Friday, June 26, 2020

Looters routed in the "City of Brotherly Love"

Tables turned by shop owner
Written by Robert A. Waters

After George Floyd's death on May 29, 2020, street hustlers, gang members, and mobs across the country began the inevitable plundering and looting.  Thousands of businesses were destroyed and many police agencies, outnumbered and restricted in how they could respond, turned cities over to vandals and killers.  In the first 10 days, at least 23 people died in riot-related violence and 500 cops were injured.

Many of us watched from our homes, appalled at the carnage and the sight of politicians literally bowing to anarchists.  While our once-great country burned, modern-day Neros fiddled in their bunkers.  Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and dozens more cities were ransacked.

In Philadelphia, things were no different. reported that the city "descended into anything but peacefulness.  Buildings and police cars were set ablaze, stores looted, bottles thrown.  Tear gas.  Rubber bullets.  Riot shields.  You get the picture."  Yes, we got the picture.  On our screens, we viewed hundreds of vicious beatings as mobs attacked innocent people without provocation. reported that "by Sunday morning, more than 207 people had been arrested and more than a dozen officers injured, one of whom was still hospitalized after being run over by a car."

Firing Line, Inc., a gun store, sits on Front Street in South Philly.  Shop owner Greg Isabella serves law enforcement officers as well as everyday citizens.

Isabella sensed what was coming.  The night before, an attempted break-in of his store had occurred.  According to, "On the previous night, looters attempted to break in through a back door of the shop, ramming and beating at a steel door that showed signs of battering, and even marks that a crowbar was used to pry it open--to no avail."  Isabella decided to sleep in his shop that night, armed with a Bushmaster M-4 rifle.

Even though a city-wide curfew was in effect, it made no difference to the roaming mobs, thieves, robbers, and killers.

At about 4:00 a.m., while viewing an outside surveillance monitor, the store owner saw two cars drive up to his store.  Four figures got out and cut a lock to open the gate.  Detectives later found the discarded bolt cutters and lock nearby.

The men broke the glass entrance door and came inside.

Inspector Scott Small stated that Isabella "heard them walking up the steps, and one of the individuals who broke into the property pointed a handgun at him.  And that's when the store owner fired his own weapon, striking the one perpetrator at least one time in the head."  The name of that individual has not been released by police.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The deceased robber's gun was found next to his body.

The other three ran.

A short time later, seventeen-year-old Khaleef Brown appeared at Jefferson University Hospital with a bullet wound to his shoulder.  After treatment, he was arrested and charged with robbery, burglary, and falsifying information.  Cops said they had overwhelming evidence that he was one of the four who had attempted to loot the gun store.

The other accomplices have not been identified.

Isabella was not charged with any crime.  District Attorney Larry Krasner informed the media that "the facts as we know and the law are clear that the business owner's use of force while inside his own property against a burglar, accompanied by others, who was entering with a gun in his hand were justified.  It is fortunate that this large cache of guns and ammunition were not taken and sold on the street."

While Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said he supports the rights of citizens to protect their lives and property, he warned against vigilantism, stating that he was "deeply troubled at the ease with which another life has been taken amidst this chaos."

Meanwhile, life and death in Ben Franklin's city goes on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Buddy Holly's Pistol
Written by Robert A. Waters

Shortly after midnight, on February 3, 1959, a small plane crashed into a frozen Iowa field, killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.  Roger Peterson, the young pilot, also died.

For nearly two weeks, the popular rock and roll musicians had endured sub-freezing temperatures while on a tour called the Winter Dance Party.  They rode from town to town in rickety buses that kept breaking down because the heaters froze up.  Holly’s drummer, Carl Brunch, got frostbite and had to be hospitalized.  Because of the miserable traveling conditions, Holly decided to rent a plane to take him and his band from Mason City, Iowa to their next stop, Moorhead, Minnesota.  He figured they could rest up for a few hours in a warm hotel and do their laundry.  Valens and Richardson, both battling flu-like symptoms, finagled seats from Holly’s band members.

The airplane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, barely had enough space for the three passengers and the pilot.  When it struck the ground at 170 miles per hour, Holly, Valens, and Richardson were thrown out.  Their bodies were frozen solid when found the next day.  Peterson still sat inside the mangled cockpit, dead.

