Almost four years after a dispute over a stolen pizza pie ended in the shooting of a West Oak Lane man, two former Philadelphia police officers are heading to trial on charges related to his death.
Lawyers for Chauncey Ellison, 39, and Robin Fortune, 44, on Wednesday waived their rights to a preliminary hearing and said they would claim self-defense because the victim, Lawrence Allen, 20, had drawn a gun on them.
Ellison and Fortune, who were romantically linked at the time of the shooting, had been cleared of wrongdoing by former District Attorney Lynne Abraham in the off-duty shooting that killed Allen.
The case was one of several that District Attorney Seth Williams decided to reinvestigate after his 2009 election. The case was taken before a county grand jury, and on July 6, Ellison and Fortune were charged.
Ellison, a nine-year veteran, was charged with voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy, possession of an instrument of crime, and reckless endangerment. Fortune, an officer for 13 years, was charged with conspiracy and reckless endangerment.
Both were fired by the department in February 2010.
"We look forward to trying this case and believe that both will be vindicated at trial," said Brian J. McMonagle, the lawyer for Ellison.
McMonagle and Gerald S. Stanshine, Fortune's lawyer, said they decided to waive the preliminary hearing after the District Attorney's Office agreed to release the complete evidence presented to the grand jury that recommended charges.
According to police accounts from the time of the Nov. 17, 2008, event, Ellison's son, who was 14 years old at the time, was confronted and roughed up by a group of neighborhood teens and then robbed of the pizza he was carrying.
Ellison and Fortune - they were then living together, according to Stanshine - off-duty and in plainclothes, then went to confront the bullies and encountered a group of teens on Renovo Street near where the robbery occurred.
Allen was outside his home on Renovo Street, tried to intervene, and wound up getting shot by Ellison while Fortune allegedly egged on Ellison.
Allen, who was initially charged with assault and weapons offenses, was paralyzed and died three months later.
Allen's parents have since filed a civil-rights and wrongful-death lawsuit against the city and Ellison that is pending in federal court in Philadelphia.
Although Ellison told police he believed Allen had a gun, Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman said the prosecution evidence would show that Allen was not armed.
"He's been charged, a former police sergeant, for a shooting over the most amazingly stupid thing," Fairman said, referring to Ellison.
Fairman said the juvenile who stole the pizza from Ellison's son has already been prosecuted and adjudicated delinquent in Family Court.
Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian
at 215-854-2985 or [email protected],
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