Teen's Shooting Death Reignites Fears Over Neighborhood Feud

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Feb. 23, 2011

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Rashawn "Shawnee" Anderson's mother, Tyisha Mincey, is photographed wearing a tribute T-shirt for her son, who was killed last month in a yet-to-be-solved shooting.

Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg

A chill afternoon wind whips across the sprawling hill leading up to the cluster of brown-and-mustard two-story buildings that make up Abbottsford Homes, the public housing project nestled on the border between East Falls and Hunting Park. A short stretch of unseasonably warm mid-February weather has disappeared, but not before transforming the hill from a sheet of densely packed snow and ice to a grassy, muddy mess. Candy wrappers and empty potato chip bags swirl past—a tattered segment of yellow police tape snakes along the ground, too—heading toward a distant chain-link fence already plastered with debris. A small teddy bear lies face down in the grass, blown by the wind several feet from a makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, candles, photos and notes wrapped around a telephone pole near the base of the hill.

Four young black girls, maybe 14 or 15 years old, stroll down the hill, slowing as they pass the memorial dedicated to slain 18-year-old Roxborough High School senior Rashawn “Shawnee” Anderson.

“Ain’t no way he woulda run straight up the hill, he probably went that way,” one girl says, pointing to the curved road that leads out of the projects.

“You crazy?” answers another. “He was runnin’ up to his house.”

The wind drowns out their conversation as they continue walking, following a worn path that leads to Uncle Willie’s convenience store a couple hundred yards away on Fox Street. Like most Abbottsford kids, Anderson frequently made late-evening trips down to Uncle Willie’s to grab a soda and something to eat. But just after 11 p.m. on Feb. 7, as he was trudging back up the snow-covered hill toward the apartment he shared with his father and grandmother, police say he was ambushed by at least one person who fired nine times from a .45-caliber handgun. A star basketball player and not-too-shabby football player, Anderson was fast, but that didn’t matter. He was struck several times in the head and neck.

Neighbors who heard the shots rushed down to Anderson and carried him back up the hill. Someone ran to Anderson’s apartment and pounded on the door, yelling that he had been shot. His father, “Big Shawn” Anderson, ran out and found his son on the ground covered in blood, barely breathing. He and others lifted Anderson into a car and sped off toward Temple University Hospital; police arriving on the scene quickly transferred him to their cruiser and drove him the rest of the way.

Half an hour later, Anderson was dead.

Weeks later, as the tight Abbottsford community continues to mourn and cops hunt for a killer, questions linger. Was Anderson—a once-troubled kid who’d turned his life around and had a bright future ahead of him—simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, the victim of a random act of violence? Or was it payback: The latest, and one of the deadliest, incidents in a decades-long clash between youths from Abbottsford and Allegheny Avenue—who all go to school together at Roxborough—that some say threatens to get even worse before it gets better? 

“Talk to anyone around here, everyone’ll probably have a different story,” says a bearded 36-year-old Abbottsford resident who only identifies himself as Anderson’s cousin.

Standing on the sidewalk across from Anderson’s apartment and staring out at the field where he was shot, he adds, “Nobody really knows what happened.”

Police have a theory: Anderson’s death might have been long-brewing retaliation for an October 2009 shooting at the McDonald’s at 31st and Allegheny that wounded three Allegheny teenagers. The incident allegedly stemmed from a fight between Abbottsford and Allegheny kids over a girl at Roxborough High. Three Abbottsford youths—Karell Turner, Michael Greene and William Eades—were later arrested; jury selection in their trial began on Feb. 7, the same day Anderson was shot. On Feb. 15, Eades was found guilty of aggravated assault and conspiracy; Turner and Greene were found guilty of conspiracy but not guilty of aggravated assault. All three await sentencing on April 1. Speculation is that Anderson—who, poised for success, was a living manifestation of all of Abbottsford’s hopes and aspirations for a better life—may have been intentionally targeted as revenge, to inflict maximum pain and grief on the neighborhood.

