'I would call it an execution'
IT ALL SEEMED so ordinary. Stephen Liczbinski, a solid family man adored by his wife and three children, respected by his neighbors, was out mowing his lawn Friday evening while his wife, Michelle, swept the driveway.
NOTE: THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED.
IT ALL SEEMED so ordinary.
Stephen Liczbinski, a solid family man adored by his wife and three children, respected by his neighbors, was out mowing his lawn Friday evening while his wife, Michelle, swept the driveway.
Saturday morning was warm with a mild breeze, ordinary - if there is such a thing as an ordinary day for a cop.
Shortly after 11:30 a.m., Sgt. Stephen Liczbinksi was responding to a report of a bank robbery in Port Richmond when he encountered the suspects in a getaway car at Schiller and Almond streets.
He had either just gotten out of his patrol car or was in the process of leaving it when he was riddled with bullets from a Chinese-made assault weapon.
"I would call it an execution," said Deputy Police Commissioner William Blackburn. "The sergeant had no chance."
He was hit at least five times, police said, and left to die in the street.
Neighbors who heard the staccato blasts from the weapon rushed out of their homes with towels and any other kind of cloth they could snatch up to help stanch the blood. But it was too late. The 12-year veteran cop, who was to turn 40 tomorrow, died at Temple University Hospital.
A short time later, the alleged gunman, identified as Howard Cain, 33, was shot and killed by police at Louden and Rorer streets. Later on, another suspect, Levon Warner, 38, was arrested. A third man, Eric DeShawn Floyd, 33, remained at large last night and was the subject of a massive police hunt. .
The killing of a cop, the third officer to be shot to death in the last two years, sent shock waves throughout the Police Department and the city.
Mourners set up a shrine at the shooting site, bringing flowers, stuffed animals and a Flyers banner to honor the fact that Liczbinski was a loyal fan.
"This loss of life of a fine Philadelphia police officer is just one more example of the senseless violence that takes place here in our city," said a shaken Mayor Nutter. He declared a 30-day period of mourning.
"This is a sad day for all of us," said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.
"Basically we lost another good officer," said John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police. "He's a hero. He gave his life fighting for what he believed in, which was protecting the citizens of this city."
"Yesterday, police closed off the quiet, tree-lined block of Claridge Street in the Northeast, where the Liczbinski family lives, to give the family some peace.
A neighbor, Michael Cosgrove, said one of his fondest memories of Liczbinski was, when he would come home from work, his daughter, Amber, would run up and give him a hug.
"He was such a family man," Cosgrove said. "These guys step out of their houses in the morning and their lives are in danger. When people see a cop, they should tell them to be careful."
By all accounts, Stephen and Michelle Liczbinski had an idylic marriage, with three well-mannered children - Matt, Stephen and Amber - living in a brick duplex.
"They were always together," said neighbor Donna Eckerle. They were quiet, she said, but never failed to give her and her daughter, Jennifer, a friendly wave.
"Her world revolved around him, and now that's gone," Eckerle said.
Cops of the 24th District, where Liczbinski was assigned, were in a state of shock.
"He was aces and the greatest guy," said a corporal. The station entrance, on Whitaker Avenue near Erie, was draped with a black curtain, the flag at half-staff.
The bank robbery appeared to have been well-planned. The three robbers were wearing Muslim garb and they had a small arsenal of weapons found later in a Chrysler Town and Country van.
They held up the Bank of America branch inside a ShopRite store at Castor and Aramingo avenues shortly before 11:30 a.m. About 15 minutes later, Liczbinski encountered them in a stolen Jeep at Almond and Schiller streets, where he was shot.
The men fled, but were later spotted by a canine officer who was responding to the report of a robbery and an officer down. In a confrontation, the officer shot and killed Cain.
Warner was arrested when he flagged down a police officer to report that his van had been stolen. He was found to have been linked to the bank robbery, police said, and was charged with murder and related offenses.
Police said the third suspect, Floyd, 33, had escaped from a halfway house in Berks County and was at large.
Police also stated that all three men had extensive criminal records.
Outside the van, recovered at D and Louden streets, police recovered weapons, cash and Muslim garb.
Police also recovered a 7.62 mm Chinese-made SKS assault rifle containing five live rounds.
Inside the van, cops found a fully loaded .44-caliber revolver, two sets of Muslim clothing, $38,000 in cash and two GPS tracking systems.
Nearby, under a trash can, police found a .22-caliber revolver and additional clothing linked to the robbery.
A blue Jeep Liberty believed to have been used by the robbers was recovered on Miller Street near Ontario. It was reported stolen Friday night from Broad Street near Allegheny Avenue.
Blackburn said of the assault weapon used to kill the officer: "It's got tremendous fire power. It's a weapon we're trying to get off the street here."
Yesterday, Nutter said: "I ask that we rally around his family, wrap our arms around them and keep them in our prayers."
A viewing will be held 6 p.m. Thursday at John F. Givnish Funeral Home on Academy Road near Chalfont Drive. A funeral Mass for Liczbinski will be celebrated Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul at noon, following a second viewing starting at 7:30 a.m. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem. *