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Brothers, 16 and 21, arrested in shooting death of activist

| Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, 5:09 p.m.
Gerard Grandzol
Gerard Grandzol

Philadelphia police have arrested two brothers in the shooting death of Spring Garden community activist Gerard Grandzol, they announced Saturday night.

Maurice Roberts, 21, of Philadelphia, and his 16-year-old brother are in custody, police said. Police said the teen, whose name was not released, was the shooter.

A police source with knowledge of the investigation identified the teen as Marvin Roberts.

At a briefing Saturday night, Homicide Capt. John Ryan said the teen was believed to be the only suspect armed. The weapon was a 9mm handgun, police said.

Grandzol, 38, was shot outside his residence at about 8 p.m. Thursday. A well-loved community member and family man, Grandzol was approached by two males who took his wallet, according to police. When asked to hand over his car keys, Grandzol did not resist, police said Saturday night, but wanted to get his 2-year-old daughter out of the car. It appeared at least the younger Roberts may have felt Grandzol wasn't moving fast enough, police said.

"The 16-year-old just stepped up to Mr. Grandzol and shot him twice in the head," Ryan said.

Police said Grandzol was shot twice in the face at point-blank range, in front of his daughter, who was still in the vehicle.

Grandzol was taken by police to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he died at 9:42 p.m. Thursday.

Friends and neighbors, in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, were reeling in shock and grief at the slaying of a man described by City Council President Darrell L. Clarke as "the go-to guy in that community."

A resident of the Spring Garden/Francisville neighborhood for more than a decade, Grandzol was a board member of the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp. He and his wife, Kristin, had recently moved onto the 1500 block of tree-lined Melon Street. He reported the birth of his second daughter July 25 on social media.

The arrests were described as a round-the-clock team effort by law enforcement, including various units of the city police, SEPTA police, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Police said private video at the scene and SEPTA video of the suspects fleeing via train helped identify them.

SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said his officials, using Philadelphia police descriptions, located video of the suspects' flight by Friday morning. Nestel said one of his officers recognized the elder Roberts as someone the officer had arrested in March on a narcotics charge.

" 'I know that guy. I locked him up,' " Nestel said his officer said.

Ryan said the teen was identified as a suspect early Saturday, and he was questioned at Police Headquarters.

The elder Roberts was taken into custody about 6:15 p.m. Saturday at an Extended Stay America motel in Mount Olive in North Jersey, said police sources familiar with the investigation. The U.S. Marshals Service and the city police fugitive unit participated in the arrest, which took place without incident.

Police said the brothers' family members cooperated in the investigation.

Both brothers had had prior run-ins with the law, police said, adding that the elder Roberts had previously been arrested six or seven times. Police said the brothers had lived in various parts of the city and lived what one police source called "unsettled lives."

The brothers will face murder and related charges, police said.

Police Chief Inspector James Kelly, at Saturday's briefing, offered his condolences to the Grandzol family. This is a slaying, he said, that "really pulls at the heartstrings. It's the senseless slaying of a father in front of his 2-year-old daughter. That shouldn't happen. That shouldn't happen to any family anywhere."

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