Gunman faces attempted murder charges for allegedly shooting Penn alum
Shooter Christopher Easter is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 30.
December 11, 2011, 8:39 pm · Updated December 13, 2011, 4:53 pm·
Christopher Easter will face attempted murder charges for an alleged shooting that left a Penn graduate paralyzed last month.
On Nov. 15, Kevin Neary, a 2004 College graduate, was walking home in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia when 20-year-old Easter allegedly shot him in the neck during an attempted robbery.
Earlier in the night, Neary was watching a Penn basketball game at the Palestra with his brother, Joe “JP” — coach of the Penn cheerleading team and a gift officer for Penn athletics. Neary then left to meet friends at a bar in the Piazza at Schmidts. After walking a friend home, he was allegedly shot at around 2:45 a.m.
The police believed the attack was an attempted robbery, although Easter did not make away with any of Neary’s possessions, JP said.
JP received a phone call from his father at around 4:45 a.m. informing him that his brother was in an extremely critical condition. Joe was in shock upon learning that his “little brother has been shot,” he said.
Neary, who was shot in the neck, suffered severe damage to his spinal column.
Neary was treated at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, where his neck was stabilized through a series of surgeries. His father, also named Joe Neary, told CBS on Friday that his son will be a quadriplegic, meaning he may be paralyzed in the legs, torso and arms.
“He’s a fighter,” JP said, who has faith that his brother will stay strong throughout the process. However, “it’s going to be a really long road.”
JP and his family is “thankful for the whole Penn community,” adding “the outpouring of support has been tremendous.”
On Friday, Neary was transferred to the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital on 15th and Race Streets, according to JP. Earlier in the week, Neary had a permanent pacemaker installed. He can only speak a few words at a time because he is still breathing through a ventilator, and doctors are unsure whether he will ever breathe again without a ventilator.
JP said his family expects Neary will stay in in-patient rehabilitation for eight weeks, during which he will have physical therapy sessions for about seven hours a day. Rehab will include manually moving different parts of Neary’s body to maintain muscle mass, although he currently cannot move any body parts below his neck. He will also learn to use a power wheelchair.
Neary will continue to receive out-patient care, but JP expects his brother will one day return to working on the healthcare consulting business he had founded.
Friday was also Easter’s preliminary hearing. In addition to attempted murder, Easter will face charges that include aggravated assault, robbery with serious bodily injury and the illegal possession of a firearm.
JP testified in court on behalf of his brother, who was present at the hearing along with his father and eight other family members and friends. JP said he was anxious as he looked “at the guy who admitted he shot my brother … [with] no reason to do it.”
He added that Easter was void of emotion. “He looked like he didn’t care.”
After Easter was identified through the security tapes in the neighborhood, he was arrested on Nov. 22 around the 1700 block of West Bristol Street.
He was apprehended after attempting to escape arrest by jumping through a second-story window.
Easter, who lives on the 1500 block of Poplar Street, has a criminal history, which includes charges of robbery, conspiracy, aggravated assault and defiant trespass.
Easter is currently held at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia on $5 million bail and will appear in court again on Dec. 30.
“I’m happy that he’s off the streets and won’t be doing this to anyone else,” JP said.