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Philly police shooting recap: Gunman had AR-15 and handgun, officers identified, McSwain-Krasner sniping

U.S. Attorney McSwain used the shooting and standoff to renew attacks on District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Philadelphia crime scene officer wearing a hazmat suit walks into the home of suspected gunman Maurice Hill on the 3700 block of N. 15th Street in Philadelphia, PA on August 15, 2019.
Philadelphia crime scene officer wearing a hazmat suit walks into the home of suspected gunman Maurice Hill on the 3700 block of N. 15th Street in Philadelphia, PA on August 15, 2019.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Following a dramatic, 7 ½-hour standoff on a North Philadelphia block in which six city officers were shot and two others were trapped in a rowhouse where a suspect was firing an AR-15 rifle, the gunman is in custody, the officers are home from the hospital, local lawmakers are calling for change, and investigations into the shooting are underway.

As new details surfaced Thursday about the standoff, the background of the man accused of engaging in the lengthy altercation with police, and the incident’s impact on the surrounding community, the shootout prompted local officials to call for legislation to curb gun violence.

Key developments Thursday included:

  1. Police identified the six officers who were wounded by gunfire.

  2. Officials recounted the intense discussions with the gunman that preceded his eventual surrender. Authorities also said the shooter was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and had a handgun in his pocket when he surrendered.

  3. The shooting prompted renewed sniping between U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

  4. Questions were swirling around the search warrant that prompted the shooting and standoff, as officials and observers began to deconstruct how the raid went awry.

  5. Local leaders called for action on gun control, saying lawmakers needed to “step up.”

The incident began to unfold about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, when narcotics officers tried to serve a search warrant at the house in the 3700 block of North 15th Street in the Tioga section of North Philadelphia.

Two Narcotics Strike Force bicycle officers were pinned on the second floor with three other people who were handcuffed, police said. The officers were not injured but they and the three people in custody were at risk of getting shot because the suspect on the first floor was firing into the ceiling. A SWAT team reached the five and removed them from the building about 2 ½ hours before the suspect surrendered.

All of the injured officers were treated at hospitals and released that night, police said. At least three other officers sustained non-shooting injuries during the standoff. The gunman was briefly hospitalized, then taken into custody, after the standoff.

Here are the major developments from the shooting and the day after:

Police department names six officers who were shot

The Philadelphia Police Department on Thursday identified the six officers wounded in the gunfire:

  1. Officer Joshua Burkitt, 26, a 2-year veteran assigned to the 24th District, suffered a gunshot wound to the left hand

  2. Officer Michael Guinter, 32, a 12-year veteran on the Narcotics Strike Force, suffered gunshot wounds to both arms

  3. Officer Shaun Parker, 32, an 11-year veteran assigned to the Narcotics Strike Force, suffered a graze wound to the head

  4. Officer Nathaniel Harper, 43, a 19-year veteran assigned to the Narcotics Strike Force, suffered a gunshot wound to the left leg

  5. Officer Ryan Waltman, 42, a 12-year veteran assigned to the 39th District, suffered a gunshot wound to the right hand

  6. Officer Justin Matthews, 31, a 3-year veteran assigned to the 16th District, suffered a graze wound to the left leg

Three officers were treated at Temple University Hospital and the other three at Einstein Medical Center. By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, all six officers had been treated and released from their respective hospitals, police said.

McSwain stands by criticism of Krasner; DA decries ‘opportunistic politics’

William McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, acknowledged during an afternoon news conference Thursday that Hill’s prior cases occurred before Larry Krasner took office, but stood by his earlier criticism of the District Attorney’s Office.

“This is larger than just Maurice Hill,” he said, referencing the suspected gunman in Wednesday’s shooting. “My point is about the disrespect for law enforcement and the culture that the district attorney is fostering in this community.”

Officials from the ATF and FBI said they were assisting in the investigation and would look into the source of Hill’s firearms once the crime scene is cleared by Philadelphia police investigators.

McSwain said federal authorities were considering “all options” in bringing a potential case against Hill, but the District Attorney’s Office should have an array of charges on which to prosecute him.

"In an ideal situation those are the charges that would be pursued aggressively and appropriately,” he said.

Krasner, for his part, said he didn’t yet know where jurisdiction for the case would fall. The district attorney said he welcomed collaboration but slammed McSwain’s rhetoric.

