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Progressive Canvassing for Helen Gym Shot by Fellow Canvasser in Philly

A quiet neighborhood in East Germantown was the scene of a homicide Monday when, shortly after 4 p.m., a canvasser for OnePA political PAC shot and killed another canvasser who worked for the same organization. The group was canvassing for progressive candidates, including former city council member Helen Gym.

Canvassers, who can be paid or volunteers, pass out literature for candidates or causes door-to-door. Sometimes they also ask for signatures on petitions.

No charges have been brought against the 22-year-old who fired the shot that killed Eddie Brokenbaugh, 46, said Officer Tonya Little, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Police Department.

The younger man, whose name was not released because he was not charged, told police he fired his weapon in self-defense after Brokenbaugh pulled a gun on him.

The shooter was licensed to carry a weapon and waited at the scene for police to arrive. Brokenbaugh’s gun was illegal.

The two apparently had a long-standing beef, officials said.

While far-left mayoral candidate Helen Gym said the workers were not part of her campaign, they were canvassing on her behalf through OnePA.

“I was devastated to hear about the tragic death of a canvasser today,” Gym posted on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the victim’s family, the OnePA community, and everyone impacted by this irrevocable loss. Though the canvasser was not part of our campaign, this loss is deeply felt by all of us.”

OnePA tweeted: “Today, a One PA team member tragically lost their life. We are heartbroken, and our condolences and sympathy are with their family. We are mourning this senseless loss and continuing to gather the facts and investigate what happened.”

While Gym says the canvasser was not working for her campaign, OnePA has a pinned tweet about Gym reading: “In just 9 days, we get to make HERSTORY by getting @HelenGymPHL elected as #Phillys100thMayor. Helen believes in restoring the village back to our city. It takes a village to continue to care for and support each other; it also takes a village to ..”

OnePA’s co-director had worked for Gym when she served on the city council, according to media reports.

@BigTrialBlog posted a picture of Brokenbough posing with Gym and other campaign workers on Twitter, saying, “‘Not part of our campaign:’ Here’s Helen Gym posing with campaign workers, including Eddie Brokenbough, the ex-felon who was packing an illegal gun when he was shot dead by another campaign worker.”

Helen Gym with campaign workers, including Eddie Brokenbough

Gym has claimed that if elected, she would declare a state of emergency and focus all city departments on community safety. She wants to convene a task force with city, state, and federal officials to combat illegal guns, improve 911 response times and prioritize mental health services.

“Helen Gym is putting her gun control plans into action, but perhaps a little too close to home,” said Albert Eisenberg with BlueState/Red. 

The Gym campaign did not respond when asked to comment.

Sage Cruz, co-executive director of One PA said, “Philadelphia’s ban the box law prohibits employers from asking about criminal history during the application process, and One PA complies with that law. We’re not going to dredge through the past of a man who has died while there is an active investigation underway. We are processing the loss of a loved member of our community who is no longer here and are asking that people give our community and his family space to grieve and give investigators a chance to do their work.

“Both individuals involved in this tragedy were paid temporary canvassers who had worked with our organization previously, the older man from 2021 and the younger from 2022,” she added.

OnePA responded to DVJournal’s requests for comment.

However, judging by the lawn signs, the canvassers did not seem to have made many inroads on the Church Lane block before their deadly encounter.

Several residents where the shooting occurred had signs for another candidate, Charelle Parker. A placard for Gym was affixed to a light pole near a corner bodega.

Two young men inside the bodega declined to comment.

“I think it’s crazy, for what it’s worth,” said one man, who did not want to share his name. “Nobody’s life is worth a disagreement.” That man had lived at his Church Lane house for 50 years. “I’m glad I wasn’t home (when the shooting happened),” he said.

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Probation For Cops in Death of 8-Year-Old Sharon Hill Girl

“This isn’t about blue lives or Black lives. This is about Fanta’s life. And her life did, in fact, matter.”

At the sentencing Friday, Judge Margaret Amoroso repeated those words by one of 8-year-old Fanta Bility’s relatives and three former Sharon Hill police officers. One of them fired the bullets that struck and killed the girl as she left a football game with her family on August 27, 2021.

