Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Dr Thomas Farley resigned on Wednesday.
“This action lacked empathy for the victims, their families and the deep pain that the MOVE bombing has brought to our city for nearly four decades,” Kenney said in a statement. “The team investigating this incident will include individuals specifically approved by the Africa family and we will do our utmost to resolve this issue to MOVE’s satisfaction. “
The city’s chief medical examiner, Dr Sam Gulino, has been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation, Kenney said. Gulino was not fired because he is a civil servant and goes through a different process for any potential discipline, according to the mayor.
CNN has reached out to Gulino for comment.
In a statement, Farley alleged that Gulino found the remains of some of the victims of the MOVE bombing and, believing that any further investigation into their deaths was long over, ordered Gulino to get rid of the bones and bone fragments.
“I deeply regret that I made this decision without consulting the family members of the victims and I apologize for the pain this will cause them,” Farley said of the elimination, which took place. in 2017.
“We don’t know” how many remains are lost, says Kenney
Kenney said the city is opening an investigation into the disposal of the remains. He said the city did not know details on what type of remains, who they belonged to or how many victim remains were disposed of.
Philadelphia general manager Tumar Alexander – who oversaw Farley and to whom Farley told about what happened – also said he didn’t know those answers, but noted the African family deserved those answers.
“I hope that throughout this investigation, this is a question that I know the family wants answered, and it’s a question that we and the family want answered and I think the citizens of Philadelphia also deserve this answer, ”Alexander said.
Kenney said he didn’t know why the medical examiner’s office kept the remains.
From bombardment to cardboard boxes
After years of tension between the Philadelphia Police and the MOVE group, police fired 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the MOVE townhouse on the 6200 block of Osage Avenue on May 13, 1985. Police then dropped it. military grade explosives on the house, burning a city block to the ground. Eleven people were killed and 61 houses destroyed.
Alexander told reporters on Thursday that the remains Farley had disposed of were contained in cardboard boxes, but how and where they were disposed of was unknown and would be examined as part of the investigation. He said he had not seen a photo of the remains himself.
Kenney said the remains related to Farley’s resignation were separate from those rediscovered in April in the possession of Alan Mann, a former professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University. Mann returned the bone fragments to Terry’s West Philadelphia Funeral Home on April 28, Gregory Burrell, the owner and funeral director, told CNN on April 30.
These remains belonged to at least one of the victims and were used in online courses as research specimens without the family’s knowledge. One of the classes was taught by a staff member from the Penn Museum, which is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University, where Mann taught from 2001 until his retirement, said a spokesperson for Princeton University.
“In 1985, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office asked Dr Alan Mann, who was acting as an independent forensic anthropologist, to conduct an examination of a partial set of human remains,” said a carrier. Penn Museum told CNN.
In an online statement released April 28, the Penn Museum apologized to the African family and said it was “committed to a respectful advisory resolution” regarding the return of the remains.
“For many, one of the most traumatic parts of this story is that some of these remains were used in a forensic anthropology course that was offered by Princeton University and taught by a staff member. of the Penn Museum, ”the statement read. “This course is now suspended. “
A spokesperson for Princeton University also told CNN in a statement that he had suspended his classes.
“We are also working to add additional context and information to the online course that addresses the proper treatment of human remains in the discipline of forensic anthropology,” the statement said.
Farley acknowledged in his statement that the recent discovery of the fragments in the museum had caused him to reassess how he handled the disposal of the remains.
“Amid recent reports of local institutions in possession of the bones of MOVE bomb victims, I have reconsidered my actions,” said Farley. “I believe my decision was wrong and represented a terrible error in judgment. “
Getting closer to justice – and recognition – 36 years later
Although Kenney apologized to the Africa family on behalf of the City of Philadelphia in his statement, he admitted that may not be enough.
“I can’t imagine this to mean much, but I also offer a formal apology to the African family and members of the Movement on behalf of the city of Philadelphia, not only for this shameful incident, but also for the way whose administration after the administration failed expiates the heinous act of May 13, 1985 and continues to dishonor the victims, ”he declared. “I am deeply sorry for the incredible pain, hurt and loss caused by this horrible day. “
In November 2020, the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution apologizing for what Kenney said on Thursday to be “eleven black Philadelphians – including children … killed by their own government.”
Asked by CNN on Thursday about how the incident and the mismanagement of the remains of the victims reflected on the city, Kenney said it “shows 36 years of insensitivity and doesn’t really care what happened to that. family ”.
“It’s sad and it’s unacceptable and again, as soon as I heard about it, we went into action and tried to strike up a conversation and try to find appropriate action”, a- he declared.
In a statement sent to CNN on April 27, Mike Africa Jr., a member of MOVE and descendant of some of the victims of the bombings, pleaded for the responsibility of those responsible for the mismanagement of the remains that Mann ultimately handed over to the Terry funeral home.
“For too long justice has been denied to my family,” Africa Jr. said. “We have been blatantly treated in life and even in death. I want my family members to be considered and I want those responsible for their mismanagement to be held accountable. “