Family members, authorities await answers in case of fatal shooting
By biconews On 29 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Rachel Nielsen

The focus of two protest rallies, the shooting death of 26-year-old college student Erin Forbes has received the attention of local residents but has resulted in little public disclosure from authorities investigating the case, which involves an alleged robbery of the Sunoco A-Plus on

Lancaster Avenue and the use of lethal force against Forbes by Lower Merion Police.

In the Jan. 10 incident, the Lower Merion Police pursued Forbes by car as a suspect in the robbery, blocked his vehicle on City Ave., and then shot him once in the chest when he charged at Lower Merion Officer John Salkowski. He was “wielding what appeared to be a large club or pipe,” according to the press release from the Office of the District Attorney of Montgomery County issued in January.

Salkowski fired upon him from a distance of four feet after ordering Forbes “to stop and drop his weapon” and then backing away. The “weapon,” a three-foot wooden stick, was recovered by the Lower Merion Police, said the Offices’ statement.

The Montgomery County release, forwarded to the press on Jan. 10, has been the only official report issued since the incident.

According to the Forbes family, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office “maintains that it will take six months to complete their investigation.”

The Office of the Philadelphia District Attorney is currently handling the incident, as the shooting occurred in the area of Philadelphia’s jurisdiction on City Ave. Since that time conflicting statements on which offices are involved in the investigation, as well as negligible public response from Lower Merion Police, have fueled demands for more public information and discussion, such as Thursday’s rally in Ardmore.

At this time both district attorneys’ offices refuse to comment, and the Lower Merion Police, under a directive from Montgomery District Attorney Bruce Castor, Jr., is “not allowed to issue a statement … until the investigations are completed by both offices involved,” stated Lt. Frank Higgins of the Lower Merion Auxiliary Services.

Higgins named the two involved offices as the Philadelphia DA’s Office and the Montgomery County DA’s Office, but Stephen Gary, the public information officer for Lower Merion, indicated that no active investigation exists on the part of Montgomery County. Ella Forbes, the mother of Erin Forbes, who has spoken with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, confirmed that it is “just the Philadelphia DA” that is officially probing the matter.

Commenting on the involvement of Lower Merion, Gary said, “They’re not just ignoring [the case].”

Forbes’ supporters and survivors want a more detailed explanation, however, of the events that transgressed early on the morning of Jan. 10, as Forbes headed home from his job as a security guard in the Haverford area. Police reports state that in Bryn Mawr, just before 5 a.m., a man

clubbed a clerk at the A-Plus convenience store, stole $4 from the cash register and then fled in a white car.

The police were quickly notified and pursued a car matching the given police description running lights on City Ave. The car was Forbes’ car. The Lower Merion officers formed a

blockade around the vehicle, forcing him to stop. Police hold that Forbes jumped from the car, disregarded their warnings to remain still and charged Salkowski with the stick. Authorities have characterized his behavior as irrational, and they await toxicology reports from the

Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, which is handling the autopsy report.

Forbes’ brother, Leno Forbes, also seeks answers from the drug tests, as he finds Forbes’ reported behavior uncharacteristic of his sibling. “It’s so obviously crazy that I don’t think it’s true,” he concluded.

His brother, who lived with their parents in Lincoln University, had stayed overnight at his apartment in West Philadelphia on the Friday prior to the Monday shooting. At that time, remembered Leno in a phone interview, Erin “didn’t impress me as being on drugs.” As a result, Forbes brother is doubtful that illegal substances influenced his brother’s behavior.

Leno Forbes also discussed the “weapon or “long solid wooden cane” cited in the official report that Erin Forbes allegedly brandished at police officers on City Ave [sic]

Forbes’ brother, as well as his mother, confirmed that he owned such a stick and that the investigators currently have custody of the object.

It was “an African walking stick,” said Forbes’ brother. He described the stick as thin, one-inch wide walking cane with a carved head perhaps two inches thick. His mother stated that Forbes “used it in his religious activities at the Temple of the Black Messiah,” an interdenominational

church in Philadelphia.

The use of the stick, or the threat that police contend Forbes posed to Officer Salkowski, is one of numerous areas disputed by the civil lawsuit that his parents, Ella and Lorenzo Forbes, filed in U.S. District Court last Tuesday. It named Lower Merion Township, Lower Merion Police Superintendent Joseph J. Daly, Officer Salkowski and all of the other officers at the scene of the fatal shooting as defendants. The lawsuit is “an action for money damages and injunctive relief,” and it states that the Forbeses “are entitled to recover damages for the death of Erin Forbes,” according to the introductory statement of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit calls Forbes “the victim of unreasonable and excessive force and summary punishment at the hands of the defendants.” Neither Forbes’ parents nor investigators could

comment on the details of the case or the suit at this time.

With reporting by Latanya Ingraham.

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