There was standing room only in the courtroom with supporters of both the Bility family and the three former officers. Law enforcement officers stood along the courtroom walls.

The former officers had pleaded guilty to 10 counts of reckless endangerment. Amoroso sentenced them to five years probation, including 11 months of house arrest, wearing a monitor to start.

The officers—Devon Smith, Brian Devaney, and Sean Dolan—apologized profusely and offered their condolences to the Fanta Bility family.

Fanta Bility (CREDIT: Facebook)

Devaney could barely speak as he tearfully told the family, “No words can express how sorry I am for the loss of your baby girl, Fanta.”

Devaney, 43, was a police resource officer at Academy High School. He asked to work that night because he missed the kids while the school was closed because of COVID.

Smith said he had met Fanta at a playground while on patrol and several times after that.

“I am a father of three. I can’t imagine the pain and agony you feel every day,” said Smith.

Dolan had been a rookie and on the police force only 10 days before the shooting.

The incident began when a 16-year-old Sharon Hill boy and Hasein Strand, 18, of Collingdale, began shooting at each other near the Academy Park High School football field. With bullets flying, the officers mistakenly believed that shots had come from an oncoming car. The officers returned fire, and bullets flew into a crowd leaving the football game, striking four people, including Fanta, and grazing her sister.

Deputy District Attorney Doug Rhoads spoke on behalf of the Bility family about the “tragic unintended consequences” that took their daughter’s life. “A beautiful, young little girl full of life.” He said the family is still grieving, struggling with anger, sadness, and loss.

“Fanta’s brothers and sisters, all around them, are memories and the ghost of Fanta,” he said. “They have survivor’s guilt. Why did this happen? They wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t been cheerleading that night.”

He told the siblings, “This wasn’t your fault. You didn’t cause this.”

“Everyone talks about accountability,” Rhoads said. “That is part of the justice process.”

Her father, Morris Bility, said Fanta was “sweet and kind.” She liked to ride her bike and go to the playground.

One of Fanta’s uncles died from gun violence in Philadelphia after Fanta’s death, causing Fanta’s grandmother to return to Liberia, where the family had fled to escape war and violence.

“They came here seeking safety, the American dream,” said Rhoads.

He said that Fanta’s mother, Tenneh Kromah, has been stoic and strong for her other children.

The family believes in forgiveness and has forgiven the officers.

“They want Fanta’s life and death to mean something,” said Rhoads. Fanta’s mother “has forgiveness in her heart for these three defendants. She, of course, will never forget.”

She held Fanta in her arms after the girl was wounded and yelled for help, he said.

Rhoads asked the judge to impose jail sentences on the former officers.

In handing down the sentences, Amoroso said she knew some people would think they were too lenient and some would think they were too harsh. She noted that the former officers did not have prior criminal records and posed no danger to society.

“This case is a tragedy,” she said. “If what I did today could give you back your child, I would do so.”

Outside the courthouse afterward, Abu Bility said, “We are very disappointed by this sentence by the judge .., nevertheless, we take some comfort in knowing the former officers are taking accountability for their actions. And our purpose now is to move forward so we can ensure this never happens to another child and family again.”

The incident should “serve as a wakeup call to local and state governments that municipal police need better training,” he said.

Morris Bility said the family appreciates people who have been supporting them. Pennsylvania and the United States of America need to train police better, he said.

Tenneh said, “I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who supports us.”

An older sister, Mawatta Bility, also spoke.

Fanta is “forever in our hearts. And she will be forever by our side … And I’d like to say we forgive the officers on behalf of our family,” she said.

District Attorney  Jack Stollsteimer said he was “honored and blessed” to get to know the Bility family.

“The people you see behind me are some of the best people I’ve met in my entire life,” he said. “Their faith has gotten them here today. Their forgiveness to the officers who took their daughter’s life. And all of you heard those officers who took responsibility for what they did, step up and offer their sincere and heartfelt apology for the tragic events of the night. And that’s what this was, a tragedy.”

