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On the street: Shock, chaos, an officer down

Nancy Braun was sitting on a couch watching one of her favorite TV shows, Trading Spaces, when gunfire erupted down the street yesterday morning.

Nancy Braun was sitting on a couch watching one of her favorite TV shows,

Trading Spaces

, when gunfire erupted down the street yesterday morning.

"I heard three shots - real loud," Braun said from a rocking chair on the front porch of her Schiller Street rowhouse. "Then a lady started screaming, 'A police officer's been shot!' "

Braun and her boyfriend, Joe Czarnik, both 43, bolted out of the house and ran to Schiller and Almond Streets, she said. She was not wearing shoes at the time, she said, and ran in her socks.

In the street next to a compact police cruiser, Braun said, she saw Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. Others were trying to apply pressure to his stomach and an arm.

Keith Petaccio, 45, was at his front door greeting his wife as she came back after walking their dogs.

A police cruiser "flew by," and Petaccio stepped outside to see what was going on just as the gunfire started, he said. He said he had run to Liczbinski.

Throughout the block as noon approached, chaos ensued.

A woman spun around yelling that a man had put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. People young and old poured out of houses and onto their porches. One man chased the shooter's stolen Jeep as it bolted south on Almond Street. Others called 911 on cell phones.

An older man nearby had taken the fallen officer's radio and was saying, "A police officer is down. He's shot multiple times. Get an ambulance," Braun said.

Braun yelled at another neighbor for towels to try to stop the gushing blood. She grabbed four kitchen towels and gave them to those trying to stop the bleeding, she said.

A neighbor tying to help Liczbinski looked up at Braun and said, "His arm is just dangling off."

Petaccio said he had stayed with Liczbinski talking to him as he tried to save his life.

He said Liczbinski had looked at him and said, "I want you to tell my wife I'll miss her."

Joe Farrell was cooking breakfast for his children, he said, when he heard the shots feet from his porch. He yelled at the children to get down on the floor and ran out the door to help.

"They were holding rags on him trying to stop the blood from pumping out," Farrell said. He said he had helped get Liczbinski into the back of a police car.

Minutes later, swarms of police and detectives arrived. They quickly strung yellow police tape for blocks around the intersection.

"I feel bad for the family and the police," Braun said. "What they have to go through today, it's horrible."

Petaccio said that on Saturdays the neighborhood streets were usually filled with children playing. Yesterday few people were outside when the drama began.

"My heart goes out to his family," Petaccio said. "I can't believe it happened."

Many of the porches in the neighborhood have colorful flowers hanging in baskets or in pots.

By 6 p.m., when most police cars had left and the police tape had been collected, some had placed flowerpots at the curb where Liczbinski fell.

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