Northeast Times

Trial delayed in Frankford bar murder case

On Sat­urday, Feb­ru­ary 19, 2011, at ap­prox­im­ately 1:38 AM, po­lice re­spon­ded to a ra­dio call for gun­shots and a per­son shot at the T & T Bar loc­ated at 4691 Hawthorne Street. Pri­or to po­lice ar­rival at the bar, of­ficers were no­ti­fied that a vic­tim was trans­por­ted by private vehicle from 4691 Hawthorne Street to Frank­ford Hos­pit­al with a gun­shot wound to the chest. The vic­tim was lis­ted in ex­tremely crit­ic­al con­di­tion and trans­ferred to Frank­ford - Tor­res­dale Hos­pit­al (Aria). The vic­tim iden­ti­fied at Chris­toph­er Spence 20 black male from the 4700 block of Griscom Street suc­cumbed to his in­jur­ies and was pro­nounced dead at 3:11 AM. On Sunday, Feb­ru­ary 20, 2011, the de­fend­ant iden­ti­fied as Tyrese Ford 19 year old black male was ar­res­ted at his res­id­ence on the 2700 block of N Cro­s­key Street and charged with the murder of Chris­toph­er Spence. Ford is charged with Murder, VUFA - No li­cense, VUFA - On Streets and Pos­sess­ing An In­stru­ment of Crime.

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A man ac­cused of killing a Frank­ford res­id­ent in­side a no­tori­ous loc­al bar in early 2011 was sup­posed to go on tri­al Ju­ly 9.

Now, Tyrese Ford’s tri­al is sched­uled to open on Nov. 16. An­oth­er man already has been con­victed in a later shoot­ing out­side the same bar.

Ford, 21, of North Phil­adelphia, was charged in the Feb. 19, 2011, murder of 20-year-old Chris­toph­er Spence of the 4700 block of Griscom St. in­side the T&T bar at Hawthorne and Mar­garet streets. Ford was just 19 when he was ar­res­ted Feb. 20, 2011.

A new opin­ion about the vic­tim’s autopsy promp­ted the later tri­al date, said As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Gail Fair­man.

That autopsy had been per­formed by Dr. Al­lis­on Hunt, who now works in Cali­for­nia, Fair­man said in a phone in­ter­view. The med­ic­al ex­am­iner, Dr. Sam Gulino, has an idea about the gun­shot wound that killed Spence, but his idea dif­fers from that of Hunt, the pro­sec­utor said, so de­fense coun­sel Ken­neth Young has been giv­en time to re­view Gulino’s find­ings, she said.

Align­ing the cal­en­dars for the court, pro­sec­utor and de­fense at­tor­ney led to push­ing the tri­al back al­most sixth months.

Spence, who had played foot­ball for the Frank­ford Char­gers and Frank­ford High School, had been shot in the chest after 1 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2011, and was taken by car to Aria Health’s Frank­ford cam­pus. He was trans­ferred to the hos­pit­al’s Tor­res­dale cam­pus, where he died at 3:11 a.m. Fair­man said the shoot­ing was the res­ult of a fight over a girl.

Both the vic­tim and al­leged mur­der­er were un­der the leg­al drink­ing age, and that sparked demon­stra­tions out­side the bar, which already had a plainly bad repu­ta­tion in the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood. The tav­ern’s his­tory of fights and un­der­age drink­ing had been dis­cussed at a com­munity meet­ing with po­lice two days be­fore Spence was killed.

Dur­ing a demon­stra­tion at Hawthorne and Mar­garet after Spence’s death, neigh­bors vowed the bar would nev­er re­open. When the busi­ness did start up again — as Deuces Lounge — protests took place daily across the street.

Spence’s moth­er, Javese Phelps-Wash­ing­ton, said she re­garded the re-open­ing as a slap in the face.

A month after Spence’s death, two men fired in­to a crowd of pro­test­ers, in­flict­ing minor wounds on two people. With­in 10 days, Shamus Arms­ted of West Phil­adelphia, the bar’s op­er­at­or, was ar­res­ted and charged in the shoot­ing.

In mid-June, Arms­ted was found guilty of two counts of ag­grav­ated as­sault and two counts of reck­lessly en­dan­ger­ing an­oth­er per­son. He is in cus­tody at the Cur­ran-From­hold Cor­rec­tion­al Fa­cil­ity on State Road. He faces up to 42 years in pris­on and $55,000 in fines when he is sen­tenced on Aug. 1 in Courtroom 1008 at the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter, 13th and Fil­bert streets.

Pete Specos, pres­id­ent and zon­ing of­ficer of the Frank­ford Civic As­so­ci­ation, said the prop­erty can nev­er again be a bar.

There is a plan to use the build­ing as a gro­cery store, but that pro­pos­al hasn’t moved for­ward yet, Specos said. ••

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You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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