Reports that Tate-Brown admitted having a gun are false, family lawyer claims
New questions about controversial officer-involved shooting raised by lawyer of Brandon Tate-Brown's family, but police say information was already known.
The lawyer for the family of Brandon Tate-Brown released a report Sunday night that directly contradicts assertions by the Police Advisory Commission that witnesses heard Tate-Brown acknowledge possessing a gun.
“Witnesses did not see Brandon carrying a gun or hear Brandon admit to having a gun, contrary to reports of others who have seen the statements,” attorney Brian Mildenberg said in a statement -- likely referring to a report released by the Police Advisory Commission on Feb. 27 that said the opposite.
The Police Advisory Commission’s report noted that witnesses to the shooting say they heard Tate-Brown acknowledge he had a gun.
“A witness who was on the driver’s side was within earshot and describes part of the verbal exchange. The officers repeatedly ask where's the gun,and at one point, Brown says it’s in the vehicle,” their report states.
The commission reviewed witness statements, as well as three surveillance videos in the possession of police that show parts of the traffic stop, before issuing their report.
But Mildenberg directly contradicted their reading of the evidence.
“One witness stated he overheard police, after Brandon complied and exited the vehicle, and during a time where a police officer had his gun drawn and was pointing it at Brandon’s back, asking Brandon to tell them whether he had a gun and where it was. This witness overheard Brandon deny that he had the gun on him. This has been misinterpreted and reported as Brandon admitted to having a gun, but just not on him. This is not what the witness reported,” Mildenberg wrote.
Police Advisory Commission executive director Kelvyn Anderson responded Monday morning to say the Commission would seek to review the evidence again to clear up the contradiction.
Lt. John Stanford, spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, released a statement discounting the value of the information Mildenberg claimed to have discovered.
"There aren't any 'new accounts' or 'newly discovered discrepancies,'" Stanford said via email. "All the information that this attorney is referring to, is our thorough investigation which he continues to throw pieces to the media as if he is discovering something new."
Mildenberg's report also states that another witness statement says that officers at the scene told the witness they pulled over Tate-Brown’s white 2014 Dodge Charger because it matched the description of a vehicle from an earlier incident.
“We challenge the police to provide information about the alleged previous incident that night involving a vehicle that matched the description,” Mildenberg said.
Initial police reports of the Dec. 15 fatal shooting of Tate-Brown said he was pulled over for driving without his headlights on, then officers asked him out of the car after they saw a gun in the car.
“The police story has changed so many times that, on behalf of Ms. Dickerson, we now believe that Brandon was pulled over for no good reason at all, and never should have been pulled over in the first place,” Mildenberg said in his statement.
Stanford rejected those assertions.
"This department had conducted a thorough investigation from the onset and there is no 'new' or 'recently discovered' info as its being referred to by this attorney. Cases aren't investigated through the media therefore information isn't released bit by bit as it is investigated," Stanford said in his statement.
Family and friends have argued that Tate-Brown, who had served five years in prison on a previous conviction, would not have fought with police, and some have said they don’t believe he would have been carrying a gun.
The 15th District officer who pulled the trigger on Tate-Brown was cleared of departmental violations, according to police, but the shooting is still under review by the D.A.’s office.
Police had a similar response to Mildenberg'sreport released last week regarding information from the medical examiner's report.
That report included information to the effect that after Tate-Brown was stopped for undisclosed reasons, police asked him out of the car because the car’s tag did not match the rental company Tate-Brown said owned the car.
Tate-Brown, a Hertz employee, said the car belonged to Hertz. The car was listed as belonging to One Dollar Rental, which is owned by Hertz, according to Mildenberg.
"Whether he realizes it or not, the attorney is simply pointing out the many violations of the law that the officers had to contend with during this stop, ie: lights out, improper vehicle registration, stolen gun; therefore, in his attempts to show that the officers did something wrong, he is actually highlighting the many things that they did right," Stanford said in his statement.
A criminal defense attorney who asked not to be identified previously questioned the reliability of a medical examiner's report -- noting that medical examiners are not sworn police officers and may be writing reports from their recollections.