Police chase policy questioned in court

Leslie Pelzer heard the shots that were fired at her only child, Raymond, from two blocks away. She got to the scene minutes later. “I knew he was dead,” Pelzer said. “I could tell from the blood on the ground.”

That was April 27, 2006. Yesterday, a jury started deliberations in a federal case alleging police Officer Melvin Burton wrongfully killed the unarmed 26-year-old behind a home in West Philadelphia and the department was wrong in not having an adequate foot-chase policy.

At a stop-and-frisk outside a barbershop at Millick and Market streets, Pelzer was found to be unarmed but ran before a bench warrant for missing a court date turned up. A chase ensued in which Burton fatally shot him.

“It was a bullet that ripped through our society and caused harm to our safety. Act like it’s the wild west, deliberately indifferent with inadequate training,” Pelzer’s attorney said. Gregg Zeff. “There was no threat.”

Deputy City Solicitor Matthew Kevin Hubbard argued that if a policy was implemented, “they might not pursue the suspect once out of view. What message would go out to the community? ‘All I need to do is outrun a police officer and disappear because I know they won’t chase me. I win.’”

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