In defense of his decision, Richmond said
that he let the fire burn because of danger from alleged MOVE gunfire,
stating: "we regret what happened, but we are not going home with any
firefighters with bullet wounds tonight, and I thank God for that."
Explicitly challenging this argument made
the MOVE Commission cited the use of the water cannons for hours,
earlier in the day, at times alongside police gunfire. Even later in the
day, the Commission notes that "from 5:20 to 5:25 P.M. the "squrts'
[water cannons] were turned on to protect the helicopter which was
preparing to drop the bomb [at 5:27]," and since firefighters were safe
these other times, the fire could have been extinguished "without
exposing police or firefighters to any possible danger."
The Commission concluded that the decision
"to let the fire burn constituted the use of fire as a tactical weapon"
that "should have been rejected out-of-hand. That it was not rejected
cannot be justified under any circumstances."
Police Shoot at
Today, Ramona Africa recalls escaping from
the fire on May 13: "We opened the door and started to yell that we were
coming out with the kids. The kids were hollering too. We know they
heard us but the instant we were visible in the doorway, they opened
fire. You could hear the bullets hitting all around the garage area.
They deliberately took aim and shot at us. Anybody can see that their
aim, very simply, was to kill MOVE people--not to arrest anybody."
Birdie later supported Ramona's account of
police gunfire when he testified that the children and remaining adults
tried several times to escape the burning house, but were driven back by
police gunfire, before he and Ramona successfully dodged gunfire and
Despite official police statements denying the shooting, The MOVE Commission confirmed Ramona and Birdie's accounts, concluding that "police gunfire prevented some occupants of6221 Osage Ave. from escaping from the burning house to the rear alley."
For our investigation of May 13, 1985 and the validity of the murder charges being sought by MOVE today, we have cited evidence and testimony from a variety of published sources:
--"Attention, MOVE! This Is America," by Margot Harry, Banner Press, Chicago (1987).
--Let The Bunker Burn: The Final Battle With MOVE, by Charles W. Bowser, Camino Books, Philadelphia (1989).
--"Let It Burn!" The Philadelphia Tragedy, by Michael Boyette with Randi Boyette, Contemporary Books, Chicago, (1989).
--Final Report of the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission, aka The MOVE Commission (1986), reprinted in full in "Let It Burn!" by Michael Boyette with Randi Boyette, pgs. 269-294.