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From foster child to killer, Nicholas Glenn's path to West Philadelphia rampage

He was a kid in need. That's how Joan Griffin viewed Nicholas Glenn when she took him into her West Philadelphia home more than a decade ago, along with his brother and sister.

He was a kid in need.

That's how Joan Griffin viewed Nicholas Glenn when she took him into her West Philadelphia home more than a decade ago, along with his brother and sister.

Their mother was struggling with drug addiction and wasn't always around, Griffin recalled Saturday. So she gave the kids a home and raised them alongside her own children as they moved to Germantown, then North Philadelphia.

But as Glenn grew up, he eventually went back out on his own and returned to West Philadelphia, Griffin said. He also began piling up arrests, largely drug-related, court records show.

And Saturday, the quiet boy Griffin took in years ago died at age 25 in a hail of gunfire, after going on a rampage in West Philadelphia that left one woman dead, three people wounded, and two police officers shot.

"Obviously," said Police Commissioner Richard Ross, "he was hell-bent on hurting a lot of people."

The path from foster child to accused murderer was filled with run-ins with the law, according to court records. At one point, Glenn was accused of gang rape in a case that was later dropped. Last year, he spent about seven months in prison for a probation violation, court records show.

Griffin, 58, said she believed Glenn's imprisonment changed him. He became aloof, disengaged, and "acting like he didn't know anybody," Griffin said.

"I guess he snapped in prison," she said. "When he got locked up, he didn't come out the same."

Anthony J. Petrone, Glenn's attorney in several cases, said he spent much of his recent prison term in solitary confinement because of "a number of infractions due to fighting."

Petrone also said Glenn seemed more despondent recently. While Glenn had once expressed interest in writing a book about his time behind bars, the last time Petrone ran into him at the Criminal Justice Center, he was struck by Glenn's detached demeanor.

"He really didn't even acknowledge me, and seemed to be in a slight trance," Petrone said.

Ross said Glenn was found after the shooting Saturday with a note in his pocket. On the envelope, police said, Glenn had scrawled the words "doomed people."

Ross described the note as "rambling" and self-referential, but did say Glenn expressed hatred toward his probation officer and police.

Still, Ross said, police do not believe Glenn knew the officer he fired at to begin his shooting rampage. And investigators who searched his apartment discovered little else that suggested a motive or ties to any type of religious or criminal organization.

"Other than the rantings in that letter, we don't know what [Glenn] was motivated by," Ross said, adding that the serial number was scratched off the 9mm Ruger that Glenn fired 51 times.

Court records indicate that in April, Glenn's probation and parole were continued, with a suggestion that he be put under mental-health supervision. The records do not specify who would be in charge of that supervision, or what he would be treated for.

Griffin's daughter, Deedee Griffin, 22, said she had no indication that Glenn had any mental-health conditions.

Both women acknowledged that Glenn had a history with the law. In 2009, he was accused with five other men of raping a 24-year-old woman near 56th and Walnut Streets after she had gone to get takeout food.

Court records show that charges against Glenn were dropped in December 2011. Deedee Griffin said it was because there was evidence that the victim was not forced into the encounter.

Deedee Griffin said that despite that incident and Glenn's other run-ins with police, neither she nor her mother expected him to instigate any attacks against police.

"He would never go and start shooting at cops," Deedee Griffin said. "That's not him."

Joan Griffin was almost wistful in recalling the boy she once took in. "He was always smiling and stuff," she said. "But he changed."