A grand jury Tuesday characterized the city's handling of the 1985 MOVE confrontation in which 11 people died as "an epic of government incompetence" and rebuked officials for their "morally reprehensible behavior" but did not recommend any criminal charges.
"While the conduct of city officials in handling MOVE is entirely unacceptable, it is not the proper subject of criminal prosecutions," the county grand jury said in the summary of its 300-page report released Tuesday.Eleven members of the radical cult MOVE including five children were killed May 13, 1985, when police dropped a bomb on the roof of their West Philadelphia row house with the approval of Mayor Wilson Goode. The explosion touched off a fire that engulfed 61 houses and left 250 people homeless.
"It is an epic of government incompetence," the grand jury report said. "It details an operation marked by political cowardess at its inception, inexperience in its plannning, and ineptitude in its execution.
"Even the ensuing investigations were marred by deception," the report said, noting the testimony of 125 witnesses over an 18-month period. "Applying the law to the facts as we found them, no charges are warranted. Yet we do not exonerate the men responsible for this disaster.
"Rather than a vindication of those officials, this report should stand as a permanent record of their morally reprehensible behavior. This city, its leaders and citizens must never forget the terrible cost of their misjudgments."
District Attorney Ronald Castille petitioned the courts to empanel a grand jury to investigate events surrounding the confrontation.