William Phillips, known as Phil Africa, a member of Philadelphia’s MOVE group, died in prison over the weekend, authorities said.
Africa, 63, was serving a 30 to 100 years sentence for a third-degree murder conviction for the shooting of city police officer James Ramp during a shootout in the Powelton section of Philadelphia in 1978. He was incarcerated at a state prison in Dallas, Pa.
MOVE is a self-described group of “revolutionaries.” All group members have taken the last name of Africa.
Phil Africa died Saturday, but details about the cause of death have not been released.
“We cannot discuss an individual’s medical information,” said Susan McNaughton, a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman. “The only thing I can do is confirm his death on Jan. 10, 2015. The county coroner determines the cause of death.”
MOVE members heard Phil Africa was sick but when they arrived at the prison to see him, were allegedly denied access, according to Ramona Africa, in a statement posted on MOVE’s website.
“On Sunday, January 4 Phil Africa wasn’t feeling well and went to the prison infirmary,” according to Ramona Africa’s statement. “Though he wasn’t feeling well, other inmates saw Phil Africa walking, stretching and doing jumping jacks. Hearing that Phil was in the infirmary, MOVE members drove up to visit him and were denied a visit by the prison. While they were visiting with Delbert Africa, Phil was secretly transported to Wilkes Barre General Hospital where he was held in total isolation, incommunicado for five days. The fact that Phil was isolated for the six days before he passed — the prison even refused to acknowledge that he was in the hospital — is beyond suspicious.”
Phil Africa, the organization’s minister of defense, and eight other members were convicted in 1980 following the group’s first violent confrontation with the city in 1978. They were convicted of third-degree murder for Ramp’s fatal shooting. Phil Africa is the second family member to die in prison, following the death of Merle Africa in 1998.
The remaining incarcerated MOVE members, Chuck Africa, Debbie Africa, Delbert Africa, Edward Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa and Mike Africa are serving sentences ranging from 30 to 100 years for Ramp’s death.
Ramona Africa is one of two surviving members of the 1985 police bombing of another MOVE home that killed 11 of the group’s members. The bombing, which police said was to end an armed standoff, started a fire which burned down an entire block of 61 homes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.