On July 12, Michael White was on his job as a bicycle deliveryman when an altercation took place that left Sean Schellenger fatally stabbed in the back. Those facts are not in dispute. What is in dispute is what led to the confrontation between the then-20-year-old courier and 37-year-old Schellenger who was riding in a Mercedes Benz with two other white men.
Parenthetically, Schellenger competed as a quarterback in his junior and senior year in high school. He also was an elite wrestler who was scheduled to be inducted into the Coatesville Area Senior High School Hall of Fame in October.
With the support of Philadelphia Peaceful Surrender, White turned himself in to the police less than 24 hours later. He was charged with one count of murder and one count of possession of an instrument of crime. The Morgan State University student was denied bail. He remains in custody at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, where he spent his 21st birthday.
In an interview with radio talk show host Solomon Jones, District Attorney Larry Krasner said all homicides in the state are classified as “murder generally.” He said there are five levels of homicide, ranging from first-degree murder to voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, the last of which is usually applied in cases of self-defense. Krasner added, “Once a suspect is charged and the evidentiary collection period begins, that person, unless he or she is charged with first-degree murder, is usually eligible for bail.”
Family and friends say White acted in self-defense. Given the racial dynamics, some question whether that’s a viable defense for a black man accused of killing a white man. Philadelphia magazine columnist Ernest Owens writes:
Black boys don’t ever get to be helpless, vulnerable, or in desperation. They’re always a threat, whether they choose to be or not.
When I saw the mugshot of 20-year-old college student Michael White, who is now charged for murder in the high-profile stabbing death of Philadelphia real estate developer Sean Schellenger, I felt numb.
Because his killer could have been me or any other young Black boy who’s encountered a similar confrontation.
On the eve of White’s first court appearance, supporters will hold a rally outside the office of the District Attorney. They want the murder charge dismissed or downgraded, and White released on bail pending trial.