“It is an attempt, and it is familiar in the Trump administration, the Trump administration that appointed Mr. McSwain, it is a familiar bit of opportunistic politics," Krasner said. "I will not dignify it with a detailed response.”

Gunman with AR-15 was ‘firing at police repeatedly’

The shooter likely used an AR-15 assault rifle to fire at police for hours from inside the home on North 15th Street, and had a handgun in his pocket when he surrendered to police, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Thursday, calling the shooting “an incident unlike anything I’ve seen in my 30 years.” It is still unknown whether the gunman possessed additional weapons, Ross added.

The commissioner described the “absolutely unnerving situation” during a press conference at Philadelphia City Hall, where local, state, and federal lawmakers called for legislative action to ban assault weapons.

“We’ve got to start with figuring out ways of getting guns out of the hands of people like the jerk who shot six officers yesterday, last night in Philadelphia,” Gov. Tom Wolf said, announcing plans to sign an executive order Friday that “puts programs in place to deter gun violence in Pennsylvania.”

Visibly emotional when recounting the details of police officers walking children to safety after their day-care was placed on lockdown, Mayor Jim Kenney told state and federal lawmakers to “step up or step aside.”

“Help our police officers. Help our clergy. Help our children," Kenney said. "And if you choose not to help us, then get out of the way — and allow cities like Philadelphia that struggle with gun violence to enact our own solutions.”

» READ MORE: Kenney to lawmakers after Philly shootings: ‘Step up — or step aside’ on gun control

Deconstructing a drug raid gone awry

Law enforcement sources said police did not enter the house looking for Maurice Hill, but were instead executing a search warrant on a house they believed to be a drug stash, and decided to do a “safety sweep” of a nearby home they believed might be involved in the operation.

Police had a search warrant for the purported stash house, at 3712 N. 15th St., but decided to secure the other home, 3716, after seeing what they believed might be drugs or weapons going into that home. They raided both houses almost simultaneously, sources said.

When Narcotics Strike Force officers breached the front door at 3716, sources said, one team ran upstairs, another to the basement and a third for the kitchen. That’s where they say Maurice Hill opened fire, sending some officers fleeing and trapping the two who had gone upstairs.Those officers sought shelter in the bathroom for a time, hoping the tile floor would block some of the gunfire, and used a direct radio link to provide SWAT supervisors with layouts and conditions in the house.

Throughout the standoff, sources, said, the gunman was calling friends and the mother of his child – and many people called police to identify him as the shooter.

A neighbor’s surveillance camera caught the dramatic early moments of the shooting.

Crime scene crew clearing the homes

While officials at City Hall were preparing for a 2 p.m. press conference, activity resumed on the block where the shooting occurred.

Police cars and trucks lined up on Erie Avenue. A Philadelphia Police crime scene unit, ATF, and animal control were on the scene and officers, some wearing hazmat suits, entered the two homes around 2:45 p.m. Commissioner Ross, in the press conference, said they could not enter the home earlier because the tear gas had not cleared.

About two dozen officers were huddling on the sidewalk outside the home, where the front windows appeared to be blown out.

» READ MORE: On the North Philly block the morning after police shootings: ‘Today we have no children’

U.S. Attorney uses shooting to renew attack on D.A. Krasner

U.S. Attorney William McSwain used the shooting and standoff to renew his attacks on Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Praising the “heroism” of the Philadelphia police, McSwain said the shooting grew out of a “stunning disrespect for law enforcement” that was, he said, fostered by Krasner.

“The alleged shooter last night, Maurice Hill, is a previously convicted felon with a long rap sheet,” said McSwain, who was appointed by President Donald Trump. “We have plenty of criminal laws in this city — but what we don’t have is robust enforcement by the District Attorney. Instead, among other things, we have diversionary programs for gun offenses, the routine downgrading of charges for violent crime, and entire sections of the criminal code that are ignored.”

McSwain has repeatedly accused Krasner of being soft on criminals.

“There’s a certain amount of distrust in the public about what Mr. Krasner might do,” McSwain said Thursday in regards to charging Hill. “We are going to be providing some adult supervision.”

Krasner, for his part, said his office has had no open cases involving Hill since he became district attorney.

Questions raised over search warrant that preceded shooting and standoff

According to law enforcement sources and court records, the original search warrant precipitating the raid was issued for 3712 N. 15th St., which authorities believed was being used as a stash house for narcotics.

