PHILADELPHIA — A suspect accused of shooting six police officers in a north Philadelphia neighborhood Wednesday evening — igniting a standoff that dragged on for hours — likely faces multiple charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life, the city’s district attorney said Thursday.
District Attorney Lawrence S. Krasner said that Hill could be charged with attempted murder and numerous other counts that could land him in prison for the rest of his life. No one was killed in the standoff, which ended when the suspect surrendered, police said.
Krasner, who said he spoke to the suspect during the situation, credited “brilliant policing” with ending the standoff, which unfolded live across social media and cable news channels.
Hill’s state criminal record as an adult stretches from the early 2000s to 2012 and includes charges of burglary, aggravated assault and resisting arrest, Krasner told reporters Thursday. He said Hill also was under supervision until 2016 for a federal weapons conviction.
“The [criminal justice] system, following its policies and its philosophy at those times, did things that obviously did not stop this incident,” Krasner said. “… What a lot of us do in law enforcement is risk management, and that there will be, like it or not, occasions when there are bad results.”
Johnson said he did not know Hill’s motive. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said he was surprised that the suspect surrendered, telling reporters at a news conference Thursday morning that the gunman “was indicating to some that he was not going to do that.” Ross said that the tear gas shot into the home ultimately resulted in the suspect ending the standoff.
“This was a very dynamic situation, one that I hope we never see again,” he said, adding that he was thankful no civilians or police officers were seriously injured.
The suspect walked out of the house with his arms raised in the air as local TV crews filmed the scene. Police could be heard saying, “Hands up! Hands up! Get down! Get down!”
The gunman was not cooperating with police as of early Thursday, Ross told reporters. He said Johnson, the suspect’s former lawyer, came to the house toward the end of the standoff and talked with the gunman.
“Using him was unorthodox,” Ross said of the lawyer’s involvement in ending the standoff. “But again, it was a very unusual circumstance.”
Johnson told The Post on Thursday that he was watching the standoff on television when Hill called him around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday sounding “defeated.” Johnson said he participated in three- and four-way calls with Hill, Ross and Krasner over the next few hours to try to convince Hill to surrender.
Hill eventually asked Johnson to come to the house, Johnson said, and he arrived around 11:45 p.m. Johnson said he used a megaphone to assure Hill that he was there.
“At some point he said he would come out,” Johnson said. “He said it very plainly: ‘I don’t want to die. I don’t want to end it this way.’ ”
Hill has a teenage son and a daughter born two days before the standoff, Johnson said. He said Hill was treated at a hospital for tear-gas exposure and released into police custody.
“I think you’re going to find there is some level of emotional and mental disturbance,” Johnson said of Hill’s state during the standoff. “To what degree, I don’t know. … Obviously, there’s going to be a psych eval [psychological evaluation].”
Gunfire first broke out around 4:30 p.m., Ross told reporters, after officers attempted to serve a narcotics warrant “that went awry almost immediately.” Once they were inside the home, a barrage of bullets forced officers to return fire and retreat through windows and doors.
More than three hours after the first shots rang out, police were still locked in a dangerous standoff with the gunman barricaded inside the home, trading shots with officers outside. Residents, forced to dive behind cars and hide in their homes, described the scene like a war zone: Bullets flew through the streets, and wafts of gunpowder filled the air.
As the sun set, Ross said at a news conference that he was concerned about two officers in the house with the gunman. They were there for hours until a SWAT team evacuated them, but, he said, the gunman remained inside with no intention of surrendering.
Alisha Bogan, who lives around the corner from where the standoff took place, said she was on her way home to her daughter and mother when she heard gunshots.
“There were a whole lot of people running,” Bogan told The Washington Post. As the gunfire continued, she took cover under a car. Then, she tried to get to her house and her family, but couldn’t get past the police caution tape. Dozens of frustrated residents faced the same dilemma, unable to get to their homes. They gathered on the sidewalks and streets late Wednesday night as storms passed through the region.
After the two officers made it out of the house, Ross told reporters, “We’ve gone from a hostage situation to a barricade.” He said police were still trying to talk the shooter into surrendering. Late Wednesday night, the suspect was still inside.
Dramatic live footage from media helicopters showed scores of officers swarming the house in the residential Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood. They crouched behind cars and exchanged fire with a person inside the house.
On the ground, television reporters’ microphones picked up sounds of gunshots. Multiple officers were seen being carried into police vehicles and transported away from the scene.
A bullet grazed an officer’s head, Ross told reporters. Others were shot in the arm and elsewhere, he said.
“Nothing short of astounding that in such of a confined space we didn’t have more of a tragedy than we did,” Ross said.
They were released from hospitals later that night, but one officer was still being treated for injuries sustained in a car crash related to the incident.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) said the wounded officers were “all in good spirits.”
“We’re thankful — a little angry about someone having all that weaponry and all that firepower — but we’ll get to that another day,” he said at the news conference. “It’s about the officers and their families right now.”
Soon after the melee began, more than 30 police vehicles swarmed the intersection of North Broad Street and West Erie Avenue, a semi-residential area, with homes and apartment buildings alongside temples and coffee shops.
Two day-care centers — Shake, Rattle and Roll Learning Center, and Precious Babies Learning Academy — are located about two blocks from the nexus of the shooting. Employees and police evacuated approximately 80 children and babies to a secure location to be reunited with family.
In a statement, the White House said President Trump had been briefed on the shooting and was monitoring the situation.
“The Philadelphia shooter should never have been allowed to be on the streets,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “He had a long and very dangerous criminal record. Looked like he was having a good time after his capture, and after wounding so many police. Long sentence — must get much tougher on street crime!”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said he was also monitoring the situation, and offered state support to local law enforcement.
Temple issued a lockdown for its Health Sciences Center Campus and advised anyone there to “Seek shelter. Secure doors. Be silent. Be still.” The university lifted the lockdown two hours later, but advised students, faculty and staff to steer clear of the crime scene.
Omar Caid, a student at the school, said he got an email from Temple telling him to take cover. At first, he said, he wasn’t worried — he’s seen shootings in his community before.
“I thought it was a normal shooting — this isn’t the best neighborhood, but it isn’t the worst,” he said. “I thought it was gang-related. Then I heard it was three officers and knew this was different.”
In interviews with other local TV outlets, residents, crowding the streets behind police barricades, described the frightening, chaotic scene punctuated by repeated volleys of gunfire.
“It was like a war — like a scene that you see in war,” a woman who lives in the neighborhood told NBC. “The guns, the fire, the noise — it was like bombs going off simultaneously at a time where people are having dinner.”