Mother of Mt. Airy murder victim hopes this week’s trial provides justice

 The scene of the crime. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The scene of the crime. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Sharon Armstead has waited nearly two years for this day. The young man accused of killing her son Nafis will finally stand trial for murder.


Brian Tootle, of East Germantown, is charged with murder, conspiracy murder, possession of an instrument of crime and possession of a firearm without a license. He was 19-years old at the time of the shooting which Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax has called “a straight-out execution”.

Armstead says that while she will never feel closure, she hopes to see justice served.

Deadly summer evening

On July 27, 2012, a pleasant summer evening, scores of residents gathered in Lovett Park to watch a simulcast of the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremonies.

A short distance away on the 200 block of E. Sharpnack St., 23-year-old Nafis Armstead was shot multiple times at close range. He suffered fatal wounds to the head, chest, back and leg. A second shooting victim, Gerald Jones, 26, was hit in the torso but survived.

Police officers in 14th District quickly pursued three suspects in a green Mercury Villager minivan to the 200 block of Rosemary Lane in West Mt. Airy.

There, according to police, Tootle and a second suspect were seen exiting the vehicle, but only Tootle was apprehended. A .357 caliber revolver with an obliterated serial number was found in the grass a few feet from where he was nabbed.

Police also recovered a Glock 23 semi-automatic pistol from the floor of the van. A single fingerprint — Tootle’s — was found on it.

If word-on-the-street whispers translate into courtroom testimony, evidence could center on vendettas or drug-trade activity and an intended target who has essentially remained in hiding since the shooting.

Amid a violent summer, the homicide was one which galvanized residents to join with officials including District Attorney Seth Williams, City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and 14th District Police Capt. Joel Dales for an anti-violence march.

“My life will never be the same”

Discussing life leading up to the trial, which is scheduled to start Monday, Sharon Armstead said she relied on faith to face her daily struggles with the grief.

Sobbing, Armstead recalled the moment she received news of Nafis’ death by phone. She also spoke about the memory of arriving in Philadelphia from Arizona, where she now lives, to identify his body at the morgue, specifically the bullet wounds to the forehead and through the left eye.

“It’s the worse thing you could ever imagine,” she shared. “My life will never be the same.”

Armstead says she feels empathy for the accused’s mother, who must be suffering heartache as well.

With Tootle set to stand trial, Armstead is bracing herself for whatever new information or surprises may be revealed in court.

“No matter what the outcome, it won’t bring Nafis back,” she said.

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