Officer Shaun Parker was the first cop to go inside the Tioga rowhouse where police believed that people were stashing drugs. He walked through an enclosed porch, then a living room and a dining room, before peering into the kitchen. Several officers were behind him, having just served a warrant on a nearby residence.
But in an instant, Parker testified Thursday, this situation would prove different. “I saw a flash,” he said. “At that point, I knew I was shot in the head.”
A scar was still visible on the side of Parker’s head Thursday as he sat in the witness box and delivered matter-of-fact testimony that served as the backbone of a preliminary hearing for Maurice Hill, accused of shooting six officers during a 7½-hour standoff in August, the largest shooting of police officers in modern Philadelphia history.
The proceeding at the Stout Center for Criminal Justice also marked the first time that Parker and the other officers involved have spoken publicly about the shootout. Parker somehow avoided serious injury, testifying that he pulled bullet fragments out of his close-cropped hair when he was showering several weeks after the incident.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons ordered Hill held for trial on every major charge filed against him, including 11 counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and assault of a law enforcement officer.
Later, District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office announced that it would file an additional 62 counts of attempted murder and related charges against Hill — one for each additional officer who was fired upon.
“My office will continue to pursue justice in what was one of the worst mass shootings in Philadelphia history,” Krasner said. “The fact that no police officer or civilian suffered a life-threatening injury was and is a miracle.”
Hill, 36, who is jailed while awaiting trial, did not react much during the hearing, sometimes speaking to his lawyer, Ed Meehan, but otherwise sitting calmly as a host of officers answered questions from Meehan and prosecutors Anthony Voci and Danielle Burkavage.
Testimony from officers who had been inside and outside the house painted a disorienting and frightening scene, with cops unable to move for fear of being killed. Investigators said they found five guns they believe Hill used during the ordeal, and empty magazines capable of firing hundreds of rounds.
Parker said he collapsed to the ground after being shot and tried to move out of the way as gunfire continued from the kitchen. Officer Michael Guinter had been behind Parker, but couldn’t reach him to help — too many shots were flying through the house.
“I could see the walls exploding, almost,” Guinter said.
Officer Sarah DeBarberie quickly heard that Parker had been shot, but said: “All I could see on the other side of the wall was smoke and dust.” Shortly afterward, she testified, she saw other officers being hit by bullets in their legs and arms.
Parker said he ultimately escaped by jumping through a window in the dining room. He still bears several large scars on his arm, which he showed Simmons during his time on the witness stand.
Meanwhile, Officer Edward Wright was trapped upstairs with two other cops and three people who had been inside bedrooms. Wright testified that after shots erupted, he and his colleagues tried to go downstairs but were blocked — first by ongoing gunfire, and later by a couch that had been moved onto the bottom of the stairs as an obstacle.
After about five hours, Wright said, SWAT officers rescued him, his colleagues, and the people trapped upstairs through a second-door window.
Under questioning by Meehan, several officers acknowledged that the house where the shootout occurred was not the address for which they had secured a warrant for suspected narcotics violations. They said they had already secured the first house, 3712 N. 15th St., before entering the second house two doors away due to what they suspected was additional drug activity there.
Prosecutors showed pictures of suspected marijuana seized at the second location, as well as a bag of cash.
Hill ultimately surrendered around midnight after negotiating with Krasner and then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross. Krasner has said he offered Hill a “phony baloney” deal to walk out, but details of those negotiations were not brought up during Thursday’s proceeding.
Hill is scheduled to be formally arraigned Jan. 2 for the charges previously filed against him. As of late Thursday afternoon, the new counts announced by Krasner had not been formally filed.