Charges could be filed as early as Friday night against Maurice Hill for allegedly shooting and wounding six Philadelphia police officers in a tense and chaotic standoff during which he barricaded himself for more than seven hours Wednesday, authorities said.
The Police Department’s Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Unit was still processing evidence and preparing paperwork Friday to be sent to the District Attorney’s Office for approval of charges, police spokesperson Capt. Sekou Kinebrew said. He said he did not know when Hill would be arraigned.
Meanwhile, Hill, 36, was in custody at 24th and Wolf Streets in South Philadelphia, where the shooting investigation unit is located, Kinebrew said.
District Attorney Larry Krasner, at a news conference Thursday in his office, said Hill is expected to be charged with attempted murder, gun violations and related offenses, and could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Authorities have said that Hill likely used an AR-15 rifle to fire at the officers and that he had a handgun in his pocket when he surrendered about 12:08 a.m. Thursday.
Kinebrew said Friday morning that he could not release names of the three other people who were inside the rowhouse with Hill when police first entered the house at 3716 N. 15th St. because it was not yet clear if the others — who were trapped on the second floor of the house with two officers during the standoff — would be charged with any offenses.
Investigators on Friday scoured the shooting scene and sorted through officer accounts, forensic evidence, and surveillance video in an effort to piece together what happened.
The standoff began after officers with a search warrant for 3712 N. 15th St. entered a house two doors down, at 3716, based on surveillance, and encountered a gunman in the kitchen.
Six officers were wounded by gunfire and two others were trapped on the second floor for about five hours, clustered in a bathroom along with the three handcuffed suspects to avoid bullets being fired through the floor, until they were rescued by a SWAT unit.
Hill surrendered, with his arms raised high and walking out of the house, after police unleashed tear gas into the house. He was taken to Temple University Hospital early Thursday, then was transferred into a waiting police van about 3:30 a.m.
During the standoff Wednesday, Police Commissioner Richard Ross negotiated with Hill, as did Krasner and Hill’s attorney, Shaka Johnson.
Law-enforcement sources have said that Krasner’s office now could face a conflict in prosecuting Hill because Krasner had involved himself in negotiations with Hill. He could be a potential witness, one source said.
At his news conference Thursday, Krasner said he would look into whether his communication with Hill might constitute a conflict of interest.
“We certainly are going to examine that seriously and carefully [to see] if it raises any potential issue, just as Mr. Johnson’s conversing with him may raise any issue in terms of whether he is going to represent this man or not, I don’t know if he will. We’ll look at that and we’ll do whatever the law requires,” Krasner said when asked about the potential legal problems resulting from his talking to Hill by phone during the standoff.
A spokesperson for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, asked Friday whether the office could end up handling Hill’s prosecution, said by email: “Whether a conflict exists in this or any other case is based on the specific facts of the matter.”
“Because district attorneys’ offices are usually best-positioned to gather and assess those facts, they customarily make the determination [whether] there is a conflict and a case should be referred to another agency for prosecution,” Jacklin Rhoads, the AG’s spokesperson said.
Wednesday’s incident, which captured the nation’s attention, was the largest mass shooting of police officers in the city in recent memory.
Police believe that Hill, who has a lengthy criminal record, traded more than 200 rounds with officers outside the house during the confrontation.
To associates in the drug world, Hill was known by the nickname “Gruff.” Police have known him as the leader of a crack cocaine trafficking organization based around Southwest Philadelphia’s Paschall Village projects for more than a decade.
Public records show that Hill has been arrested about a dozen times since turning 18, and convicted at least six of those times on charges that involved illegal possession of guns, drug dealing, and aggravated assault. He has been in and out of prison; his longest sentence came in 2010, when a federal judge gave him a 55-month term.
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Police on Thursday identified the wounded officers as Joshua Burkitt, 26, of the 24th District; Michael Guinter, 32, of the Narcotics Strike Force; Nathaniel Harper, 43, also of the Narcotics Strike Force; Justin Matthews, 31, of the 16th District; Shaun Parker, 32, of the Narcotics Strike Force; and Ryan Waltman, 42, of the 39th District.
Parker suffered a graze wound to the head. The other officers were shot in the arm or leg. They were treated and released from Temple University Hospital or Einstein Medical Center within hours of being shot.
A protest promoted on fliers and social media to “Free Maurice Hill” turned out to be a dozen people marching Friday night from Germantown and Lehigh to Broad Street, mostly there for Willie Wise, a 34-year-old who was shot and killed in March by a security guard at the My Phillie Wireless at Broad and Lehigh.
Diop Olugbala said the group, which calls itself the Black is Back Coalition, planned to march before Wednesday’s mass police shooting, but he praised Hill for taking a “righteous stand.”
David White, Hill’s Cousin, marched with the group holding a sign bearing “Gruff,” Hill’s nickname. He said his cousin was in “the wrong place at the wrong time.”