But during surveillance, sources said, officers observed a duffel bag being moved to 3716 N. 15th Street, and they subsequently entered that home believing the bag contained drugs. When officers entered the house, sources said, a gunman in the kitchen opened fire almost immediately, starting the 7 ½-hour standoff

Defense lawyers argued Thursday that if officers searched a property without a warrant, that could constitute an illegal search.

» CATCHING UP: What you need to know about the police shooting and standoff

Bradley Bridge, a lawyer with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, said officers “would need to get a warrant for the second location. That’s what the Fourth Amendment mandates,” He continued: “If there were exigent circumstances, like an emergency, they might be able to have an excuse for the failure to obtain a warrant – but the movement of a duffel bag from one house to a second house does not create that exigency," which, in legal terms, excuses some particular right from being followed.

Attorney Paul Hetznecker noted that the Fourth Amendment assures a right to privacy that should prevent such warrantless entries. “The entry of the second property, if not supported by probable cause and based on exigent circumstances as an exception to the warrant requirement, could be problematic.”

Commissioner Richard Ross, however, said Thursday afternoon that officers would have had sufficient probable cause to enter the house due to “exigent circumstances."

“If they’re watching people who were delivering drugs and you had a search warrant for one place and you watch them take it into somewhere else, sure it is, to contain that property and so forth," he said. “We’re trying to figure out exactly what happened with that.”

Sen. Toomey on shooting: Do more to ‘strengthen’ gun safety laws

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) said Thursday he had asked federal law enforcement officials keep him updated on the investigation to determine how Hill allegedly obtained the weapon.

“The shooter who attempted to murder brave Philadelphia police officers yesterday is a convicted felon who had no right to possess a firearm,” Toomey said. “When Congress reconvenes, these issues, such as strengthening background checks to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, should be a top priority.”

Gov. Wolf to sign gun-violence executive order tomorrow

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf plans to sign an executive order meant to improve gun-violence prevention efforts on Friday. The governor said the order would allow him to make “sweeping changes” to state offices. The signing had originally been slated for Thursday, but was postponed in the aftermath of the Philadelphia shooting.

Krasner won’t disclose if Hill’s name was on warrant, says shooting suspect could spend rest of life in prison

District Attorney Larry Krasner declined to comment at a news conference Thursday on the warrant or say whether he had any concerns about the legality of the search by police.

He said there are “many good reasons why events can occur in one location that create exigent circumstances ... that would require officers to go into another location.” But he added: “I cannot say one way or another what the evidence is going to show. It would be very premature for me to comment further."

He said the alleged gunman “needed to be off the streets” but that law enforcement cannot predict an ex-convict’s return to crime.

Noting that law enforcement involves “risk management,” Krasner said that the shooting was an “an illustration that no matter what we do there will be bad results.”

» READ MORE: Facebook livestream of Philadelphia police shooting rumored, but no video has surfaced

Krasner made a point of noting that while Hill had a lengthy record, the alleged shooter had had no open cases since he took office.

The district attorney said he took part in negotiations with Hill during the standoff in a bid to calm the gunman and bring the situation to a peaceful conclusion.

Krasner said he went to the scene after Hill’s lawyer called and said Hill wanted the prosecutor and the defense attorney there together.

Hill, he said, wanted to “try and end the situation without being killed.”

Krasner agreed with Police Commissioner Richard Ross that tear gas, not negotiations, brought the standoff to an end.

Krasner said he would examine whether his involvement in the talks with Hill would have an impact on the prosecution’s case.

The standoff began after narcotics officers executed a search warrant on the street, but Krasner said he would not discuss the legality of the warrant or if Hill’s name was on it.

Krasner said Hill would likely be charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons offenses and could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Gov. Wolf: Shooting underscores need for gun control

In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said the shooting highlighted the need for better gun control.

“How did he get those guns? How did he get that gun that he was firing on police officers?” Wolf said. “Let’s start with reasonable, responsible gun safety legislation."

He added: ”I can’t imagine he had those guns legally, but somebody did, and somebody gave him those guns." The governor’s calls for gun control echoed those made by Mayor Jim Kenney Wednesday night.

“We make it too easy for people to get the guns that shoot at police officers who are trying to maintain the peace...” said Wolf, who also visited with police officers Thursday morning.

