Evictions Are Violent. Here’s More Proof.
Trigger Warning: The following article contains graphic imagery of extreme violence that readers might find unsettling. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues triggered by graphic violence, please call the National Hopeline Network at 1- 800- 442-HOPE (4673).
Like tens of millions of Americans, 35-year-old Angel Davis was struggling to make rent. Rather than try to reach a compassionate conclusion by seeking help or federal aid, a Philadelphia landlord-tenant officer shot her in the head.
The horrific incident occurred at the Girard Court Apartments on the 2100 block of North College Avenue in Philadelphia, PA. Reports state the woman was then taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center where she remained in critical condition surrounded by advocates and her very supportive mom.
“It was like, ‘Boom boom!'” Davis’ neighbor Jennifer Rivera explained in a brief interview with ABC 6 News. She described the scene vividly, saying that Davis emerged after being shot. She was alert but visibly injured, a drenched cloth clinging to her head.
“The writ server discharged the firearm, striking the female resident in her head,” Lt. Jason Henderson elaborated.
The tragedy has raised several questions about Philadelphia’s uniquely violent approach to evictions and the for-profit privatization of eviction enforcement.
Philadelphia’s Eviction Process is Carried Out by For-Profit Privatized Security Officers. These Officers are Armed and Dangerous.
In early April, shortly after the shooting took place, approximately 100 housing advocates and protestors surrounded the Philadelphia hospital where Angel Davis lie shot after not being able to make rent.
Part of their protest is bent on reforming the city’s uniquely horrific take on eviction, which makes use of privately contracted armed eviction officers. These officers arrive in plain clothes at the homes of people who are behind on rent. Not only do they serve notices, but they also perform lockouts.
Allegedly, this lone shooter, who has not been named by the press, was attempting to conduct a lockout when the altercation took place.
Lt. Jason Henderson explained that the landlord-tenant officer was contractually permitted to carry a firearm despite not being a member of the police force. According to the lieutenant, brandishing a firearm is a legal condition of a private eviction officer’s employment.
But not everyone in authority agrees with that statement.
In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Council President Darrell Clarke seemed shocked that an independent contractor was legally permitted to carry anything related to an eviction whatsoever, be it a weapon or even just a request to leave the property.
“I’ve been in government for a thousand years, and I always thought sheriff’s deputies did evictions. That’s bizarre … that’s archaic,” said Clarke.
Sources claim the shooter attempted to carry out the lockout alone, a condition that happens sometimes but is considered less than ideal. The questionable conditions under which the shooting occurred only grow more suspicious as this investigation continues.
Philadelphia’s Private Eviction Attorney Marisa Shuter is Accused of Corruption and a Lack of Transparency
Further probing reveals that Philadelphia’s privately appointed eviction attorney Marisa Shuter was previously accused of corruption and nepotism in 2020 when her marriage to eviction writs writer and Municipal Court Judge David Shuter fell under the microscope.
Given that David Shuter was tasked with authoring eviction writs his wife was given authority to enforce, many accused the couple of corruption, nepotism, and a lack of transparency. Now, in the wake of what could have been a fatal eviction, the city is making accusations of its own.
Philadelphia Police Attempted to Charge the Victim, the Woman Who Was Shot in the Head
In perhaps an even more sinister move, local law enforcement attempted to press charges on the victim claiming she was brandishing a knife at the scene. Witnesses say the claim is unfounded and completely untrue.
Following the accusation, police failed to submit body camera footage from the landlord-tenant officer, leading many to suspect even more foul play.
Imagine a city where a woman can be shot in the head for falling behind on her rent and then incur criminal charges. Imagine a business based on this model poised to fire weapons at people who are too poor to defend themselves. You won’t have to try too hard. It already exists.
Imagine an Entire Business Centered on Traumatizing Renters. Now Open Your Eyes. Welcome to Philadelphia.
At first glance, this tragic event appears to be an isolated incident. But Councilmember Kendra Brooks, who seeks a public meeting regarding the shifty practices afoot, says it’s emblematic of a flawed system.
“Last week’s tragedy is the result of an unaccountable, for-profit system that traumatizes and exploits renters across the city,” Brooks said.
Renters are Unprotected
This case not only shows the harms of rent exploitation but also shows how renters are targeted for violence, homelessness, and media smear campaigns. Here are just a few examples:
- This renter was unprotected from eviction – With billions of dollars in rent relief circulating in a kind of obscurity, there is no excuse for this renter and millions of others like her to fall between the cracks of a system and wind up so far behind on their rent that they are subject to being locked out and forced into homelessness.
- This renter was unprotected from homelessness – Sources claim that Philadelphia’s private eviction attorney Marisa Shuter is notorious for enforcing short-notice lockouts that expose at-risk renters to the violent and looming threat of possible homelessness.
- This renter was unprotected from the media – It’s imperative to point out that the shooter’s name has not been released to the public despite undeniable evidence that they shot this woman in the head. The evidence lies in the fact that the woman has been critically injured and hospitalized. The renter’s name, on the other hand, was immediately made available to the public along with other information, such as how much money she was behind in rent and the counter-accusations made against her by law enforcement. The fact that there is no evidence to prove she had any weapon and bodycam footage is still being concealed cannot go overlooked.
Talk to Your Legislators About Protecting At-Risk Renters from the Violence of Eviction
Even in instances where delinquent renters do not get shot, the process of eviction is violent. If that eviction leads to homelessness, it goes from being violent to potentially being deadly. Please talk to your local legislators about drafting renter protections that eliminate this violent threat.