A report by the Civil Aeronautics Board reported that “the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s unwise decision to embark on a flight which would necessitate flying solely on instruments when he was not properly certificated or qualified to do s0.”

The cause of the crash seemed straightforward, but it wasn’t long until whispered allegations began to question the findings.  It didn’t help that the press initially got many of the facts wrong—for instance, newspapers reported “that the plane had been consumed by fire and all four bodies badly burned.”  In fact, there was no fire.

Even though this group of rock and rollers was likely the tamest of all rockers in the history of rock, claims to the contrary soon circulated.  Peterson’s friends asserted that heavy drinking and drugging by the musicians may have caused the crash.  This rumor gained a life of its own, and still circulates today.  No evidence exists that there was any drug use, and drinking was minimal.  Bob Hale, emcee of the Winter Dance Party, asserted that “there wasn’t an inkling of booze or drugs…I was with them from the moment they got off the bus to the moment they got in the car [to go to the airport].  There was no booze or alcohol, nothing like that.”

Another theory asserts that a fight between the musicians distracted Peterson, causing him to lose control of the plane.  But people who spent time with the group dismissed that conjecture.  Hale stated that “these were good friends.  These guys were back-slapping buddies.  There wasn’t a bit of tension, jealousy, or bitchiness about any of these guys.”

Then, two months later, a farmer found Buddy Holly’s gun near the wreck site and the rumor-mill exploded in earnest.

The pistol, “a small six-shot German-made revolver,” had four unfired rounds in the cylinder.  According to researcher and author Larry Lehmer, the other two cylinders were empty.  Many local residents immediately jumped to the conclusion that Holly had shot the pilot, thereby causing the crash.  Or maybe he shot the Bopper, causing Peterson to take his eye off the control panel and wreck the plane.  Or maybe someone else got the gun and fired a shot.  It went on and on.

Even though the Mason City Globe-Gazette reported that “a check of the coroner’s official reports Friday showed that the pilot and passengers died from wounds received in the plane wreck,” the allegation had been planted.  The pathologist who did the autopsy repeatedly stated that there were no bullet wounds to any of the passengers or pilot.

Jerry Allison, one of the original Crickets, stated that he’d given the gun to Holly in 1958.  “It was a little old .22-like target pistol,” Allison said.  He stated that Holly had once used it to defend himself and his band.  A group of “hoodlums” had blocked the driveway of the venue where the band was playing and wouldn’t move.  Feeling threatened, Holly pulled the pistol and aimed it at one of their tormentors.  The thugs quickly left.

Holly, who sometimes collected the money from gigs, carried the gun for protection.  (Being from Texas, he had hunted when he was younger, and was familiar with guns.)  While on the Winter Dance Party tour, he kept the gun in a false bottom of his shaving kit.  At the crash site, investigators found the case near Holly, its false bottom torn out.

Through the years, the stars of the three singers rose.  Many bands, including the Beatles, the Stones, and others were heavily influenced by Buddy Holly.  The records of Ritchie Havens and the Big Bopper continued to get airplay on oldies stations and influenced younger audiences.  Then Don McClean’s song, “American Pie,” immortalized the three.

In 2007, Jay Richardson, the Big Bopper’s son, decided to exhume his father’s body.  Bill Bass, founder of the Body Farm in Tennessee, performed the second autopsy.

Journalist Ron Franscell wrote that “there was no bullet, the X-rays showed, but few had expected this would turn into a crime-scene investigation anyway.  And the Bopper didn’t survive the impact even for a moment, Bass determined.  He suffered at least three death-dealing injuries that would have killed him before he took another breath: A crushed skull, a broken neck and a grotesquely mashed rib cage. His other injuries were equally grievous, including a crumbled pelvis, a broken spine, a broken foot and ankle, and two compound fractures in each leg.”

Even the most volatile conspiracist was forced to admit that Buddy Holly’s gun played no role in the plane crash.

Or were they?

I highly recommend the following book to anyone interested in the last days of the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” of rock and roll: THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the “Big Bopper,” and Ritchie Valens by Larry Lehmer.

The following newspaper article was also helpful: “A pop star exhumed 50 years after tragic death” by Ron Franscell.  Published in The Beaumont Enterprise, March 11, 2007.