Philly police union boss: ‘We need a new DA’ following shooting

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, told 1210 WPHT radio host Dom Giordano that Philadelphia needed to replace District Attorney Larry Krasner following Wednesday’s shootout.

“We need a new DA,” McNesby said during an interview Thursday morning. “[The shooter] should’ve never been on the streets. He should’ve never been there.”

While Hill has a long criminal record, his prior offenses occurred before Krasner became district attorney in January 2018.

This isn’t the first time McNesby has criticized Krasner. In January, during an interview on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, McNesby claimed Krasner had “decimated” the prosecutor’s office, turned it into the public defender’s office, and harbors “great disdain and dislike for law enforcement.”

Suspect’s attorney: Hill was concerned police would kill him while surrendering

Hill’s attorney, Shaka Johnson, whom police credited for assisting in the negotiations with the gunman, said he was watching TV coverage of the standoff about 8:30 p.m. when he got a call from a number he did not recognize, followed by an “ominous” text from Hill’s sister and a phone call from an Inquirer reporter that made him realize his longtime client might be involved.

“He calls and just even the way he sounded I knew he was telling me it was him,” Johnson said in an interview at the Stout Criminal Justice Center on Thursday morning. Johnson said he initially gave Hill “a tongue-lashing, but it quickly transferred into, 'I need you to come out of there safe. I said you gotta know the cops are pumped up on testosterone, their brother officers have been hurt. The community’s under siege, people locked out of their homes. they’re not going to play with you for long, so I need you to come on out of there."

"So his concern over the next few hours was if he tried to surrender peacefully, they would still kill him.” Johnson said.

In an earlier interview on FOX29, Johnson, a former police officer, said he told Hill that the “world is watching, and that may be one of the thing giving the police some pause” in how they would respond to him if he surrendered.

Trump comments on Philadelphia shootout: ‘Must get much tougher on street crime!’

President Donald Trump weighed in on the shootout Thursday morning, saying the alleged gunman “should never have been allowed to be on the streets."

“He had a long and very dangerous criminal record,” he wrote in the tweet. “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!”

Hill had a record of drug and weapons arrests.

Trump was briefed on the incident Wednesday.

Commissioner Ross describes negotiations with gunman

Police Commissioner Ross said Thursday morning that he personally took part in negotiations to get the gunman to surrender.

"This was the first time, and I hope it is the last time,” Ross said of his unusual foray into negotiating with a barricaded gunman.

Ross said Hill rebuffed initial attempts by police to negotiate, but was using his phone to talk to other people, including his girlfriend with whom he recently had a daughter.

Ross said he asked the police negotiator if it would help if he talked to Hill and the negotiator agreed.

The negotiator instructed Ross on what questions to ask throughout his communications with the gunman, the commissioner said.

Hill, he said, spoke of his newborn daughter and his criminal record. Hill also made “outlandish” but unspecified demands.

"But we weren’t going to lie to him and tell him we were going to acquiesce to what he wanted, because that’s not what you do either because that creates problems as well,” he said.

Still, Ross said, despite the negotiations it was the “the tear gas that ultimately brought him outside.”

» READ MORE: Philadelphia police commissioner recounts trying to talk gunman into surrendering during standoff

» READ MORE: After Philadelphia police shooting, officers raced to Temple Hospital: ‘It was intense’

Gunman surrenders after 7 ½ hours

Hill surrendered after police fired teargas into the building, making a series of booming sounds. Hill emerged to a sea of cops shouting, “Hands up! Hands up! Get down! Get down!”

Hill was treated at Temple University Hospital for teargas exposure before being taken to jail.

Trapped officers rescued while standoff was underway

Shortly before 9:25 p.m., a SWAT unit rescued the two officers and the three civilians in the building by a SWAT team while the standoff continued.

Ross called SWAT’s work to get the officers out of the house “absolutely remarkable.”

The rescue cleared the way for police to use tear gas to end the standoff, Ross said Thursday morning.

“It is nothing short of remarkable in such a confined space, that we didn’t have more of a tragedy that we did,” the commissioner said. Officers who were initially serving an search warrant at the house were met with gunfire almost immediately, he said.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today," Ross said as he stood in the rain outside Temple hospital.

Mayor Jim Kenney, at his side, called for stricter gun control measures.

