Police Testify They Knew Assault on MOVE House Was Doomed
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Two police officers who planned the assault to drive members of the radical group MOVE from their barricaded headquarters testified Thursday that they told their superiors that a plan to use water cannons to dislodge a rooftop bunker would not work.
Sgt. Albert Revel, testifying before a special commission, said authors of the plan envisioned water cannons would knock a rooftop bunker off the house. When the water cannons didn’t work, a bomb was dropped on the bunker.
The explosives dropped from a helicopter during the May 13 siege caused a fire that killed 11 people in the MOVE house and destroyed 61 other homes in the neighborhood.
Revel said Fire Commissioner William Richmond, at the final planning meeting attended by FBI agents, told him water would not dislodge the bunker. ″I knew it wouldn’t work,″ Revel said.
Richmond is scheduled to testify later.
Officer Michael Tursi testified that ″it was our hope that the bunker would be come down, but if that didn’t happen we could at least create a diversion.″
Tursi said officers hoped the water would prevent MOVE members from seeing police going into adjacent houses to break through walls.
″A roof-type assault was considered but it would have been an absolute disaster without neutralizing the bunker,″ he said.
Revel and Tursi said they advised their superiors about the fire department’s concern.
Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor, Mayor W. Wilson Goode and former city managing director Leo Brooks testified last week that it was their understanding the water guns would eliminate the bunker.
Revel also contradicted his superiors, including Sambor, about the existence of a written plan, and about the presence of an anti-tank gun, machine guns and powerful automatic rifles.
Sambor had said there was no written plan in an effort to keep things secret, and that he didn’t know who authorized the heavier weapons.
Revel produced a two-page, typed document labeled ″MOVE Operation″ he said was prepared by planning officers between May 2 and May 9. He said the document was on the table during a meeting in Sambor’s office attended by FBI agents.
The document sketchily detailed the evacuation of the neighborhood, the deployment of personnel and equipment, the attempt to use water to knock down the bunker and efforts to blast through the house walls to insert gas.
″If for some reason entrance is not gained through the walls for the gas teams, bomb men will go on to the roof and drop gas down the chimney or blow holes in the roof,″ the document said.
Revel said he did not know if Sambor had been given a copy of the plan.
Revel also said he overheard Powell asking Sambor whether they could obtain machine guns and automatic rifles from outside sources, because they weren’t standard equipment in the city police arsenal.
″The commissioner replied that if they were needed and could be obtained legally, go get them,″ Revel said.
Lt. Frank Powell, who dropped the bomb, selected Revel and Tursi to create the tactical plan. Powell invoked his 5th Amendment right against self- incrimination and refused to testify Wednesday.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge James McGirr Kelly rejected a motion Thursday from attorneys representing Powell and the Fraternal of Police to prevent public disclosure of interviews Powell gave to commission investigators.
″The FOP is trying to prevent the people from knowing what happened,″ said commission counsel William Lytton.