Philadelphia ex-mayor calls for city apology in 1985 bombing that killed 11

Philadelphia's former mayor, who led the city when police dropped a bomb on a house, sparking a fire that killed 11 people and destroyed more than 60 homes, is calling for the city to apologize formally for the debacle.

W. Wilson Goode Sr. wrote in a Sunday op-ed for the Guardian, "After 35 years it would be helpful for the healing of all involved, especially the victims of this terrible event."

"Many in the city still feel the pain of that day," he wrote. "I know I will always feel the pain."

Goode, the city's first black mayor, was leading Philadelphia in 1985 when the city clashed with members of MOVE, an anarcho-primitivist group. It culminated in the bombing of MOVE headquarters, which engulfed a city block in flames.

Houses in ruins after police dropped a bomb in an eviction confrontation with MOVE in Philadelphia, in 1985.

Houses in ruins after police dropped a bomb in an eviction confrontation with MOVE in Philadelphia, in 1985. (Getty Images, File)

"There can never be an excuse for dropping an explosive from a helicopter on to a house with men, women and children inside and then letting the fire burn," wrote Goode, who served from 1984 to 1992.

Goode wrote he "was not personally involved in all the decisions that resulted in 11 deaths," but took responsibility as chief executive of the city and issued what he called his fourth public apology. He said he was "ultimately responsible" for the actions of those he appointed "even though I knew nothing about their specific plan of action."

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William Richmond, the fire commissioner at the time, said firefighters did not immediately extinguish the flames, which spread down the block, because officials were worried that crews could face gunfire and thought it would destroy a bunker and help get people out of the house.

MOVE members on Sunday rejected the apology idea.

"No apology is going to bring back my baby or any of the children in that house or our brothers, husbands, sisters" or other victims, Sue Africa said.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell, who succeeded Goode as mayor and as district attorney prosecuted MOVE members, told The Philadelphia Inquirer he has since regretted his handling of the prosecution of some members. He said if he had to do it over again, he would have offered plea deals that included less severe sentences to those who weren't leaders.

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"I followed the law, but the prosecutor always has the discretion to use their judgment," Rendell said. "For what they did, compared to what some other people do in Philadelphia, they served far too much time."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.