No arrests made in May 2011 killing of Linwood Bowser
Like most of the murders of young Black men in Philadelphia, the slaying of Linwood Bowser III was a senseless, needless act of gun violence that, despite whatever the motive may have been, didn’t have to happen.
Vonda Bowser, mother of the victim, is understandably angry, still grieving and has no sense of closure since her son’s murderer has never been caught. She said police do have a person that they’re looking at but haven’t been able to name him as a suspect because of a lack of evidence. And, just to rub salt into the wounded heart of his mother, witnesses won’t talk, per the required madness of the no-snitching rules and, as if that isn’t enough, city installed surveillance cameras that are located in the vicinity of the murder scene weren’t operational at the time.
But according to Bowser, there’s still another layer to the murder case.
Recently, in the Old City section of Philadelphia, a Temple University graduate, Kevin Klesse, was beaten to death. Three suspects were arrested following the announcement that the city and the Fraternal Order of Police had put up a $20,000 reward. When Vonda Bowser asked the city for similar help, she was told there was no money. A tip led to the arrests of Klesse’s killers. No tipsters have come forward to collect the $2,000 scraped up herself as a reward for the capture of her son’s murderer.
“And that’s another one of my problems,” Bowser said. “They told me there was no money, but when this other guy gets killed they managed to find all kinds of money. To me, there’s a different standard between a murder committed in Old City and murders committed in North or South Philadelphia. I’m a member of Mothers in Charge and that helps, but the pain over this just never goes away. I can say this: I’m on a mission to find out who killed my son. He has his own son who is now 14 months old, who will never know his father.”
On Sunday, May 2, 2010, Linwood Bowser, 20, who was known as “Wood,” was with friends across from his mother’s house on the 1400 block of N. 28th Street in the city’s Brewerytown section. At about 12:45 a.m. gunfire exploded in the 2700 block of West Jefferson Street and “Wood” was fatally struck. Investigators said the motive was an argument. He was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital. So far, police have not made any arrests.
Since that night, nothing has been the same for Vonda Bowser.
“No one has come forward,” she said. “From talking with the detectives, I’ve learned there were two people involved. There were witnesses, but if that city surveillance camera at 28th and Jefferson was working they wouldn’t need anyone to come forward. Is it hard for me? Yes.”
Edward Nelson, a close family friend said he’s very disappointed in the way the case has been handled.
“Yeah, I think they handle cases differently and yes, I think if the surveillance camera was working the police would at least be able to identify who shot ‘Wood.’ To me, the security camera gives the community a false sense that it’s working, and I still don’t think it is,” Nelson said. “First we had to deal with the trauma of my friend being shot and then to find out the camera wasn’t even working was insult to the injury. We went to our city councilman, Darrell Clarke for help. We never heard back from him. I have to say that I’ve lost some respect for Councilman Clarke behind this.”
“I went to his office and sat there for almost an hour but he never came out to see me,” Bowser said. “He never even called to offer his condolences.”
The Tribune called City Council President Darrell Clarke’s office to ask him to comment to Bowser’s assertion but he was unable to respond by the filing of this story.
“Mothers in Charge is an organization that no one wants to belong to,” said organization founder Dorothy Johnson-Speight. “I know Vonda went to several city officials and community leaders for help in putting together reward money, but no one stepped up. When you’ve lost a child to this senseless violence and you get very little community support it adds to the tragedy. It’s a pain that never goes away. For me, it’s been ten years since my son Khaaliq was murdered and I still feel it.”
The Citizens Crime Commission is offering Vonda Bowser’s $2,000 reward to bring the killer to justice, but so far there haven’t been any takers. But there are a lot of unsolved murders listed on the Philadelphia Crime Commission’s website.
“I really feel sorry for this poor woman,” said John Apeldorn, head of the Crime Commission of the Delaware Valley. “It’s one tragedy of the many listed on our website. To speak to Ms. Bowser’s issue though, the commission is a non-profit organization, we’re a 501C3. We really don’t put up any money for rewards for any of the cases listed on our website; all of it comes from the city and private donations.”
As for the operation of the city’s surveillance cameras, 207 cameras have been installed, but only 151 are working. Tribune reporters called the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, Everett Gillison, to determine if the city’s surveillance cameras were working and if not, why not. Gillison was in a meeting in preparation for Mayor Michael Nutter’s Thursday press conference regarding new public safety initiatives and was unable to respond to inquiries immediately.
Meanwhile, Vonda Bowser gets to live with the pain that never goes away, hoping that someday, her son’s killer will finally be brought to justice.
“Will that bring my son back? No, nothing can do that,” she said. “Will seeing his murderer tried and convicted make me feel better? Yes, knowing that person is off the streets should make us all feel better.”