Asked by a  reporter if he was upset that the judge did not sentence the officers to prison, Stollsteimer said, “The judge is the one who gets to make this decision …It is not my duty or my right to question that at this point. She has made her determination.”

Lawyer Bruce L. Castor Jr., who represents the family in a civil case, called them “a remarkable family.” He said the Delaware County DA’s office was very professional. “This was a very difficult case to sort out. These people never stopped. They went down the wrong lane. They backed up and went down the right lane. They really had their hearts in the right place.”

“In Delaware County, they do it right,” said Castor, the former Montgomery County DA. “I think we can say we are satisfied with the sentence…What everybody seems to understand is police officers need better training and better supervision. In the coming days and few weeks, we will be addressing that problem in the civil courts.”

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Fatal Shooting at Roxborough High Shakes DelVal Sports Community

The Roxborough High School community is reeling after a 14-year-old football player died Tuesday afternoon. Nicholas Elizalde and four other juveniles, three of them teammates, were ambushed in a drive-by shooting. It happened at the school following a football scrimmage involving Roxborough and Northeast and Boys Latin.

Elizalde of Haverford Township in Delaware County was a student at Saul High School, a magnet school that does not have a football team. He played at Roxborough under a co-op arrangement between the two schools allowed by PIAA rules.

The other victims, two 14-year-olds, a 15-year-old, and a 17-year-old, were hospitalized.

The impact of Tuesday’s incident was felt throughout the Delaware Valley high-school sports community. Alan Nicholl is a science teacher at Council Rock South High School in Northampton Township, Bucks County. He has also been the boys’ soccer coach since the school opened 21 years ago.

Tuesday’s tragedy hit Nicholl hard.

“It’s disturbing,” he said. “Schools are a place of safety. Schools are a place we’re supposed to come and feel comfortable and feel safe. That should never come into question.

“As an educator and as a parent myself, there’s nothing more important than the safety of our kids. And when you see something like this happen, it should be outrageous to everybody. It’s unacceptable.”

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts said he was praying for the victims and their families and, “Praying for change.”

The investigation is ongoing. The shooting occurred shortly after 4:30 Tuesday afternoon as players, coaches, and spectators were leaving the field.

Five assailants got out of a Ford Explorer parked near the field and began firing shots. Authorities said they do not believe Elizalde was the target of the attack; they said they think the 17-year-old victim was.

The vehicle believed used in the attack was eventually recovered in South Philadelphia. It was reported stolen in Delaware County, police said.

Though Tuesday’s incident was one of at least three that have occurred at high school football games, it was the first involving gun violence. In August of last year, a shooting following a football game between host Academy Park and Pennsbury took the life of an 8-year-old Sharon Hill girl. Three police officers are awaiting trial in that incident.


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Residents Shocked, Afraid at Road Rage Murder in Springfield Township

Gunfire cut through the sound of rush hour traffic Wednesday morning on South State Road near Washington Lane in Springfield Township.

An apparent road rage shooting that took the life of a 54-year-old man also took the suburban area’s sense of safety and normalcy, shocking residents of the Delaware County bedroom community.

Bystanders told police the victim was killed for driving too slowly in the left lane. Officers responding found a white Toyota with a bullet hole in the windshield and the body of the victim, Kim Hua, according to an affidavit. Hua’s wife was a passenger and witnessed the shooting.

Hua was pronounced dead at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, the affidavit said. Investigators found two 9mm shell casings at the scene.

Witnesses said a dark SUV driven by a woman had pulled to the side of the road. A male leaned out of the passenger window and fired at the Toyota.

Officers arrested Saddiq Washington, 22, of Darby on Friday. He is being held on first and third-degree murder charges, possession of an instrument of crime, and reckless endangerment according to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

Residents who spoke to the Delaware Valley Journal were distraught over the senseless shooting.

“Every time I look at the paper and see something like that I’m shocked. I’ve lived a long time and… this is the worst I’ve seen in decades,” said Maurice Eldridge.

Some were concerned that the violence spike hitting Philadelphia could be reaching into the suburbs. One woman said, “I think [the crime spike in Philadelphia] is definitely having an effect on things.”

