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Philadelphia's Independent Report On Mishandling Of MOVE Bombing Victims' Remains Fails To Answer Key Questions

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A long-awaited report is out on the injustice relating to the police bombing of the Black liberation group, MOVE. The City of Philadelphia hired two law firms to do an investigation after human remains were found in a box last year.

The investigation is complete into the mishandling of human remains from the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE compound, considered one of the worst tragedies in Philadelphia history.

"Proves and shows that there's systematic disregard for Black lives and Black afterlives," Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, a writer and activist, said.

But the 257-page report failed to answer the key questions that prompted the probe last year: Who put the box of remains in a storage room at the medical examiner's office prior to its discovery in 2017? Also unclear, why did the employee that was instructed to cremate the remains four years ago under city health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley defy the order to do so?

"I've been very sincerely sorry that it happened," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "Again, a lot of the mishandling happened back in the '80s when the tragedy occurred. We'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

Investigators say they couldn't answer certain questions because they were unable to speak to several key witnesses. Their report calls for the medical examiner's office to change its policies to improve accountability and remove bias.

Investigators also recommend that the medical examiner's office change the manner of death from accident to homicide for the victims of the MOVE bombing, which took place on Osage Avenue 37 years ago.

The health department agreed to follow most of the recommendations, but not all.

"There's a recommendation we increase the number of investigators so we can send an investigator to the scene at every homicide," Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said. "Unfortunately, the situation in Philadelphia with the number of homicides that we have would mean hiring three or four times the number of investigators."

The mayor says the city will work with the victims' family to find out what they'd like to do with the remains.

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