Though they say they have no suspects in Anderson’s case, the Philadelphia Police Department has made it known that they’re looking for someone from the neighborhood around 32nd and Allegheny, just beyond the bridge on Henry Avenue that crosses over the train tracks; only a quarter-mile down the road from Abbottsford, the bridge marks the traditional boundary between rival hoods.

On Feb. 17, the night after Anderson’s funeral, Town Watch Integrated Services—the city agency that tries to bring communities and police together in the name of neighborhood safety, crime response, and crime prevention—hosts a meeting in the Abbottsford Community Center for residents to air their fears about Anderson’s death and the potential for escalating violence between Abbottsford and Allegheny kids.

About 70 concerned parents and seniors show up; Big Shawn and Anderson’s mother, Tyisha Mincey, are there, too. So are Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison, Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Wright, 39th Police District Commanding Officer Capt. Stephen Glenn, Roxborough Principal Stephen Brandt, District Attorney’s Response Team Director Theresa Marley, and several members of Men United for a Better Philadelphia—former Philly gang members now working to stop gang violence. Not in attendance: Any Abbottsford teens. Anderson’s friends and peers. The ones TWIS Executive Director Anthony Murphy hoped to reach directly with his “Stop the Violence” message.

“I don’t want the young people [at Abbottsford] to feel that they gotta go retaliate against someone else,” Murphy tells the residents. “I don’t want things to go off at Roxborough High School and it comes back here. I don’t want things happening at 32nd and Allegheny, either. I need to know what it is [that’s going on], and then we can work to fix it.”

“We can all point fingers at someone but that’s not the answer—we gotta change the heart of man,” Wright says. A man sitting in the back rolls his eyes, another lets out a frustrated sigh. “We’ve got to find a better way to deal with each other regardless of the gang you’re in or what neighborhood you’re from,” Wright continues. “This violence is ridiculous.”

“After being at Shawnee’s funeral, and you see all the young people at his funeral, you look at their faces after seeing someone’s body laying there and you’d think they’d be spooked and that would be a wake-up call,” one resident says. “That wasn’t a wake-up call. That made these young guys ready to ride.”

Glenn implores anyone in the room who might have any information about Anderson’s death to get in touch with him. He walks around handing out his business card; some residents reluctantly take it. By the end of the 80-minute meeting, pledges of moral support and promises of more dialogue and community meetings—but little else—have been offered by city and school officials, few of whom linger to talk with the residents. The police brass say they’ll stick around as long as necessary to answer questions one-on-one and address people’s concerns; within moments they’re gone. Residents walk over to Big Shawn and Mincey to pay their respects, then shuffle out into the night.

Anderson’s cousin is old enough to remember the days when Abbottsford was wracked by drugs and crime, and the cycle of violence between organized Abbottsford and Allegheny gangs was a fact of life. “If something like this would have happened then, someone else from down there woulda been laying dead on the ground, too. It would have happened that night.” But that was more than 20 years ago—Abbottsford’s since turned into a safe, peaceful place, he says.

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COMMENTS

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1. Janeka Peace said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:02AM

“The last thing I want too see is retaliation. Rashawn Anderson is my cousin & like a son too me. So our family is grieving heavily. I will be that voice of reason. We will not let this go. Children killing children & familia lefty to mourn for life. We will seek justice the right way, but also apply pressure on State council..State representatives & find a solution together. No one deserves this pain we endured. It has to STOP..the killers hurt the ones left behind.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:39AM

“If Philadelphia only put as much effort into taking care of its crime as they do its parking this "City of Brotherly Love" would be 100% safe and clean!”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 03:03PM

“When agencies like Crisis Intervention Network(CIN) and Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network (PAAN) were around they had the insight on how to handle gangs and gang violence. These agencies were in our communities and schools intervening and preventing violence and gang activity while getting a jump on things before they got out of control like this. Did the city stop funding them are they still around why aren't we seeing more of what we had in the earlier years that worked. I know CIN was closed in the late 80s but PAAN continued working against gang violence, what happened to that agency. We all know that gangs are alive and living in Philadelphia, but how many of our children must be killed before we step up to the plate and take a stand against this. I guess we are still waiting for someone to come up with something new. Why reinvent the wheel, we know what works.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 03:49PM

