By Lindsey Gruson,
Reprinted Special To the New York Times.
‘”The deaths of the five children were the consequences of the measured and deliberate acts of … the officials of the City of Philadelphia…Therefore, the classification of homicide applies.'”Dr. Ali Hameli
Expert Pathologist, Dr. Ali Z. Hameli, disputing a finding of accidental death by the city’s medical examiner, testified today that the children killed in the confrontation between the radical group MOVE and the police were homicide victims.
The pathologist, Dr. Ali Z. Hameli, Delaware’s chief medical examiner, also said the remains of the group’s founder, John Africa, originally known as Vincent L. Leaphart, were among the five previously unidentified bodies found in the burned-out ruins of the radical group’s house. Dr. Hameli said of the 11 people killed in the MOVE house after the police dropped a bomb on it May 13, 1985, five were children, not four, as the medical examiner had found.
”The deaths of the five children were the consequences of the measured and deliberate acts of, and interactions, between the adults responsible for the MOVE house and the officials of the City of Philadelphia,” Dr. Hameli said. ”Therefore, the classification of homicide applies.”
Decision Called Costly
In other testimony today before a commission investigating the clash, an arson investigator said the city’s decision to try to gain a strategic advantage by allowing a bunker on the roof of the fortified MOVE house to burn after the bomb was dropped from a helicopter doomed the entire neighborhood.
The investigator, Charles G. King, said the city could have extinguished the blaze within the first 45 minutes without endangering the lives of firefighters if it had used remote-controlled equipment that was at the scene. Mr. King, a retired supervising fire marshal for the New York City Fire Department, said ”squirts” from the high-pressure hoses could ”easily” have put out the fire in that period.
In later testimony today, Dr. Hameli said the deaths of the six adults should be classified either as homicide or suicide. Since the adults, unlike the children, chose to remain in the house it is up to the judicial system to classify their deaths, he said. [note from onamove.com: Dr. Hameli did not know about the police fusillade of bullets at MOVE people trying to escape the inferno. The classification of “homicide was very important because it directly refutes the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office’s desperate attempt that the deaths were a “tragic accident.”].
The Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office had ruled that all 11 deaths were accidental and that the victims died from fire-related injuries.
Dr. Hameli, a member of the team that identified the remains of the Nazi War criminal Joseph Mengele, testified that he could not determine the precise cause of death of the 11 people. The police siege of the house culminated with the dropping of the bomb. An ensuing fire destroyed 61 row houses, leaving 250 people homeless.
Determining the cause of death and classifying them is a key element in the commission’s attempt to apportion blame for allowing a neighborhood dispute to turn into what Mayor W. Wilson Goode called an ”absolute disaster.” The classification is also a vital part in the commission’s effort to determine if the police used excessive force in the confrontation that began when they went to the house with arrest warrants for five MOVE members.
Mayor Goode appointed the 11-member commission to explore all aspects of the confrontation.
Dr. Hameli emphasized that it was not his job to decide whether the children’s homicides were justifiable. District Attorney Edward G. Rendell, whose office is conducting a criminal investigation into the city’s handling of the crisis, has said it was extremely unlikely he would file homicide charges.
…At least three bodies recovered from the MOVE house contained fragments of what were probably shotgun pellets. One body might have contained a piece of a bullet.Expert Pathologist, Dr. Ali Z. Hameli
But Mr. Rendell said his staff was studying whether there was any evidence for filing other criminal charges, such as risking a catastrophe or reckless endangerment.
In his testimony, Dr. Hameli said at least three bodies recovered from the MOVE house contained fragments of what were probably shotgun pellets. One body might have contained a piece of a bullet, he added. But none of those fragments appeared to have caused death, he said.
The medical examiner’s office had ruled there were no fragments of bullets or shotgun pellets in the bodies. It had also been unable to identify all the bodies found in the house.