Chief fires back in war of words

YORK -- After facing criticism from Solicitor Kevin Brackett that the York Police Department botched the investigation of a gang-related homicide last month, Police Chief Bill Mobley has responded with accusations of his own.

In a recent letter to Brackett, he stated that members of the solicitor's office were closely involved with the York investigation after the killing. Mobley said Brackett is acting more like a defense attorney than a prosecutor and suggested Brackett's accusations were made in response to the York Police Department's criticism about reduced and dropped charges.

The two have been sparing since Oct. 1, when Mayor Eddie Lee and Mobley criticized how Brackett's office was handling some cases. Brackett responded by saying he needed strong evidence to make strong cases.

The conflict came to a climax Monday when Brackett said the York Police Department botched the investigation of the Sept. 11 killing of Dawud Chester. He showed as evidence two warrants for two possible shooters. As a result, Antonio Mobley, whom police charged with the murder, was released on bond Tuesday.

The solicitor has requested that the State Law Enforcement Division take over the investigation. Mobley said he welcomes the SLED investigation and is requesting that the attorney general's office try the case.

"I do not feel that your office would fairly represent this case based on your comments concerning our poor investigation skills," Mobley wrote in a letter to Brackett on Friday. "Your comments tend to lean toward testifying for the defense in this case."

Brackett defends his request for SLED's investigation and said he became concerned after finding a signed search warrant stating witnesses saw Monquarius Duncan shoot Chester. There also was an arrest warrant for Duncan that was not signed.

"It's as if they went down the wrong path for about two or three hours," Brackett said.

There's clearly some problems in trying the case, Brackett said.

"There's only one gun that was used to kill Dawud Chester. One person had their finger on the trigger, not two," he said. "This isn't like an Agatha Christie novel."

Mobley defends the department, saying there was much confusion in the aftermath of the gang-related shooting between the Cali Boys and Valley Boys that night. Officers received information early on that appeared to indicate Duncan was the shooter, Mobley said.

After events settled down, more evidence seemed to point more toward Antonio Mobley, Chief Mobley said.

"(Antonio) Mobley, in his own words, said, 'Yes, I had a .45-caliber, high-point pistol,'" Chief Mobley said. "He gave a statement to that. We've got witnesses who said they saw Mobley pull out the gun and shoot Dawud. There was a statement that he shot five times. How many shell cases did we find? We found five."

Members of the solicitor's office had worked with the police department after the shooting and were given access to all the information, the chief said. At no point did the police try to hide the signed search warrant from members of the solicitor's office, he said.

"They sat in this office. They were privy to every piece of evidence, every warrant, every piece of paper statement that we had. They sat in here and looked over it," Chief Mobley said. "When the warrants were served on Mobley, they read the warrants and they gave us their blessing and said, 'Serve the warrants.' That's what we did. ... Then, they come up and say it was a shoddy investigation. If that's the case, then we got some shoddy advice from them."

Brackett said members of his office didn't start working on the case until the morning after the shooting. By that time, the investigation already had switched to Antonio Mobley. He said his department had no reason to look at the warrants at that time.

Brackett went on to say that there was "chaos" at the police department and no leadership the morning he arrived.

"That's a big part of the problem with this investigation and how the investigation got screwed up," Brackett said. "If there had been one person who had been in charge from the beginning giving proper and clear direction to the officers during the investigation, we might not be in the mess we're in."

Police were too eager to arrest without enough evidence, Brackett said.

"(Mobley) just wants to find probable cause," Brackett said. "Probable cause is like an ounce of evidence. In order to get a conviction, I've got to have a pound of evidence. But if he can gather just enough evidence, then he can get a warrant from a magistrate and then arrest somebody and then roll it off of his plate and onto mine. Then all of a sudden, I'm the one that has to try to make something out of nothing."

Chief Mobley said the accusations came after he criticized Brackett's domain and asked Mayor Eddie Lee to question 40 pages of cases involving dropped or reduced charges. Brackett's office has since gone through each case and sent a letter Friday requesting a follow-up with Lee.

But Brackett said questions with the Sept. 11 shooting have nothing to do with those accusations. He said he discovered this problem Sept. 20, and his office attempted to call Mobley.

"It was right about that time that (Mobley) started making the complaints about my office," Brackett said. "I don't know whether he was trying to create a little dust up. The timing is odd, especially when you look at some of the cases he's talking about."

Brackett said he kept records of the time his office called on Sept. 20 in case the chief said he didn't receive the call.

Mobley said he only learned there was a problem within the past two weeks. When he heard there were questions, he invited members from the solicitor's office to meet on Monday, but no one showed up, the chief said.

Brackett said he's had a good relationship with all the police departments in York County, except York's.

"He (Chief Mobley) has always been more difficult to deal with," Brackett said.

Mobley however said he's willing to stand behind his department on this issue.

"I'm too old to back down when I feel I'm in the right," Mobley said.