Officer Terry Tull, his voice cracked, told a packed courtroom yesterday how his late partner was like a mother to everyone, and how losing her nearly two years ago to a reckless teen driver made no sense.
"That family bond, that's what she gave to us," Tull said of Officer Isabel Nazario, 40, who was killed when a stolen SUV driven by then-16-year-old Andre Butler rammed into the passenger side of their patrol car at 39th and Wallace streets in Mantua.
Tull turned his attention to Butler in court, and yelled: "And then, you! For a joyride!"
As other officers in the courtroom began shedding tears, Tull told Butler: "You should have been playing a video game . . . instead you were out there," driving recklessly, destroying "my life, and their lives, and their lives!" he added, looking at Nazario's family sitting in the front row of the courtroom.
"For what?" he yelled. "You give me one good reason!"
Butler, 18, pleaded guilty yesterday before Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart to third-degree murder, aggravated assault, fleeing police and related offenses in the September 2008 crash that killed Nazario and injured Tull.
Butler's plea, which came on the day jury selection was to begin, was part of a negotiated deal. In exchange, Butler, of Markoe Street near Brown in the Mill Creek section of West Philadelphia, was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison.
About 9 p.m. Sept. 5, 2008, police spotted Butler driving a white Cadillac Escalade on Westminster Avenue near 47th Street, in Mill Creek. He was making U-turns and grazing parked vehicles on both sides of the street.
As police vehicles approached him, Butler fled in the SUV, leading officers on a one-mile chase as he ran red lights and blew past stop signs. As he turned onto Wallace Street, Butler, traveling close to 70 mph without the SUV's headlights on, slammed Tull's patrol car, which was heading south on 39th Street, according to previous police testimony.
The SUV crushed the patrol car's front-passenger door, pushing it in two feet, Assistant District Attorney John Doyle said. Nazario, who was sitting in the passenger seat, was knocked unconscious. Her head slumped against Tull. She had to be removed with the Jaws of Life.
Nazario's sister, Police Officer Maritza Mohamad, who wept in court as she listened to the horrifying details of her sister's death, had to leave the courtroom briefly. Moments later, she returned and gave a victim-impact statement, directing her words and gaze at Butler. The past "21 months have been pure hell for my family," she told him.
"If it was up to me, you wouldn't be breathing the air we're breathing."
She added: "I don't know if I can ever forgive you, Andre Butler. All I know is I do not hate you . . . [but] I hate the evil inside you."
Nazario's daughter and only child, Jazmin, 17, tearfully told the court how beautiful her mother was.
She was 15 when her mother was killed, and instead of planning her 16th birthday, "I had to decide where my mother would be buried," she said.
When it was his turn to speak, Butler, dressed with his white shirt untucked, looked toward Nazario's family and mumbled: "I just want to say sorry to all the family and friends for the death that I had caused in this accident, and for the injury to the officer that I caused in the accident."
His attorney, Neil Jokelson, said Butler prays for Nazario and her family every day.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who sat beside Nazario's family in court yesterday, told reporters afterward that he "didn't expect much" from Butler in the form of an apology.
Mohamad told reporters she and her family were not satisfied with the sentence, "but I don't think any verdict would have been satisfying for the family."
She added: "We are glad that it's over."