Felonious violation of existing gun laws being spun as "road rage" and "genocide"

There's huge front page story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, with the issue of the shooter's race suddenly becoming relevant:

Nearly a dozen police officers could be seen posted outside the church as mourners arrived, more than funeral home staff remembered seeing at previous funerals resulting from homicides. The Police Department did not return a call for comment late yesterday.

Some mourners speculated that the police presence may have been due to concern of possible racial overtones. The 18-year-old charged with Tykeem's July 14 murder - Charles Meyers - is white. He had been free without bail awaiting trial on drug-possession and drunken-driving charges.

And the issue of race came up during the funeral.

State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D., Phila.) said a state legislator from outside Philadelphia had called the city's homicide problem "cultural genocide," blacks killing blacks. State Rep. Steve Cappelli (R., Lycoming) did so during a nationally televised ABC news broadcast July 8.

But Tykeem's case, Thomas said, "represents a burst in the bubble. It represents the roof coming off."

The mourners applauded and yelled in agreement.

"It's not about just blacks killing blacks. It's about too many guns and violence dominating life in the city of Philadelphia."

Thomas said he had asked Cappelli: "Was Columbine a case of cultural genocide?"

I don't know whether it's fair to say that the case is taking on a life of its own, but in the earlier reports, I'd read about it as being a case of "road rage":

Law, who was described as a "model kid" by those who knew him, was riding with a group of friends in the 900 block of Federal Street around 4 p.m. Saturday when a burgundy Mazda sedan pulled up behind them.

The 18-year-old driver of the car, Charles Meyers, of Darien Street near Ritner, in South Philadelphia, felt the boys weren't moving fast enough and he honked his horn and yelled at the bicyclists to get out of the way, said Homicide Sgt. Tim Cooney.

"Some words were exchanged," Cooney said. "We don't know exactly what was said, but it wasn't a heated or extended argument."

Law's four friends moved over, but Law stopped in front of the vehicle, got off his bike and moved to the passenger side of the car, according to police.

"With that, witnesses state the burgundy Mazda inched up, the driver pulled out a handgun, reached across the passenger and fired one shot through the passenger window, striking Tykeem in the chest," Cooney said. "Tykeem staggered onto the sidewalk and fell in front of 921 Federal Street."

At the end of the story, the shooting is described as a "road-rage incident."
The officer, Joseph Acavino, radioed in the locations of the alleged crimes, Cooney said. He ordered Meyers and his two passengers to stay in the car until backup arrived. All three were taken into custody; Meyers was charged with murder, possession of an instrument of a crime, and firearms violations.

Cooney said police are classifying the case as a "road-rage incident."

This is rapidly morphing into a national story -- presumably from "road rage plus guns equals dead children" to road rage plus guns equals cultural genocide" -- so I thought the facts might be worth a closer look.

There are numerous references to the firearms violations, and I'd like to see exactly what the charges are. if the initial stories are any indication, the man's previous arrest record makes him appear to be a drug dealer (same story here):

Charles T. Meyers, the man held in the road-rage slaying of a 14-year-old boy in South Philadelphia, had been arrested twice on drug-possession charges since his 18th birthday in December, court records show.
Meyers is being held without bail on murder and weapons charges in the fatal shooting Saturday of Tykeem Law.
Since his 18th birthday? Is it cynical of me to wonder about whether this thug was arrested before then?
Acquaintances said Meyers, whose last address was on South Darien Street near Ritner Street in South Philadelphia, had been thrown out of his house by his mother and that his life appeared to be in a downward spiral.
Court records show that on March 28, Meyers was arrested at Seventh and Ritner Streets after a road stop and was charged with possession of 30 Percocet pills with a street value of $150.

On June 15, the same day he had a court date in the March case, Meyers was arrested at Ninth Street and Oregon Avenue and charged with possession of marijuana and Vicodin and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Meyers had been free without bail and was awaiting trial in both cases when he was arrested in the killing of Law, described by friends and family as a good kid who loved sports and playing basketball.

OK, there are plenty of felonies right there. For starters, it is a serious felony for any felon (or anyone arrested for a felony) to possess a gun.

Why isn't it being made plain that the man was violating existing gun laws, and that had these laws been obeyed, young Tykeem Law would be alive today?Instead, it's all about road rage, and cultural genocide -- caused by a lack of gun laws.

Then there's this detail:

Police said it appeared to be "road rage." Two other men in Meyers' car, ages 21 and 33, were questioned and released.
Is it unreasonable to want to know exactly what was going on with this young thug at the time of the shooting? At 18, he was already a career criminal (or well on his way to that), and it just goes against common sense to declare a shooting by such a man who already had an illegal weapon in disregard of existing gun laws to be simple road rage.

Oh, and now it's genocide.

Or would that be "road rage genocide"?

I don't know the facts, and I strongly suspect we're not getting all of them.

