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August 10, 2022

Man sentenced to prison for illegal firearm possession during 2020 civil unrest in West Philly

Steven Pennycooke, 36, attempted to steal a looted ATM and was carrying a handgun despite being a convicted felon

Crime Courts
ATM Theft Attempt Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Steven Pennycooke, 36, was sentenced to more than 4 years in federal prison on Tuesday for illegally possessing a firearm during an attempt to steal a looted ATM machine in West Philly. The incident occurred during the period of civil unrest in June 2020.

A previously convicted felon was sentenced to more than 4 years in prison for illegally possessing a firearm during an ATM theft attempt amid the civil unrest in June 2020, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said on Tuesday.

Steven Pennycooke, 36, of Philadelphia, was arrested on June 2, 2020, after police received a report that two men were loading a looted ATM onto a cart. The incident occurred on the 4100 block of Viola Street in the Parkside section of West Philadelphia. 

At the time, the city was under a mandatory curfew following a series of protests. When police got to the scene, they saw what appeared to be a safe in the middle of the street. Officers also saw two men fitting the description from the 911 call standing near a vehicle half a block away.

Pennycooke was seen removing a firearm from his waistband and tossing it into the passenger side of the vehicle, according to an indictment filed by former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain. The second man, 27-year-old Shawn Collins, said he was carrying the gun because "they purging out here" and because he was recently shot at a gas station, court documents show.

Due to a prior felony conviction, Pennycooke is not permitted to carry a firearm. He is also facing three years of supervised release and a $1,000 fine.

"The crime of being a felon in possession of a firearm is a serious offense, particularly in Philadelphia where gun violence has been and continues to be our city's most pressing threat to public safety," said Romero. "Repeat offenders like this defendant, who knowingly illegally carry handguns, are actively contributing to the dangerous circumstances on our streets, and our Office is doing all we can to deter that criminal activity." 

Collins plead guilty to weapons charges and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. 

Jacqueline Maguire, a special agent in charge of the FBI's Philadelphia division, said that gun violence has impacted far too many residents in the city and every illegal firearm taken off the streets is done to preserve public safety. Maguire noted that Pennycooke has been a convicted felon since 2011 and was first sentenced for a "violent assault with a firearm." 

Pennycooke is just one of several Philadelphia residents that have been charged, convicted, or sentenced to prison for their role in the period of civil unrest throughout the city during summer 2020. The unrest was largely caused by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 30.

In July, Lore Blumenthal, 35, of Jenkintown, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for lighting two police cars on fire in Center City. She was one of six protesters charged in connection with arsons during the protests.