Man With a Thousand Faces: What the Cops Will Do to Catch the Strangler

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 21 | Posted Jan. 12, 2011

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The total number of local swabs to date is unclear (the PPD didn’t return PW’s inquiry) and so is the method.

On a recent cold Tuesday morning under the El on Kensington Avenue, some men made claims about recent mass swabbings.

“They stopped all the traffic from Kensington and Somerset to Lehigh. Just took everybody they saw,” says a 35-year-old black man named Shawn. He says about two weeks ago, the police took him and about 30 others down to police headquarters. “We sat there for a day, they let us go the next day. If you don’t sign this consent, they keep you a longer time.”

“Is that against the law?” he wonders.

Workers in the stores are more skeptical. “I ain’t seen nothing like that and we’re up here every day,” a Latino says at an auto parts store up the street.

“Junkies probably told you that,” laughs a white man in an appliance store on the corner at Somerset. “You wanna buy some land in Florida?

Others swear the swabbings are real. “They swabbed me though I wasn’t doing anything. I was walking around, just like that,” says a grizzled middle-aged white man, drinking a tallboy in the deli under the el. “I don’t care, I’m a felon so it’s already in there. They put a swab in my mouth, and they were like, nah, you don’t match. They do it right in the street.”

“I’ve seen it and heard it. They take a bunch of people downtown,” adds a man sitting in an opposing booth.

“They put a swab in your mouth and they put it in this little tube,” the white guy continues. “They think everybody that has a black hoodie on is this guy. I’ve been stopped over four times for this, over the last couple months. But they only did the swab one time. I’m white! Do I look like him?”

Across the street in a check-cashing joint, a light-skinned black man named Zaire talks while scratching off lotto tickets. “They just come grip you up. Say for instance you walk outside, they not gonna care who you are, they just gonna grip you up and take you,” he says.

“It was when Mayor Nutter was over here, had that speech about the rapist. They came down here with the van, told everyone to hop in. They take you to the district.” Zaire, 28, says he was let out fairly quickly, but some people were held longer.

“One of my guys was there for three days,” says an older man standing nearby. “Sometimes they keep you like 32 hours in case the DNA comes out to whatever.”

Kelvyn Anderson, deputy director of the Police Advisory Commission, confirms that the only stop-and-swab complaint filed with his office was from Manuel Sanchez.

Hidden in Plain Sight

This catch-the-killer-by-any-means-necessary attitude stirs up debate. Some people believe that with a threat like the Strangler on the loose, the police should be empowered to bend the rules, that we don’t need all the squawking about civil rights when people are afraid to leave their homes.

“A number of people would say of course that the ends justifies the means,” says attorney Edward Ohlbaum, professor at Temple University School of Law. “That if we can get this guy of the street, who cares?”

Indeed, on the more than 11,000 member-strong public Facebook group, ‘Catch the Kensington Killer before he catches someone you love,’ many people have encouraged the idea that the police should do whatever it takes to apprehend the Strangler (while, ironically, calling them ‘scum’ for disrespecting residents).

“If it takes 50 innocent [people] to take a DNA test to find one guilty man so be it,” posted one member. “I’m thinking [they] should have every single person [in the] world’s DNA on file,” posted another, echoing a sentiment controversially expressed by politicians such as Rudy Giuliani, who once stated all newborns should be swabbed, their DNA catalogued in a genetic library.

But legally, the end doesn’t justify the means. To the contrary, the means pollute the end.

“If by chance you got the right guy, because of your unconstitutional seizure of that evidence, which is now going to be suppressed … Because of that unconstitutional violation, we’ve allowed a criminal to go free,” says Ohlbaum.

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Comments 1 - 21 of 21
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1. c r said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 10:56AM

“if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck...”

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2. Mike said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 01:32PM

“"If this was white America—upper-class white America—you’d have … some cracker-fabulous motherfucker down here protesting. But it’s OK to violate young Latino males in Kensington.”

Wow man. Way to take a good point, and make it sound ignorant by filling it with race-baiting and ethnic slurs.

This is why good people, smart people, never make it out of places like Kensington. Because they refuse to communicate above a 9th grade level, and the world will never take them seriously.

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3. Anonymous said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 03:53PM

“So....It sounds like you're not too concerned with the cops catching this dude but that some Latino who fits the descriptions rights are violated. Just amazing, nothing like helping the police. All these guys that fit the description should voluntarily have their DNA checked, or are they afraid of being guilty of something. Man up!!”

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4. Charles Denson said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 04:14PM

“Why would anybody be against this?! If the killer was in Ireland, do you think all the Irishmen would be crying foul if the cops were stopping them?
Save your neighborhood and stop hating on the cops and stop dressing like slobs who just got let out of prison and don't fit their clothes and maybe you won't be stopped alot.”

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5. Jeff said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 05:00PM

“I don't care what race he is and what he dresses like, the point is his rights were violated and the cop was a jerk. The "stop and frisk law" is a violation of our Constitutional 4th amendment rights and Nutter is a jerk for putting this in place. Learn your history people and remember exactly WHY the American Revolution was fought.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 07:53PM

“It would be prudent if this person shaved the goatee and got a haircut just to avoid resembling the suspect and getting tapped.

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7. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 06:55AM

“Wow....5 page article and no tipline#?”

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8. Ray said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 01:20PM

“The police will can never do the right thing when their methods are forever criticized. Sorry Chino, if you know that by dressing the way you do resmebles the sketch of the person of interest, then you should expect to be stopped by the police. Stop bitchin'!”