“I don’t really think it’s the crime spike in Philadelphia truthfully. I think it’s absurd how little we’re doing for gun control in this country,” said resident Susan R. “Congress has finally passed something but if we don’t start doing more we’re going to keep seeing more and more of this senseless violence.”

Cynthia Weiss, another resident, said she was devastated by this most recent incident.

“It’s a scary thing. I think it’s going to continue to happen as long as angry and disturbed people have such easy access to guns. It needs to change,” Weiss said.

At a press conference Friday, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer praised the work of the officers and detectives for making an arrest within 48 hours of the shooting. He also thanked the public for coming forward with tips.

“This was a senseless brutal act,” Stollsteimer said.

The suspect, Washington, had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and had purchased the gun legally.  The woman driving the car was the defendant’s mother, Stollsteimer said. She is under investigation. No charges have been filed against her.

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Urban Navigation: Helping to End Youth Violence in DelVal Communities

Kids are shooting kids.

In Philadelphia, the 2021 murders were the highest in decades—562. And as of Feb. 10, 55 people have been murdered this year. People point fingers at city officials and the state legislature, the police, and the schools. But who is doing something to help?

Enter Urban Navigation.

This new organization, founded by Don Jackson and Hameen Diggins, is stepping up to get kids on the right track and keep them there. Already operating in Philadelphia, they are in talks with the City of Chester, Collingdale, Upper Darby, and Ardmore to bring Urban Navigation to the suburbs.

Jackson, a founder of the Philadelphia Technician Training Institute, said the technical school is for students 18 and older and teaches them skills to get good-paying jobs.

Don Jackson (left) and Hameen Diggins

But with the rising crime rate, he decided that younger kids needed guidance and to learn some skills, too.

“There’s a rise in all the gun activity,” said Jackson. “So what we did was we started looking at younger kids, and what we understand is getting to them while they’re still at the stage that they haven’t graduated to the next level of stuff.”

Urban Navigation teaches kids technical skills, like fixing their bicycles, fixing small motor machines like dirt bikes or ATVs, and gun safety.

“You know, they’re riding down the street, doing wheelies or whatnot, and kids are very much into bicycles,” he said. “Just peddling, 50 kids peddling.”

Jackson said they have also worked to get groups of young ATV riders that plague Philadelphia streets into areas where it is safe and legal to ride those vehicles. They use “media, music, videography…everything that basically attracts our youth. And social media. We developed a virtual reality platform.”

“We give them conflict resolution training,” said Jackson.

Diggins said, “We saw the need when it came to the youth culture, to give them a voice. So we knew how to help them.”

Diggins’ own experiences of being raised in foster care and group homes help him relate to the underprivileged kids, he said. He survived a difficult childhood and is now a nurse, a photographer, a DJ, and a certified life coach.

“Gun violence is out of control,” said Diggins. “We give them a reason not to shoot, to give them an alternative by having gun safety education.”

The kids already have guns, he said. “We focus on the value of life. We have to give youth a reason not to shoot each other. If they value themselves, they value others.”

“There is a lot of misplaced anger,” Diggins said. “We try to give them a different way to look at things.”

“A lot of this is them trying to be seen,” he said.

Urban Navigation has programs for kids from 8 to 19.

If their parents are not present in kids’ lives, through dads abandoning the family or mothers on drugs, “the street becomes the parent,” and the kids join gangs. Urban Navigation combats that by offering positive activities, he said.

Learning to fix things is helpful. The kids then “understand their hands can be used for a lot more than violence.”

Jackson said, “We deal with a lot of trauma in these young kids. They’re going through broken homes. They got a single parent; maybe one of their parents passed away. They got an older sibling getting ready to go to jail.”

“We want to teach these kids how to be productive citizens,” said Jackson. “We involve them in after-school activities. We’ll teach you how to repair the power sports, as well.

Jackson said they’ve invested $200,000 of their own money to get the nonprofit, up and running. To keep the kids safe, all of the adults working with them go through criminal background checks.

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