The death of James Lambert Jr. made national news.
The 73-year-old was chased by a group of children in North Philadelphia on June 24 and beaten with an orange traffic cone. He suffered a head injury and died the following day.
In the weeks that followed, police released video of the seemingly brazen attack, asking for the public’s help in identifying the children. Within days, the children – one of whom was only 10 – surrendered. Of the seven present that evening, two teenagers were formally charged with third degree murder and conspiracy: Richard Jones and Gamara Mosley – both 14 years old.
The story was tragic on every level, with many wondering how children so young could end up contributing to Philadelphia’s homicide crisis. But lawyers representing some of the teenagers involved that night say there is more to the story than what is shown in the video and framed in the press.
“I am not minimizing what happened to Mr. Lambert. It was a tragedy,” said attorney Caroline Turner, who represents Jones pro bono. “I’m just saying it wasn’t a bunch of evil kids marauding the streets looking for someone to beat up – and that was the impression.”
Philadelphia police declined to discuss the case, pending court proceedings. The district attorney’s office said in a statement that “the investigation into this tragic crime is active and ongoing” and that the office “has a duty to seek justice by following the law and the facts, wherever they take us.” lead”.
Here’s how the evening unfolded, according to three of the children’s attorneys and surveillance video of the attack:
The evening of June 23 started with Richard Jones and his 10-year-old brother planning a sleepover with their cousin and a teammate from their football team.
The four boys left the Jones home in North Philadelphia around 9:15 p.m. to sleep over at the cousin’s house a few blocks away. They were supposed to go straight there, but stopped on the way to play basketball at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, where Jones worked as a camp counselor.
There they met three girls – classmates at their school – and the teenagers hung out and played on the recreation center playground late into the night.
At around 2 a.m., James “Simmie” Lambert Jr., a lifelong neighborhood resident, was sitting on a bench in the park. It’s unclear who initiated the confrontation, but Lambert told the kids they shouldn’t go out so late and go home. The children taunted Lambert back, and at one point a girl slapped him and threw a container of Chinese food at him, according to Turner and the 10-year-old’s attorney, Raina Major. Donte Mills, who is representing a 13-year-old girl who has not been charged, said no one slapped the man.
Lambert yelled at the children as things escalated, and picked up an orange traffic cone and threw it at the children to try to get them to leave him alone.
Just before 2:30 a.m., as Lambert attempted to leave the park and cross Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 21st Street, surveillance video showed Jones and two others — his 10-year-old brother and Mosley — running after him. Jones takes the traffic cone from Mosley and throws it at Lambert.
He hits Lambert and he falls on the sidewalk. Jones walks away, crosses the street and out of view of the camera, presumably to retrieve his bag.
With Lambert still on the ground, Mosley hits him again with the cone, despite another boy’s attempt to block the throw.
A 13 year old girl covers her mouth in disbelief, another boy looks shocked. The 10-year-old boy appears to be filming Mosley’s phone, nervously jumping up and down and telling him to stop, according to Major.
Lambert gets up and tries to walk away, but Mosley gets the cone again, runs after him and hits him twice more with the cone.
The man was lying on the ground, bleeding profusely from the head. Three of the children run alongside him. The 10-year-old hands Mosley’s phone to a passerby to call for help.
Monitoring of children gathering around the corner 20 minutes later shows Jones appearing to imitate Lambert getting hit.
Lambert suffered a head injury, police said, and died the following day.
Turner said the autopsy will be key to determining which shots contributed to Lambert’s death. She believes, however, after reviewing the unredacted version of the video, that when Jones threw the cone, it hit Lambert in the shoulder and did not cause him to hit his head on the ground.
“I don’t believe it was [Richard] throw the cone at Mr. Lambert who killed him,” she said.
And while Mosley was punching Lambert, Turner said, Jones was across the street retrieving his bag – which she says could mean he wasn’t present when the fatal blow was struck. gate.
Law enforcement chose to only charge the teens who hit Lambert with the cone. Jones and Mosley are charged as adults under a Pennsylvania Law which excludes certain charges like murder, rape and other serious offenses from juvenile court.
Mosley’s attorney, Lonny Fish, did not respond to an interview request. Mosley’s mother apologized for the actions of his daughter.
In the aftermath, Lambert’s family mourned the loss of their beloved “Simmie” and called for speedy justice.
“I want everybody charged, everybody,” Lambert’s niece, Tania Stephens, told Fox29. “I don’t want house arrest. They were all part of the crime. It didn’t matter if they were actually throwing a cone, they were there. Everyone is guilty, from the 10-year-old child to the parent.
Turner said the family of the kids involved — especially Jones’ family — were struggling. The 10-year-old girl, she says, is traumatized.
Jones was a good student, she said, who had no school disciplinary record. He had just graduated from high school, where he had won a community service award, and was working at a summer camp.
“There was no conspiracy,” Turner said. “This all happened unexpectedly, off the cuff, because of an altercation.”
Bond for Jones and Mosleys has been set at $750,000 and both remain in custody at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center. Their preliminary hearings are scheduled for later this month, although Turner plans to file a request to have Jones’ case heard in juvenile court.
“It’s hard to understand that this can happen with a traffic cone,” said Major, the 10-year-old’s attorney. “There was no reason, no logical reason, for this to result in the death of this man.”
But tragically, Major said, it is and now it will play out in court.