Philadelphia, PA – The first of nine members of a radical group called MOVE, which murdered Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp in 1978, was released on parole on Saturday with the help of District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Debbie Sims, 62, was convicted of third degree murder in the fatal shooting of Officer Ramp in August of 1978, along with eight other members of the organization, and sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
MOVE is an anti-establishment, radical environmental group that follows the philosophies of black nationalism and anarcho-primitivism, and advocates a return to a hunter-gatherer society. Their members live communally and avoid the use of modern medicine and technology, according to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.
In 1978, MOVE members lived together on North 33rd Street in what Time described as “a red brick Victorian house surrounded by trash, garbage and human excrement” where “children and dogs play in the yard, while adults lean over a 6-ft.-high wooden barricade and shout obscenities at passersby.”
The incident began when police arrived at the MOVE compound on Aug. 8, 1978 to execute a court order that required the organization to vacate their residence.
The order had been issued after repeated complaints from neighbors about the number of animals being kept on the property, reports of children living in filthy conditions, the frequent use of a bullhorn to transmit lectures based on the movement leader’s teachings, weapons code violations, and MOVE’s refusal to pay gas and water bills, according to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.
MOVE members resisted, and police were trying to get the radical cult members to drop their weapons and come out of the basement when gunshots were fired at officers from the basement of the MOVE house, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
A shootout ensued that left Officer Ramp dead, and 16 other officers and firefighters wounded, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nine members of the MOVE organization, all of whom had followed the movement’s leader and taken “Africa” as their last name, were convicted after a 19-week trial that WPVI reported was filled with MOVE members' frequent tirades against the court and society. It was the longest and most expensive trial in Pennsylvania history when it occurred.
Sims, who had sought parole nine times since 2008, gave birth to her son Michael Jr. in prison, and sent him to be raised by MOVE members because his father Michael was also incarcerated for Officer Ramp’s murder.
His father will be eligible for parole in from Graterford Prison in September, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Supporters of the black liberation movement interpreted Sims’ release as a major breakthrough, The Guardian reported. At least 25 members of MOVE or the former Black Panther party remain behind bars for crimes they committed in the late 1960s and the 1970s.
Philadelphia’s notoriously cop-hating district attorney, Larry Krasner, provided a positive recommendation to the parole board for Sims, and two other of her partners in crime; however, Sims was the only participant in the 1978 standoff who was granted parole, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Her attorneys highlighted Sims’ perfect disciplinary record in prison for the past 25 years, and said she’d last been in trouble in 1992, The Guardian reported.
They presented the convicted cop killer as having become a mentor to other prisoners, and who had become a dog handler who trained puppies as assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
Correctional expert Martin Horn also advocated on Sims’ behalf with the parole board, and called her disciplinary record “remarkable,” The Guardian reported.