UPDATE: When I said "arrested" above, I should have said "under indictment" -- as I meant to refer to this man's pending charges, not his arrest. I do not know what (if any) juvenile record he had, nor do I know whether he was under probation at the time. Again, I would like to know precisely what the firearms charges are.

UPDATE: Meyers was assaulted and beaten (apparently by other prisoners) in his courthouse cell this afternoon:

PHILADELPHIA - A suspect in the apparent road-rage death of a 14-year-old bicyclist _ a crime that has shaken even this violence-weary city _ was beaten up in a courthouse holding cell and taken to a hospital Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the suspect's lawyer said there is no dispute that his client, Charles Meyers, fired the shot that killed Tykeem Law.

"It's uncontradicted that Mr. Meyers did in fact shoot the gun," lawyer Jeremy-Evan Alva said Wednesday. "It's a tragedy. Two families are absolutely destroyed over this."

Meyers, 18, was in protective custody when he was assaulted in the Criminal Justice Center holding cell, which held other inmates in protective custody, Alva said. Meyers was due in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing on the homicide charge.

Alva had not yet seen his client and did not know his condition or the name of the hospital treating him.

I'm still trying to find out exactly how many gun laws were violated, because many people see this case is an argument for gun control. But if he didn't obey existing gun laws, why would he have obeyed more?

UPDATE: Not only is the shooter's race being called relevant, but so is that of the companion passengers:

Some at the funeral said they believe that race was the aggravating factor in the shooting.

"As I told the police commissioner to his face, and as I told the family to their face, we will not let this die," declared Black Panther minister King Samir Shabazz.

"Three of them are in the car, two are let go, and a black man is laying dead behind me now.

"So we are out here fighting for justice and pushing and promoting that [the shooter] and the other two really need the death penalty. That's the only way I'd feel justified for Tykeem Law and his mother."

Until today, I didn't think the race of the shooter mattered.

But now that everyone's race is said to matter, I guess we need to know the race of the passengers. Will it be reported, or are we just suppose to assume they were white?

UPDATE (07/26/07): More (but not much) on the origin of the gun:

Police said yesterday that they had not yet learned how Meyers obtained the weapon allegedly used in the slaying.

Homicide Sgt. Tim Cooney said the .22 caliber gun used to kill Tykeem was not registered to Meyers, but he declined to say whether it was registered to someone else.

"An investigation as to the origin of that weapon is ongoing," he said.

It should be remembered that according to the news reports, the shooter turned 18 in December, and that his first adult felony arrest (mere possession of Percocet is a PA felony) was in March. What this means is that if he had no juvenile record sufficient to prohibit his possession of firearms, no history of reported mental health problems, and could honestly swear he was not a drug user, then it is theoretically possible for him to have legally purchased the gun between December and March. But since the police are now saying that the gun was not "registered to him," I think we can safely assume this did not happen.

What is not known is when or how he got the gun, or the gun's status.

If he obtained the weapon with felonies pending, there's an illegal transfer right there. Of course, had he obtained the weapon before turning 18, that would have required commission of a separate felony. Additionally, it is a Pennsylvania felony to possess a loaded firearm in an automobile without having a concealed carry license.

I am not an expert on firearms laws, but just what I've been able to find on the Internet convinces me that there were plenty of gun laws making it illegal for Meyers to possess of the gun allegedly used to shoot Tykeem Law.

The problem is that the laws were simply not obeyed, and I am unable to understand how this case can possibly be seen as an argument for more gun laws. Criminals do not obey gun laws, they never have, and they never will. In a murder case like this the firearms violations are lesser offenses anyway, and tend to be sidelined.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link! Welcome all.

Please bear in mind that I am relying on news accounts, and I am not in a position to have all the facts, which are being reported erratically, from different sources. I am suspicious about the direction of the spin, but my suspicions are not facts.

I am left wondering, why this is being made into a national story?

Why is it seen as an argument for gun control?

UPDATE (07/27/07): I really appreciate the useful comments, which demonstrate that there were many more gun laws than the ones I found. Which were not obeyed, of course. (Therefore, we need more laws which will not be obeyed by criminals!)

posted by Eric on 07.25.07 at 01:15 PM


Yes, it is irritating the way the media try to spoon-feed the public, pour salt on wounds, and stir racial tensions and controversy. They always fall for the 'exception'--which really just proves the rule. If this were a common event, we'd barely see a mention of it in the paper. Had the suspect been black, no attention would be paid.

What can we learn from this? Juvenile delinquents are more likely to shoot? Moving out of the way slowly of a moving vehicle is hazardous to your health? Or it's only OK to shoot someone WITHIN your race? With the way the media spins the story, I wonder which message they are really trying to feed us.

Robert   ·  July 25, 2007 5:25 PM
... (or anyone arrested for a felony)

Is that right? I'm asking because I don't really know. It doesn't sound possible to me since everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and the State can't prohibit someone from exercising their Constitutional rights without the due process of law. Perhaps, an arraignment/probable cause hearing is "all the process that is due"?

