Ahead of primary, Philly crime victims and their families say DA Krasner isn’t ‘there for us’

Rosalind Pichardo and Aleida Garcia stand at a rally

Rosalind Pichardo (left), founder of Operation Save Our City, lost her brother to gun violence in 2012, and Aleida Garcia (right), lost her son to gun violence in 2015. They organized a rally on May 11, 2021, in support of Carlos Vega, a prosecutor who’s running for Philadelphia district attorney. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A small group of crime victims gathered Tuesday in the shadow of the Municipal Services Building to denounce Philadelphia District Larry Krasner ahead of the Democratic primary on May 18.

Rows of faux body bags and handmade headstones stood on the concrete plaza behind them. Posters featuring the faces of murder victims with unsolved cases rounded out the grim display.

“The city continues to mourn and drown in all these bodies under this current administration,” said Rosalind Pichardo with Operation Save Our City, which organized the event. “I’m hoping to pass the message to get a new district attorney in office.”

In 2012, Pichardo’s brother Alexander Martinez was fatally shot during a robbery in the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia. The 23-year-old’s killers remain at large. She said she’s worried her family won’t get justice if Krasner is elected to a second term in office.

She said she thinks Krasner doesn’t care about victims and their families.

“He’s never been there for us. If anything, he’s a narcissist who only believes in himself and nothing about the people,” said Pichardo.

Aleida Garcia lost her son to gun violence in 2015. Alejandro Rojas-Garcia, a 34-year-old father of two pursuing a degree at Temple University, was fatally shot as he drove away from an argument a stranger started with him outside of an after-hours club.

His killer was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, but not before Krasner fired Carlos Vega, the lead prosecutor on the case who is now his primary opponent.

Garcia said she and her family felt like they were “put out to dry,” making the prospect of not getting a conviction a real concern for them.

“We do care about who’s innocent, who’s not innocent. We also want to make sure that people don’t get away with murder,” said Garcia, echoing the concerns of other crime victims and their loved ones who say the balance under Krasner may have tipped too far in favor of changes aimed at ending mass incarceration and supervision.

Krasner ousted a total of 31 staffers after his election in 2017, in part to implement a culture change inside an office he often criticized as oppressive before taking over as DA.

On the campaign trail, his office’s approach to victims and their families has come up during a candidates forum, as well as the race’s first and only televised debate. The former civil rights attorney has said dissatisfied victims and their family members have been used for “political purposes” by his critics, creating the perception that his office routinely keeps them out of the loop.

“We are giving offers in homicide cases in almost exactly the same way that they were given before, but we are not gonna trot out all of the victims and the families who are happy with what we did because we are not going to use them,” said Krasner during the debate last Wednesday.

Tuesday’s rally was held less than an hour before former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was scheduled to endorse Vega, who Rendell hired when he was Philadelphia’s District Attorney.

Vega, who said he stopped by to show support for crime victims, told reporters that Krasner has left families in the dark as their cases have progressed through the courts.

“One of the reasons I’m running is so many parents have called me saying that the office is no longer transparent, that they haven’t been notified in terms of court listings, plea deals or the like, when they should be allowed to know what’s going on with their cases,” said Vega.

A. Charles Peruto, a veteran defense attorney, is the race’s lone Republican. He has said he will drop out if Vega wins the primary against Krasner.

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