THEY SAY a protection-from-abuse order is just a piece of a paper. For Valerie Morrow, it might as well have been her death certificate.
Hours after the 40-year-old mother had obtained the order on Monday, the man she'd feared the most - Stephen Rozniakowski, an enraged Delaware County cop with a history of harassment - grabbed a gun, strapped on a bulletproof vest, kicked down the door to her Glenolden home, ran up the stairs and shot her, authorities said.
"He came up the steps with his gun drawn, and as soon as he saw Mrs. Morrow and her daughter in the hallway, he started repeatedly firing at them in their direction, striking Mrs. Morrow and also hitting her 15-year-old daughter," Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said yesterday.
Morrow was pronounced dead in the house. Her daughter, Bridget Cruz, was shot in the left bicep. "Bridget fled into her bedroom, while, unfortunately, her mother lie dying in the hallway," Whelan said.
Morrow's husband, Tom, a part-time cop in Morton Borough, then reached into his nightstand for a revolver and returned fire, which Whelan said may have stopped a larger shooting spree. He shot Rozniakowski multiple times, but did not kill him.
When Tom Morrow, who was out of bullets, heard Rozniakowski reloading his gun, he leaped out of the second-story bedroom window and ran on a broken ankle to a neighbor's house to call 9-1-1.
As cops were responding to the scene, a strange transmission came over the Delaware County police radio system, or DELCOM.
"I'm unarmed," Rozniakowski said, according to the criminal complaint. He had taken his police radio with him to the house and was calling in his own crime.
"Who's the actor? Tell me about the actor," the dispatcher responded.
"DELCOM, I am the actor," Rozniakowski said.
As Cruz exited her bedroom, she saw Rozniakowski in the hallway, holding the gun to his head, rambling about apologies. She smacked it out of his hand and left the house, the complaint says.
Whelan said Rozniakowski, 32, who resigned his position with the Colwyn Police Department on Monday before the shooting, is in critical but stable condition at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
"We are looking at this as a potential death-penalty case," Whelan said. Rozniakowski is charged with first-degree murder and related offenses.
The rampage was apparently sparked by the protection-from-abuse order that police delivered to Rozniakowski's Norwood home Monday.
"He said he just wanted to chat with her," said Rozniakowski's attorney, Marty Mullaney, who spoke with Morrow and Rozniakowski separately Monday in an attempt to defuse the situation.
Mullaney is representing Rozniakowski in a separate harassment and stalking case in Montgomery County involving a woman who accused him of texting her and calling her - sometimes more than 100 times a day. A pretrial conference in that case had been set for tomorrow.
Despite that arrest, Rozniakowski stayed a part-time Colwyn police officer - but not on street duty. He was found guilty of harassment in 2009 and 2010, according to court records.
Colwyn Police Chief Bryan Hills previously told the Delaware County Daily Times that he thought the most recent stalking allegations were overblown.
"Looking at the circumstances, I think a lot of this is bulls---," Hills told the newspaper in April.
But Whelan said he believed that Rozniakowski, due to the fact that he was wearing a bulletproof vest on Monday, likely "would've killed anyone that came in close proximity if he had the opportunity, including police officers responding to the scene."