Another Philadelphia police officer has been gunned down in the line of duty, this time in an apparent shoot-out last night in front of the Olney Transportation Center.
Police late last night said Officer John Pawlowski, 25, whose wife, Kim, is expecting their first child, was wounded after he and his partner responded to a report of a "fight on the highway" on Broad Street near Olney Avenue.
The fight turned out to be a confrontation between a cabbie and a man Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey described as a "thug" during a briefing outside the hospital. That briefing began with Ramsey saying: "It's my sad duty to inform you of the death of John Pawlowski."
Police said the gunman approached the cabbie and demanded money about 8 p.m. The cabbie warned he would call police and the man responded: "If you call the cops, I'm shooting you and the cops."
The cabbie went ahead and called police, and pointed out the gunman to Pawlowski and his partner after they arrived, police said. As the officers approached the gunman, he lifted a .357 Magnum handgun, firing through his clothing, and striking the officer in the chest.
The partner and another officer responding as backup returned fire and quickly apprehended the injured suspect.
Immediately after the gunfire, officers flooded the area to render aid.
The fatally wounded officer was taken in a police vehicle to the nearby Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 9 p.m.
The dead officer's partner was also at Einstein, with a graze wound.
The suspect also was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was rushed into surgery in critical condition. His name was not released.
Shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday, a long line of police vehicles – led by Highway Patrol officers on motorcycles – escorted a silver hearse away from Einstein, destined for a funeral home. A dozen officers stood alongside the road outside the hospital, saluting Pawlowski.
Bystanders stood still as the hearse passed by. A woman cried, a hand over her heart.
A handful of youths ran up to the officers, trying to get as close to the caravan as they could. Then, as they watched the officers in front of them, the young people took off their baseball caps and saluted, too.
Earlier Friday evening, at the emergency room entrance and inside Einstein, scores of uniformed and nonuniformed officers milled about, some weeping and hugging each other as word spread of the officer's death.
"I don't know what happened. I just know we have one man dead," said John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Others gathered included Larry McDonald, father of Sgt. Patrick McDonald, who was fatally shot in September.
Larry McDonald was at a fund-raiser last night for another fallen officer, Sgt. Timothy Simpson, when he learned that yet another officer was down. Simpson died Nov. 17, 2008, of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Ramsey said the suspect's name would not be released until confirmed through fingerprints. He described the gunman as a "thug."
But police said the suspect, who had been wearing a bullet-proof vest, has a history that includes robbery and weapons offenses.
The slain officer, who was assigned to the 35th Police District, was the first officer to be killed in the line of duty this year. He is the fourth city officer to be fatally shot by a criminal since Oct. 31, 2007, when Officer Charles Cassidy, also of the 35th, was fatally wounded breaking up a robbery.
In June, police officials commended Pawlowski, a five-year veteran, for his valor and restraint after he wrestled to the floor of a crowded SEPTA bus a man with a loaded semiautomatic firearm at Broad Street and 66th Avenue.
Pawlowski got the weapon away from the man, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, and spared the passengers from harm. That suspect, Sorrell Groves, then 27, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and related offences.
Ramsey said Pawlowski is also survived by three brothers, a sister, and his parents.
One of his brothers works in the police radio room and was on duty last night when the "officer down" call came in. His father just retired from the force.
Mayor Nutter: "It's a very sad night in this city. This unfortunate series of events has occurred too many times in the last two years. We are very angry about this, and we are in pain. How many times will this happen before we see action to get weapons off the street? This city will not rest until we take the appropriate actions to protect our citizens."
Two hours after the shooting, traffic was blocked off on Broad from one block north of Olney to one block south.
At least a half-dozen little yellow flags marked bullet casings on Broad across from the SEPTA terminal, and three of them and a handgun were on the median.
Standing at Broad and Chew Avenue, just a block from the scene of the shooting, Michael Ballard, 49, an unemployed construction worker from Germantown, shook his head and said: "It's like a war zone. It's time to get out of the city."
Ballard had been at his mother's house in Olney and was waiting to go home on the No. 18 bus, which was rerouted because of the police investigation.
"The city is changing. I don't even understand it. People are shooting cops like it's nothing," Ballard said.
The shooting scene is about a half-mile south on Broad where Cassidy was fatally shot Oct. 31, 2007, while interrupting a robbery at a doughnut shop.
The two other officers killed last year in addition to McDonald and Simpson were Officer Isabel Nazario, 40, who died Sept. 5 after her patrol car was struck by a stolen SUV in the Mantua section; and Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, 39, who was killed May 3 by one of three bank robbers after a Saturday-morning stickup at a bank office in Port Richmond.
At the 35th District police headquarters, a few blocks north of the shooting scene, posters honoring fallen officers hangs in the hallway. "In memory of our fallen heroes. May they rest in peace," the sign reads.