“Why is it necessary when you write a story about a tragedy such as this you need to ad crap to make the story more sensational. The story here is that a young black man who was working hard trying to make something of himself was shot down and killed by a coward. I say coward because you hid in the dark as cowards do. You think that you are justified in what you have done and you ran as a coward would. It is obvious that if you had a beef with this young man as a man you could have addressed it and handled it another way. To you and all the other young men who feel that this is the answer to anything I ask this question. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that people will expect something of you? Expect you to reach your full potential? Expect you to respect your self and life itself? Expect you to do what you really want to do that is fully understand what a man is and does, Or that they would expect you to what be a MAN?”

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5. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 04:59PM

“How far are you willing to go, how much do you really care is my question I've been wanting the FINGER LOCK FOR UNARTHORIZED GUN USER suggestion to be attempted by running a small trial test. My resilency and hope is not for self gratification or accolades because I could care less and actually would not want the credit for the purpoes is to save lives - My love of god is what motivates me and HIS WILL BE DONE NOT OURS - For he takes no pleasure in the lost of peoples souls be them innocent victims or criminals - but we could be saving a person from daming their soul to hell if we help prevent them from doing evil things even if it seems extreme - Is there really a level to extreme to prevent whats going on.
I think just the threat of using FINGER LOCKSt would be a deterrant.

1997 and 2001 are years that gun violence impacted me personally.
Its been happening and continues to happen”

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6. 28yr Abbottsford Resident said... on Mar 2, 2011 at 02:56PM

“Whats crazy about this story is....that there has been numerous shootings up abbottsford since Rashawn was murdered. Ths senseless stuff has to stop. We as people have to stop pointing fingers at each other and look in the mirror and ask yourself..What can I do to help this situation. Guns dont kill people..a trigger cant be pulled without a finger..We have to teach our kids the importance of human life...”

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7. the legend said... on Mar 2, 2011 at 04:59PM

“I hope they can fiind the killer. I hope there is no retaliation. My heart goes out to the family. Its a tragedy. A young man is gone and for what...revenge? Jealousy? It doesn't matter, it should never have to come to violence to settle anything.
To the parents I have no words. I can't even imagine the pain of losing a child like this. Please continue to pray for strength.”

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8. Anonymous said... on May 13, 2011 at 01:19PM

“i just cant stop reading this over and over. the way he died is beyond unbelievable. even though i did not know rashawn, he seemed like he had his whole life together, and for someone to take his life the way they did is beyond disgraceful. honestly, rashawn was going far. he was an excellent basketball player. i heard his name all the way in norristown. so i knew he had talent. and now his dreams were put on hold. may he rest in piece and god hold him under his wing. he seemed like a remarkable young man. and to the person who caused so much pain in a lot of people's hearts: maybe justice be served.
r.i.p rashawn anderson. even though i did not know you, i'm sure you will never be forgotten and you will forever live through the people who love you
*my condolences go out to his family, friends, and to roxborough high. <3”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jun 8, 2011 at 12:00AM

“Its crazy w they just took my boy away.... Its crazy how they locked up innocent ppl nd whts even more crazy the d.a did nufin.... Nothing...!!!! Four months later shawnee's killer is walkin the streets premeditatin another eazy muder.... And the d.a does nothing.... Innocent ppl has been takin down for a crime that really shouldnt matter.... All while nothing is being done about shawnee's muder... Philly needs to get it together it makes no since akiller gets off scott free!!!”

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10. Anonymous said... on Aug 30, 2011 at 11:12AM

“Roxborough High is a joke.....Having taught there and being subjected to the racist Rebecca Mitchell and Ernestine Caldwell, I hope the school goes down the toilet......”

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