District Attorney calls on leaders to put more officers on the street
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
COATESVILLE - A 29-year-old former track star who succeeded for a time in overcoming adversity became Coatesville’s second homicide victim in less than a week, prompting the Chester County District Attorney to urge city leaders to boost the police force.
Alex E. Davis, a 2002 Downingtown High graduate, was fatally shot as he was driving on Belmont Avenue at 11:39 p.m. last night, authorities said. His vehicle crossed South Sixth Avenue and hit a chain-link fence between two homes.
District Attorney Tom Hogan said the “understaffed” Coatesville Police Department is doing what it can under adverse circumstances.
“The best way to prevent these street homicides is to have a visible and active police patrol presence,” said Hogan. “The Coatesville PD lacks sufficient officers right now to provide that patrol presence. The inevitable result of cutting police staffing for any area is a decrease in safety for the residents. I am calling on the leadership of the City of Coatesville to provide a sufficient number of police officers to keep the residents of Coatesville safe.”
Six officers took the early-retirement option in May, including Chief Julius M. Canale, who has continued to work on a day-to-day contract. At least two other officers are on paid leave. After repeated inquiries for several days, city officials said 26 officers are on active duty in the department, which has previously had about 35.
A woman who lives on South Sixth Avenue and declined to be identified said she heard a loud bang, looked out the window, and saw Davis slumped against the steering wheel. She said police were on the scene in a minute. “They got here very quickly,” she said.
Police assisted by Chester County detectives spent the day canvassing the neighborhood, where many residents said crime is painfully commonplace. People who know Davis, a longtime Downingtown resident, said he had been living recently with his mother in Coatesville.
According to published reports, Davis, described as “a bright and friendly young man,” had experienced violence before. In 2007, after having attended Shippensburg University for a few years, he was working as an account manager at a local rental company, said a newsletter from Brandywine Hospital.
Davis was featured in the publication because he “found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time” on Nov. 13, 2007, almost losing his left ear in a violent attack. Rather than removing the nearly severed ear, doctors reattached it and used several days of innovative leech therapy followed by surgery to salvage it.
The article said Davis, whose supportive relatives remained by his side throughout his hospital stay, formed a close bond Dr. David
Singer, his plastic surgeon, and the entire Brandywine Hospital emergency-room staff. When asked how the attack changed his outlook on life, he said: “I’m not as trusting as I used to be. I know what can happen, because I saw what did happen.”
Court records suggest that the lesson did not last. Davis pleaded guilty in May 2011 to drug offenses from a December 2010 arrest, and he was sentenced to three to 23 months in prison. While that case was being prosecuted, he was arrested a second time in March 2011 and pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia for which he received a probationary sentence, court records said.
In high school, Davis told a sports reporter that every win he notched in track was special because he suffered from asthma his entire life and used an inhaler before and after each race.
On Friday, police said Dominique Williams, 22, was fatally shot about 12:15 a.m. during a home invasion at a residence in the 700 block of Merchant Street. Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said DNA was recovered at the scene and investigators are pursuing “strong leads.” He urged anyone involved to help themselves by surrendering.
Anyone with information about the Davis homicide should contact Chester County Detective Ed Nolan at 610-344-5100 or Coatesville Detective Kevin Campbell at 610-384-2300, Hogan said. Davis’s fatal shooting brings the total number of homicides in Chester County so far this year to seven, four of which occurred in Coatesville. In 2011, the county had a total of nine, said Hogan.