“If the state and federal government don’t want to stand up to the NRA, then let us police ourselves,” he said. “Our officers deserve to be protected."

‘You gotta surrender, man.’

Police attempted to communicate with the gunman through a loudspeaker as residents were being evacuated from nearby streets.

Shaka Johnson, a lawyer who previously represented Hill, said in an interview with CBS3 that Hill called him at home around 8:30 p.m. “in a panic.”

Johnson told 6ABC that he told Hill that he would do nothing to help him if he planned to “go out in a blaze of glory.”

I told him, ‘you gotta surrender, man,'” said Johnson, who added that he has known and had a relationship with Hill for about a decade.

Johnson went to the scene and addressed Hill through a police megaphone as well as by phone. He also approached the front door to let Hill know he was there for him.

The attorney praised what he said was the restraint demonstrated by the police in dealing with Hill.

“Commissioner Ross could have pushed a button” earlier to end the standoff violently, but he did not.

“Let’s be clear. The police did an awesome job today,” Johnson said.

» READ MORE: Alleged cop shooter has a long criminal history

Neighborhood impact

Amanda Baker was hunkered down, avoiding the windows in her apartment a few houses down the block from the one police had surrounded.

“I was watching TV and I heard all this ruckus,” she said, breathing heavily while speaking to a reporter by phone. “Next thing I saw, there were cops with their guns drawn running past the window. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”

She said she’d been calling neighbors who were coming home from work and alerting them not to come to the house.

» PHOTOS: A neighborhood on lockdown, watching as police respond to standoff

Parents shaken by day-care evacuation

A day-care center near the shooting scene was on lockdown until around 7:10 p.m. when police escorted 58 children and adults from the location. Police officers carried babies and mothers comforted shaken children as the day-care was evacuated.

“We had to stay calm and collected and get the children calm,” one staffer said.

Police set up two city buses to hold children whose parents hadn’t yet arrived to pick them up. Other parents rushed frantically down the block, asking after their children at the bus doors.

“I’m just happy I got my daughter,” said Shere Calhoun, smoothing her 8-year-old’s hair. “I didn’t want her to be a victim.”

“Calm down, calm down,” an officer called to another parent running down the block. “The kids are safe.”

» READ MORE: After hours of fear, terrified parents comfort children after day-care lockdown

Trump, Wolf briefed

The White House and Gov. Tom Wolf were briefed on the unfolding situation.

‘Everyone stay back’: Calls detail police response

Within seconds after the shooting began, a dispatcher called for an “assist officer,” meaning a police officer needed immediate help.

“Shots fired!” an officer declared.

Then, in rapid succession, came a “second assist!” and then a “third assist!”

“Officer down!” someone shouted.

“Everyone stay back!” one of the commanders outside ordered.

Within minutes, one of the officers announced he had eight officers at the front door ready to rush in. Instead, top brass ordered all officers to maintain safe positions out of the line of fire.

“Male shooting out the back! Everyone stay put!” another commander declared a short time later.

Then came an excited announcement a minute later: “That male has a long gun! That male has a long gun!”

Shots continued to be fired from the house.

Just before 5:15 p.m., a dispatcher reported that there might be a second male shooter inside. There wasn’t.

Earlier, police said a suspect inside the house was live streaming on Facebook.

Lockdown issued, lifted at Temple’s Health Sciences Campus

Earlier in the day, Temple University issued a lockdown for its nearby health and science campus, which includes the hospital.

“Lockdown is in effect on Health Sciences Center Campus. Seek shelter. Secure doors. Be silent. Be still. Police are responding,” Temple advised to staff and students.

It was lifted after 7 p.m. Temple advised people to continue to avoid the area around the incident.

SEPTA service disrupted

During the standoff, SEPTA Broad Street Line trains were not stopping at Erie, Allegheny, and Hunting Park Stations, and several bus routes were detoured.

SEPTA said Thursday morning the Broad Street Line was back to normal operations but that bus Routes 23, 53, 56, H and HX will remain on detour until further notice.

Staff writers Chris Palmer, Mike Newall, Mensah M. Dean, David Gambacorta, Jeremy Roebuck, Claudia Vargas, Aubrey Whelan, Andrew Seidman, Joseph A. Gambardello, Anna Orso, Rob Tornoe, Oona Goodin-Smith, and Robert Moran contributed to this article.