By John Loftus
Times Staff Writer
The former operator of a notorious Frankford bar has been sentenced to seven to 20 years in prison for his role in the 2011 shootings of two people who were protesting the reopening of his tavern, which had been closed since an underage man had been killed there.
Shamus Armsted of West Philadelphia, who had operated the T&T at Margaret and Hawthorne streets, was sentenced Nov. 7 in Common Pleas Court, according to Assistant District Attorney Alisa Shver. In mid-June, he was found guilty of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person. He faced up to 42 years in prison, prosecutors said after his conviction.
The T&T was shut down after 20-year-old Christopher Spence, of the 4700 block of Griscom St., had been gunned down inside early on Feb. 19, 2011. His alleged killer, Tyrese Ford, is scheduled to go on trial this week.
Neighbors had long complained about underage drinking, fights and noise at the corner bar. Two days after Spence died, friends, family and neighbors crowded the streets outside the T&T and vowed the bar would never reopen.
The bar remained closed, but only for a while. Neighbors, including the dead man’s mother, Javese Phelps-Washington, took to the streets daily in protest when the bar reopened weeks later as the Deuces Lounge.
Phelps-Washington said she regarded the reopening as a slap in the face.
A month after Spence’s death, Armsted drove up to the protesters along with two other men who never have been identified, Shver said in an interview on Friday. One of the other men was armed with two handguns and began firing into the crowd of protesters when he got out of the car.
Bullets struck two people, but no one was seriously injured, Shver said.
Armsted was not accused of firing a weapon, Shver said, but surveillance tape showed him standing shoulder to shoulder with the armed man, who then began chasing the fleeing protesters as he fired at them. Shver said Armsted could be seen calmly going back to his car to wait for the gunman to return.
Shver said Armsted testified at his trial in the spring that he didn’t know the other two men who had gotten out of the car with him, and that he was surprised when the shooting started.
Witnesses, however, said they didn’t recognize the shooter, which led prosecutors to believe he wasn’t there on his own.
The bar since has been closed for good and its liquor license voided. There was a plan to reopen the premises as a grocery store, but neighbors rejected that proposal at two separate community meetings.
Shver said crime in the neighborhood around the bar has dropped since it went out of business.
Ford, who was just 19 when he was arrested in 2011, is scheduled to go on trial in Common Pleas Court on Friday. He had been scheduled to go on trial July 9.
A revised medical opinion about the victim’s autopsy prompted the later trial date, Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman said during the summer. 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, was shot in the chest 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. Feb. 19, 2011. Fairman said the shooting was the result of a fight over a girl. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org