PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A jury has acquitted Tyquan Atkinson of all charges in the murder of Nicholas Flacco, the son of a Philadelphia police commander, shot and killed three years ago in South Philadelphia.
During a blackout in the Criminal Justice Center — and after just hours of jury deliberation — Atkinson, 22, was found not guilty of murder, conspiracy and gun charges.
The verdict followed four days of testimony — including from a friend of Flacco's, who identified Atkinson, 22, as the killer, and Atkinson’s ex-girlfriend, who said he told her he had “killed someone.”
Prosecutors wove together surveillance video, eyewitness accounts and cell phone records, which they said pointed to Atkinson as the one who shot and killed 20-year-old Nick Flacco on March 30, 2019, in FDR Park.
Prosecutors alleged it started while the victim was tailgating with friends on his birthday after a Phillies game. A fight broke out between two groups, and someone called Atkinson, then 19, to handle it.
When he got to the park, they said, he pulled out a gun and fired two shots in the air then left. Then, they said, he came back and got into an argument with Flacco before fatally shooting him in the chest.
They said, when Atkinson changed his number and ran from police as they tried to arrest him, it showed "consciousness of guilt."
The jury disagreed.
The defense poked holes in the state's case — questioning the validity of cell phone records and the memories of eyewitnesses identifying Atkinson as the gunman, and calling out inconsistencies, including testimony about what clothes the shooter wore. They also alleged Atkinson’s ex-girlfriend, who testified that he confessed to her, was coerced by police into giving a false statement.
Prosecutors said Atkinson was motivated to shoot Flacco because the victim allegedly disrespected the defendant’s good friend, who also was a victim of gun violence.
But when Atkinson took the stand on Wednesday, he said he could not remember where he was at the exact moment Flacco was shot and killed. He said he drove by FDR Park at some point that night and saw police lights flashing, but he did not go in.
Atkinson told jurors he was scared when he found out police were looking at him as the shooter, so he switched phones and went to his aunt’s house in Delaware County, and that’s why he ran from police when they came to serve an arrest warrant.
Supporters and families for both the defendant and the victim watched the trial through a TV monitor, with questionable sound quality, in another courtroom floors above the jury. Both sides packed into the same courtroom as the jury, when the verdict was read, Flacco’s mother silently shaking in heartbreak as the foreperson spoke, Atkinson’s mother clasping the hands of loved ones.
Flacco’s sister ran out of the room in tears — as both sides were left to sit in silence and keep their emotions bottled up until the jury left the building.