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'Overwhelming' evidence to be presented at accused cop killers' preliminary hearing

City prosecutors say both Carlton Hipps and Ramone Williams fired fatal shots into Police Officer Robert Wilson III.

Carlton Hipps, 29 (top left), brother Ramone Williams, 24 (bottom left), and Officer Robert Wilson III (right). (Philadelphia Police Department)
Carlton Hipps, 29 (top left), brother Ramone Williams, 24 (bottom left), and Officer Robert Wilson III (right). (Philadelphia Police Department)Read morePhiladelphia Police Department

PROSECUTORS yesterday said they will present "overwhelming" evidence against accused cop killers Carlton Hipps and Ramone Williams - including proof that the two brothers fired fatal shots into Police Officer Robert Wilson III.

"The fact that both individuals fired shots that killed Officer Wilson - that absolutely will be proven at the preliminary hearing," Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley told reporters after the defendants' hearing was postponed yesterday to May 20.

O'Malley said prosecutors plan to show video of the gunbattle that unfolded between the brothers and Officer Wilson about 5 p.m. March 5 inside the GameStop store in the Hope Plaza shopping center, on Lehigh Avenue near 21st Street in North Philly. Authorities said Wilson, 30, stopped a robbery at the store and was gunned down by Hipps, 29, and his brother, Williams, who recently turned 25.

He said they also plan to show video from a Rite-Aid store and other locations inside Hope Plaza, and from a body camera worn by one of the responding officers who arrived after the shooting.

"In excess of 50 shots" were fired both inside and outside the GameStop store, O'Malley said.

Asked if prosecutors would seek the death penalty, Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo said "that's not a decision that's made lightly. Obviously, there's a lot of considerations . . . We're doing as comprehensive a look into the backgrounds of these individuals as we can do before any final decisions are made."

Hipps' court-appointed attorney, Michael Coard, afterward expressed his "deepest condolences" to Wilson's family. Asked if he's prepared to mount a defense or if his goal would be to save his client's life if prosecutors seek the death penalty, Coard stressed that Hipps is presumed innocent.

"In cases like this where the evidence appears at least at the outset overwhelming, I would pose this question: Do we take the defendant out back for a lynching or do we take him upstairs for a trial?" Coard asked while standing outside the courthouse and referring to the third-floor Municipal Court courtroom, where the preliminary hearing will take place.

"At this point, we take him upstairs for a trial," he said.

Asked if Hipps disputes being one of the gunmen, Coard said: "Well, I can't say anything at this point. As a defense attorney, we simply play defense. We wait to see what the commonwealth does. And then Mr. Hipps and the co-defendant will respond."

Andres Jalon, Williams' private attorney, said he expects prosecutors to seek the death penalty. "I'm an opponent to the death penalty," Jalon said. "That's part of the reason why I'm in the case.

"This is a tragic case," he added. "At this point, it's my job to see what type of evidence the district attorney has and we'll move from there."