Ernest "Flash" Miller was a lot of things, but until his brutal death two days ago, few people knew he had been an 18-year veteran with the Philadelphia Police Department.
Or that he volunteered as a youth counselor at the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center.
But they did know that his beguiling personality and even kinder soul made him someone they felt lucky to know.
And only Jaleel King, a 32-year-old paraplegic, knew that Miller rearranged the furniture in Miller's home to allow him to maneuver his wheelchair.
But that was just the kind of guy he was, he said.
"He never frowned when he had to pull me in the house," King said over the phone from his Center City apartment last night.
"He always looked out, he went above and beyond when he didn't have to."
Like many of the senseless deaths in the city, Miller's is another example of the reckless disregard for life, said King.
Police said that when John Clement, 38, of Tioga, entered Miller's house on Oakdale Street near 26th, Miller, 41, a retired 18th District cop, opened fire at him.
A gunbattle ensued in which Clement shot Miller at least once in the chest, police said. Clement also was shot but police did not say where he was hit.
Miller was found slumped over in the doorway, Clement was found several feet away in the street, police said.
Both men were brought to Temple University Hospital where Miller was pronounced dead at 4:40 p.m. Clement was pronounced dead at 6:57 p.m.
Police have not disclosed whether more people were involved in the robbery or if Miller may have known Clement. No one else was inside the home at the time of the robbery, police said.
"We don't know how the struggle began, who fired first, or how they got in," said Homicide Lt. Philip Riehl.
What is known about Miller, who was a photographer, is the reputation he had as a cop.
Officer Christopher Odom, of the 18th District, fondly remembers his former colleague.
"He was funny, he was a funny guy. You know those people who don't try to be funny, but they just are? That was Ernie."
As a cop, he said, "he was smart, aggressive, a good cop who knew the job. Everybody loved Ernie. You talk about Ernie, there are a lot of drinks and lots of laughs. We're going to miss him dearly."
At the rec center on 22nd and Huntingdon streets - site of one of two memorials held for him last night - about 50 people gathered in tight circles of folding chairs telling funny stories about the man they knew as "Flash."
Mourners, mostly teens and young adults, passed around a video camera as they shared outlandish tales. No one there knew his real name, or where he lived, but the underlying point was clear: "Flash" lived to get kids in North Philly to believe in their dreams.
Jajuan Gilliard, 21, of North Philly, said he spent two years as his assistant.
"Flash built you up and made you feel like you were bigger than what you were," Gilliard said. "He sold you a dream, he made you a better person." *