MichaelW   ·  July 25, 2007 6:35 PM

There's the Brady law:


Under 18 U.S.C. 922(d), no person may sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer a firearm to any person whom the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe:


Is under indictment for or has been convicted in any court of a felony;

Is a fugitive from justice;

Is an unlawful user of a controlled substance;


I don't know what law applies to previous convictions as a minor (and I don't know the man's record, if any).

I strongly suspect he was committing one or more crimes simply by having the gun. (And in his car, at that.)

Again, I'd like to know what the charges against him are.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 25, 2007 8:56 PM

Additionally, adjudicated delinquents are prohibited from possession in PA (as are persons under indictment for felonies and certain misdemeanors:


If this man had no record as a minor, he might have been legally allowed to possess before his indictment. (And bear in mind that I'm assuming that "awaiting trial in both cases" means that he is under indictment.)

A recently charged crime in PA federal court was "possession of firearms by a person under indictment."


Eric Scheie   ·  July 25, 2007 9:33 PM

The thing is, the Inquirer doesn't actually believe in gun control, neither does the Philadelphia city government. They seek an absolute prohibition on private gun ownership. This is why there's no mention of the fact that the accused cannot legally possess a firearm. Their intent is to undermine public trust in control schemes in order to push for an total ban on ownership.

Max   ·  July 26, 2007 12:12 AM

"So we are out here fighting for justice and pushing and promoting that [the shooter] and the other two really need the death penalty." Are you freaking kidding me? If I show the poor judgement of riding with a friend of mine who is waiting trial but hasnt been convicted of a couple drug related cases where there apparently was no violence and that friend suddenly pulls out a gun and shoots someone, I deserve to be put to death? What if the victim was white? What if the shooter and myself were both black and the victim was white? Where is the line that says I get the death penalty because I was on the car?

buzz   ·  July 26, 2007 12:30 AM

buzz, I suspect Shabazz would be equally happy executing the shooter and any two additional white people, whether they were in the car or not.

bgates   ·  July 26, 2007 1:51 AM

Well the real shocker was it was Saturday afternoon - the murder rate kicks up at night mostly.


5 were killed last Saturday according to this Inquirer article. No mention of the race of the victims or suspects ...

West Phil   ·  July 26, 2007 5:13 AM

Just as here in Milwaukee... if they don't mention the race, you can be assured that the suspects were Black.

There is no hesitation to mention the race of white suspects.

Cro   ·  July 26, 2007 9:50 AM

bgates-I suspected as much.

So you can legally buy a pistol in PA at 18? 21 at every state I have ever lived in.

buzz   ·  July 26, 2007 10:17 AM

Here's some background on firearms laws:

A) Federal law prohibits people under 21 from purchasing handguns from an FFL. (Federal Firearms License...ie gun dealer)

B) All FFLs must run the instant background check before selling a gun to anyone.

C) PA law requires that all handguns either be purchased from an FFL, or if from a private party, through an FFL or the sherriff's dept, which will run the background check. The few exceptions to this are massively unlikely. (ie: his mom or dad gave him the gun, or he inherited it)

D) PA law prohibits posession for juvenile offenses for a certain number of years, the result being that the prohibition doesn't expire until the offender is well into their late 20's.


The core issue w/ respect to Philadelphia crime is that they are the textbook example of "revolving door justice", which results in a basic unwillingness of people to testify, lest they subject themselves to retribution. The institution of criminal justice in PHL is fundamentally broken, and the people are divided, and thus unable to reclaim their neighborhoods on their own behalf.

Of course, that's not a problem an incumbent political machine can admit, and so "guns" are scapegoated.

geekWithA.45   ·  July 26, 2007 10:20 AM

bgates-I suspected as much.

So you can legally buy a pistol in PA at 18? 21 at every state I have ever lived in.

buzz   ·  July 26, 2007 10:23 AM

If the race baiters continue, I believe there will be a tipping point, where the goodwill of American whites will be worn out by constant accusations of racism. Right now, I believe a lot of the crime in the black community is tolerated, because if you are white and you bring up and want to do something about black crime, you are screamed down as a racist. Politicians are too cowardly to take that on, look what they did to Rudi Guiliani, when he saved the lives of thousands of black victims.

Jabba the Tutt   ·  July 26, 2007 10:30 AM

Check out 18 Pa.C.S. 6105 (persons not to possess a firearm), 18 Pa.C.S. 6106 (firearms not to be carried without a license), and 18 Pa.C.S. 6108 (carrying a firearm in Philadelphia).

Jimmy   ·  July 26, 2007 12:05 PM

The spandexified bicycle nazis in Portola Valley are much worse. None of them would have moved over for the car, and the rest of the Peloton would have moved up on the car the driver would have been overwhelmed.

DirtCrashr   ·  July 26, 2007 3:43 PM

why does race always come into a crime i also had a child shot on a street corner does anyon care what color she was my heart goes out to the mother of this boy no mater what color she or he is

Anonymous   ·  August 2, 2007 2:57 PM

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