The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole has been hit with a wrongful death claim
by the family of murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Moses Walker, Jr. alleging that the agency’s failure to properly monitor the cop’s killer ultimately led to the public servant’s death this past summer.
Attorney Michael F. Barrett, a partner with the high-power Philadelphia personal injury firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, filed suit at the U.S. District Court in downtown Philadelphia on Nov. 13 against the parole board as well as its chairman, Michael C. Potteiger, and board agents Juan Rodriguez, Rosa Hernandez and Michelle Rivera.
The plaintiff named in the case is Wayne S. Lipscomb, identified in news reports as Walker’s mother and the administratrix of the late officer’s estate.
Walker, 40, was killed during the early morning hours of Aug. 18 while walking home from a night shift at the 22nd Police District in North Philadelphia.
The off-duty officer, who was a 19-year police department veteran, was shot and killed during a robbery attempt.
Walker attempted to pull his pistol, but was killed before he could get a shot off.
The man who has been charged with Walker’s murder, 23-year-old Rafael Jones, had been released from prison 10 days prior to the killing.
Jones had been in jail for four years on an illegal gun possession charge, and was supposed to be on electronic monitoring at the time he allegedly committed Walker’s murder, however, the monitoring was never properly set up.
Jones has apparently confessed to the killing.
The federal lawsuit claims that Walker’s murder occurred as a result of “a failure on the part of all Defendants to have in place proper and effective policies and procedures to protect the citizenry at large, and, in particular, police officers, including Officer Walker …”
The lawsuit says that in February of this year, about four months after Jones was released from prison, police arrested Jones and charged him with robbing a man at gunpoint in Philadelphia.
That case, however, was dropped after the victim failed to appear for testimony.
The suit contends that Jones had violated the terms of his parole with that successive robbery, and that he should have been held on home confinement under electronic monitoring.
The home at which he was staying, however, did not contain a telephonic landline.
Jones was given two weeks by which to have a phone line installed at the home, the lawsuit states, but that was never done.
Therefore, Jones, who had since been released from custody, was not under electronic monitoring at the time he allegedly killed Officer Walker.
The complaint further asserts that Jones had failed a drug test one week prior to Walker’s death, and that he should have been detained by the authorities in accordance with the order of Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Susan Schulman.
Agent Rodriguez, one of the defendant’s in the civil action, reportedly requested an arrest warrant following the positive drug testing, the complaint shows, but the request was denied on the very same day of Walker’s killing.
“If Defendants had acted to detain Rafael Jones at the time of his failed drug test and/or on August 15, 2012, upon Defendant, Agent Rodriguez’ reported request, Rafael Jones would have been in custody and would have presented no danger to the citizenry at-large, or, in particular, police officers, including Officer Walker, in the area surrounding the 22nd Police District in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” the lawsuit reads.
The suit states that in the wake of Walker’s murder, the state Board of Probation and Parole came under “intense criticism” for its role in failing to properly supervise the probation of Jones.
During a subsequent state House committee hearing, the lawsuit states, it was reported that parole agents and employees of the parole board have come forth anonymously and stated that the agency has an unwritten policy to limit the number and/or amount of probationary/parole arrests that it makes and/or warrants that it seeks in order to give the appearance that the recidivism rates for probation and parole violations are lower than what they would otherwise be.
The complaint accuses the parole board of a “systemic breakdown” that culminated with Walker’s death.
The suit contains counts of state and federal civil rights violations, wrongful death and Survival Act claims.
The plaintiff seeks judgment in excess of $150,000 for compensatory and punitive damages, along with litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.
A jury trial has also been demanded.
The federal case number is 2:12-cv-06373-HB.