Questions swirl after Philly man’s murder on prison grounds; correctional officers call on commissioner to resign

The exterior of Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility as seen through a fence

Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia’s Holmesburg neighborhood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Days after a young man was murdered on prison grounds, Philadelphia’s union for city correctional officers is calling on Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney to resign, saying she prematurely blamed union members long before a “full, fair, and complete” investigation into the deadly incident.

Shawn Hawes, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, said Carney “does not plan to resign.”

“The matter is under internal investigation and the Commissioner will not assign ‘blame’ to anyone or comment further until that investigation is complete,” said Hawes in an email.

A mayoral spokesperson referred questions to the prisons department.

Police say Rodney Hargrove was shot multiple times at approximately 1:59 a.m. on Thursday inside a parking lot for Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia. The 20-year-old was pronounced dead on the scene — roughly an hour after being released from the city jail.

The exterior of Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia’s Holmesburg neighborhood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

During a news conference Thursday morning, Carney said shots were fired from a dark-colored vehicle that followed Hargrove onto prison grounds after pulling up to the SEPTA bus stop where he was waiting for family to pick him up. She said the vehicle was able to pursue Hargrove because a correctional officer had raised the parking arm at the main gate to CFCF.

In response to a question from a reporter, Carney said the parking arm was manually raised by the correctional officer assigned to man the main gate “for whatever reason.” Eric Hill, business manager for Local 159 of AFSCME District Council 33, said Monday that Carney made a “concluding prejudgment” before anyone from her department or the Philadelphia Police Department had a chance to interview the correctional officer on duty that morning.

“At no time did Commissioner Carney display during her interview any care or concern for the life or the well-being of the correctional officer stationed at the [correctional facility’s] main gate, with the exception of disdain and blame. Nor did at any time Commissioner Carney show her intentions of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons to increase staffing, the safety or the integrity to prevent such criminal atrocities from happening in the near future,” said Hill during a news conference inside D.C. 33 headquarters in West Philadelphia.

A bus stop outside Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
The bus stop across from the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Correctional officers assigned to the main gates on State Road were issued bullet-proof vests after Hargrove’s killing.

A police spokesperson said Monday there was no new or additional information about the fatal shooting.

Hargrove’s brother told FOX29 on Sunday that the family has “no idea” who could have killed him.

His brother, who has the same name, also told the station the family never knew Hargrove was released. Hargrove spent a week at CFCF before posting bail.

Following Monday’s news conference, Hill said there is no surveillance footage of the incident because there were no surveillance cameras at the main gate of CFCF, a fact the business agent finds troubling as investigators work to piece together what happened last week.

“You would think … that it would install at least at the minimum security cameras at the entrances of the prison system,” said Hill.

Hawes would not say whether there are surveillance cameras at the main gate at CFCF “due to the active investigation and because it’s regarding security.”

Philadelphia operates four city jails. All of them are located on the same complex in the Holmesburg section of the city. Prisoners are released from all of them around-the-clock.

Upon release, department protocol is to drive former prisoners to a SEPTA bus stop just beyond the complex. Andrew Busch, a spokesperson for SEPTA, said security at the stop is the police department’s responsibility because the stop is not on SEPTA property.

A bus stop outside Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
The bus stop across from the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“It is the same in the suburbs with municipal police departments,” said Busch.

Cpl. Jasmine Reilly, a police spokesperson, said there is “increased police presence in the area” around the prison.

Claire Shubick-Richards, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, has said the bus stop is a “dangerous” spot for released prisoners. She said she has heard stories from incarcerated women who were offered drugs, as well as propositioned to engage in other criminal activity while waiting at the bus stop.

The bus stop itself is not equipped with security cameras, but all SEPTA buses have 8 to 12 cameras on board, said Busch.

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