The aftermath of Chester County’s most violent night in recent memory culminated Monday when a man pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the September 2010 death of a man outside the Chester Regional Medical Center.
The senseless violence escalated from a car show and advanced to a nightclub and then the emergency room as two rival groups armed to the teeth inside and outside Studio 72 sparred over what music would be played at the club party after the car show.
William Graham, 25, was set to face trial Monday on a murder charge in the shooting death of Derek Chalk, who was shot six times outside the hospital in the early morning hours of Sept. 10, 2010. The final shot struck Chalk in the eye as he lay wounded on the ground. Prosecutors said in court that Chalk was shot while trying to ferry the wounded from two groups, called the Eastside Boys and the Westside Boys, from the nightclub shootings into the emergency room for treatment.
Before a jury could be picked on Monday, Graham accepted a plea deal of voluntary manslaughter with a negotiated sentence of 20 years. Chester County prosecutor Doug Barfield said he offered the deal because dozens of witnesses gave different versions of what happened, and some witnesses refused to cooperate with police and prosecutors. There was no video surveillance outside the emergency room.
“Based on the uncertainty of the witnesses, the guilty plea and guaranteed prison time was the best possible outcome,” Barfield said after court.
Graham, a father of two small children, spoke only briefly in court in, saying: “I am sorry for what I did.”
But Graham is not done with courts yet. Graham, whose father is a former Chester City Councilman, still faces attempted murder and other charges from a York County shooting that happened on Labor Day this year when Graham was supposed to be home on house arrest while on bond in the Chester shooting.
Before that, in 2013, Graham was accused of domestic violence and other crimes, including weapons offenses, while on house arrest.
On Sept. 20, 2010, the violence on the streets of Chester was so widespread that the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and state and local police all investigated the shootings that caused a panic. Some witnesses confirmed to police and prosecutors that Graham and Chalk had argued then fought with beer bottles at the nightclub earlier in the night before the shooting started inside and outside the club. Inside the club, despite deputies working as security and the presence of metal detectors, several men snuck guns into the club using girlfriends’ purses and weapons tucked into womens’ clothing.
The shooting inside left three wounded. Then outside, one man was killed when gunshots rang out again after more than 150 people fled.
“By that time we had four victims shot and the violence wasn’t done yet,” Barfield said in court.
As Chalk and others rushed the wounded to the hospital, Chalk was killed outside the emergency room double doors. He was shot in the arms and back before being shot in the eye.
The killer of the man outside the club pleaded guilty in 2012 and was sentenced to 27 years in prison. The man who shot into the crowd inside also has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison.
Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, elected in 2012 after the shootings, said Graham’s guilty plea ends one of the “worst nights” of violence Chester has ever seen.
“When there are guns involved, people are going to get hurt, or killed,” Underwood said after court. “This was a terrible situation. When the guns came out, people were wounded and people were killed.”