Don't just read the news! Investigate the news!

I'm having a little trouble making sense out of this story:

A 22-year-old Philadelphia man who went from soldier to student and hoped to perhaps teach one day was shot to death early yesterday while riding home on his bicycle in the city's Strawberry Mansion section.

L'Salle Harvey III had taken out a small amount of cash from an automated teller machine at 29th and Dauphin Streets. He was targeted by a robber or robbers at 31st and Nevada Streets, police said, apparently while bicycling home.

That means it was a murder occuring during a robbery. Right?

His stepmother, Maude Harvey, said he often would go out late at night to pick up a snack.

Police said a woman passing by saw L'Salle Harvey in the street and called police about 3:10 a.m. because she thought he was injured in a bike accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene shortly afterward.

Police were not aware of any witnesses to the shooting, and authorities were trying to find people in the area who might have heard the gunshots.

Harvey did not appear to have done anything to provoke the shooting.

"It appears right now that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time," said Police Capt. Charles Bloom.

Police said it was unclear whether Harvey was followed from the ATM or randomly targeted afterward.

Wait a second. Police said he was "targeted by a robber or robbers at 31st and Nevada Streets," yet they also say there were no witnesses. How can they possibly know he was robbed? Assuming the facts are correct as stated, police know that he withdrew money from the ATM, and I can only surmise that they must know that the money was missing from his body. But without knowing more, how does that indicate a robbery? How can the police be so certain? Obviously, someone shot him, but when someone withdraws cash from an ATM, in the wee hours of the morning, doesn't that usually mean he needs it for something? It makes no sense to go out and withdraw cash at that hour without an immediate intention to spend it. His mother stated that he "often" would go out to "pick up a snack." Did he? Are there stores in that area which might have seen him and which are open 24 hours? Where are they located? I can only conclude that either the full story is not being given or the police are just speculating.

As if speculation weren't bad enough, the story suddenly shifts gears, and morphs from robbery to talk of a "domestic war":

At L'Salle Harvey's father's home in the 3000 block of West Diamond Street, loved ones mourned the loss of Philadelphia's latest casualty in what some say is a domestic war being lost at home. As of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, there were 258 homicides this year in the city.
Look, it's an awful tragedy whenever anyone is killed -- a fact only heightened by this victim's status as a veteran. And I know the family is grieving (as I would be too if I lost a relative) but veteran plus grief does not turn a robbery/murder into a "domestic war." Wars require opposing sides, and street crime is not the same thing. I know there are criminals out there, and I know that they might attack me, but there's no organization, structure, or opposing ideological philosophy of any kind which would make the war analogy appropriate. No; not even a civil war.

Philadelphia is not Iraq simply because a veteran was robbed and killed. Nor is it Beirut.

Anyway, the lack of detail in the story forced me to do my own detective work and look elsewhere, and it didn't take long. The Philadelphia Daily News has a much longer piece including details about a savage beating administered before the shooting.

Gwen Harvey, 47, said she saw her son alive for the last time about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday when he visited her at Logan Square Apartments, 16th and Callowhill streets, where she works as a concierge.

"He'd visit me almost every night. He'd ride his bike down, pray with me and do his homework," she said.

Harvey said her son asked her to borrow "a couple dollars."

When she told him she didn't have it, Harvey said he was going to get his MAC card, stop at an ATM and call her later in the evening.

Well, those are entirely new details. And very different from the Inquirer saying that "he often would go out late at night to pick up a snack."

"But I never heard from him," she said. "Instead, I got a call saying my baby was dead."

The block of Nevada Street where Harvey was found is largely deserted and does not have an ATM.

That makes no sense in light of the Inquirer's statement about the ATM at 29th and Dauphin -- a location right around the corner from where the body was found. The Inquirer and the Daily News are run by the same company, same publisher, and have the same web site. It's hard to believe that one newspaper would have access to information about crime details that the other lacked.

The Daily News continues:

Monique, a friend of Harvey's who declined to give her last name, said she talked with him about 2:30 a.m. yesterday. "He said he was going to get Chinese food and that he would call me later," she said. "Never called me back."

Harvey's slaying made little sense to his family and friends. "He didn't bother nobody. He wasn't into the streets at all," said Noah Angel, 32, one of Harvey's brothers. "I would have felt better if he had been killed in Iraq."

Harvey joined the Army in 2002 "because he wanted to make us proud," his mother said. He was honorably discharged in 2004 due to injuries he received in training at Fort Stewart, in Georgia.

Last year, Harvey began taking classes at the University of Pennsylvania's Veterans Upward Bound Program. The program helps vets prepare for college and ultimately get their degrees.

"He wanted to be a teacher. He was trying to better his life," Angel said of his younger brother. "I can't let this rest."

I never knew him, but I can't let this rest either, because I can't get the facts of exactly what happened to him, when, and where.

When Harvey wasn't studying he was usually reading in a local library, playing video games or praying, Angel said. Harvey attended services every Sunday at Bethany Baptist Church, in Lindenwold, N.J.

"He was an awesome guy, very spiritual," said Keisha Blagman, a neighbor. Harvey said she checked her son's bank records and found that he withdrew $20 yesterday morning. "Whoever killed him probably thought he had more money than he did," she said. "They beat him and then shot him to death," she said, noting that an autopsy photo showed he was missing several teeth.

"Somebody saw something or heard something. Someone has to come forward and tell the truth," she said.

Beat and shot him? Autopsy photos? (Now I'm wondering about the ATM camera. Was there one? Might it reveal whether he was beaten before or after he withdrew the money? Did the cops check the ATM for blood?)

The Daily News story is so different I found it hard to believe I was reading about the same incident. If you read either one separately, you'd get a completely different impression about what happened. The Inquirer article makes it appear that the victim simply left home, went to the nearest ATM, withdrew money, and was targeted soon afterwards. But the Daily News quotes his mother as saying he asked for money much earlier and was refused, then provides details of a beating, yet puzzlingly, makes no mention of the ATM's location, which detail was provided by the Inquirer.

What is going on? Why would two Inquirer reporters -- Mitch Lipka and Barbara Boyer -- withhold important details of the robbery murder which were reported in the Daily News? And why would the Daily News withhold details of the ATM location?

I wish I had all the facts, but based on my investigation so far, I think it's fair to conclude that there's more to this than "gun violence."

posted by Eric on 09.01.06 at 09:36 AM


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