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9. Mike said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 02:40PM

“I can pretty much guarantee that if the people saying "who cares, swab everyone" lived in a neighborhood like ours (kensington) they'd change their tune real quick. The police feel they can and literally do anything they want. I'm a white law abiding male, and if the police did this to me I would be filing legal actions in a heartbeat, I was sitting by my work waiting for my girlfriend to pick me up and was questioned by police. For waiting to get a ride, they didn't believe me and even went as far as making me go get my boss to prove I worked there. Why? No clue, they never said why they wanted to know what I was doing. You CANNOT stop and frisk anyone for no reason at all and the taking of DNA by threats of forced confinement is completely ILLEGAL. The police are doing a great injustice to actually trying to catch him, if and when they do, if it is because of a stop and frisk the man will walk free out of court. Will you be happy then? Do it the right way and put him away.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 09:29PM

“The cops were wrong for breaking the law while investigating this case! The law is the law and no one is above the law! It is easy for certain people on this post to make rude comments regarding Manuel Chino Sanchez and his hip hop culture dress appearence and image. He was not breaking the law and in fact was assisting the cops at a press conference! It is easy for those posting negative comments when thier civil rights were not violated. This kind of stuff happens every day in Philly which truly hurts the good hard working honest men & women in blue reputations.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 09:50PM

“Sounds like there are a few racisr on this post that have a problem with the hip hop culture of young black & hispanic males. Why dont you certain posters just put on your white sheets or your uncle tom smiling faces and say yes sir master, you right master, the police can break the law any way they want master as long as aint towards fellow well to do white folk master. Sh"""""""t F"""""""" that dumb racial stuff. Dont talk crap if you guys werent there. Certain cops do this dumb stuff everyday in da hood to residenta of color for no good reason other than cause they have a badge and a negative attitude in life. Im glad that a young spanish brother is standing up and telling the truth against a few bad cops.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 10:18PM

“Hey Look it's a bird, it's a plane... it's a person so wronged... suck it up Buttercup. Your'e not the only one who's been through stuff like this....try having people try killing you or setting you up in crimes that you haven't commited or getting involved with underground drug organization and having to play along just to keep yourself alive and the police think you're one of the bad people.”

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13. Jase said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 04:27PM

“Lets say a cop who goes to stop chino takes a "nice" approach, and asks chino politely for a swab. Chino would have still complained.

Lets say chino pulled out a gun on the "nice" cop and shot him. Now the cop is at fault for letting his guard down.

Everyone is a dam judge, however nobody will ever know theyre role until they step in the shoes and paths of those who try to uphold the law.”

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14. Ray said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 05:24PM

“@Anonymous: Racist? Are you kidding me? Chino in this picture is dressed in a way that anywhere outside the city would get him noticed and not in a good way. That's not racist saying so, that's called not being a dumbass. And it makes me wonder if Chino wants to keep looking the same way as the suspect so he will get stopped and then he can complain. Wise up. The cops are doing what they have to do and we should be glad they are, otherwise they would be accused of not doing enough.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 08:26PM

“Been a cop and know a little about police procedures & protocall & if Chino committed a crime fine police should be carefull,. but if Chino is walking down the street not committing a crime then there should be rule of engagement for police & citizens.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 08:29PM

“Chino doesnt live outside of the city and was walking in hi neighborhood where it is very common for young Latino males in dressing like that. I myself dont dress or look like that but I try not to be opinionated regarding others and thier cultures.”

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17. Anonymous said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 10:25PM

“Bucceroni is a "local legend"??


That "local" is only a legend in his own mind.

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18. Louis said... on Jan 15, 2011 at 09:44AM

“Bucceroni, whether you like him or not? Has at least been active over the years doing something in the neighnorhoods. I have spoken with a few people since the article posted on the streets whom said good things although a few said he was a pain in the butt?????? I dont know if that was good or bad????? but at least the guy is out there doing something, which is more than the average person can say that lives in Kensington.”

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19. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2011 at 08:26AM

“The knuckledraggers need to follow the law and obtain a warrant, period. This power will be abused, as always, by the single digit IQ, badge wearing apeman. Cops are just criminals with badges, drunk on power. The media needs to stop apologizing for them.”

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20. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2011 at 10:42AM

“It's terrible that this happened, but seriously, Buccerroni, this is no time to make racial slurs and race bait. Citizens of all races should stand up against this clear abuse of power and work to see to it that the cops involved never work the streets again and work to make sure that less affluent citizens, who are frequently targeted this way know their rights. Seriously, the thing to do is to say, "Am I under arrest?" if the cop says, "No." you ask him, "Am I free to go?" If he says no to that, then you should involve your lawyer.

The cops wonder why cops get shot in Philly and no one says anything, this is exactly why. When you violate someone's civil rights, when you use your badge to intimidate people in these neighborhoods, they aren't going to be too sympathetic when your friends get shot. The Philadelphia police department has a serious problem with abusing citizens and until they learn not to take such a heavy handed approach, don't snitch is just gonna continue.”

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21. tom said... on May 29, 2012 at 04:25PM

“if you post things to scare readers look me up without any cops around,let me know,ill meet,all you scums who write things like that need to be spit on,and whatever else.your ignorant mom told you to say those talk race shit,when your the fool,who the hell are you anyway besides a scum,the stranglers a fag who kills sissys,then you cheer him on,i love to blind side you----ended life.he should of got the comment about unfairness to blacks and latins,go to hell,id never hang or like your scumness.he killed with no warning,FEMALES,be a queer and do it up front to me,,ill use my wrists,like he did.your expressions are worthless,degrading comes from fagness in your soul,and i hope god takes itall your cops a busing comes from people like you who start it,i hope when you,your relative---.nobody snitches so i could laugh and crack one.good thing for you there are cops.”


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