. “It is an outcry to help save lives and keep our community safe.”
Krasner could not be reached for comment.