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Off-duty Philadelphia officer charged with murder

The District Attorney's Office on Monday charged with murder an off-duty police officer who witnesses said sprayed a South Philadelphia street with gunfire, killing his unarmed brother-in-law and wounding two other people.

The District Attorney's Office on Monday charged with murder an off-duty police officer who witnesses said sprayed a South Philadelphia street with gunfire, killing his unarmed brother-in-law and wounding two other people.

After shooting Howard Williams on Sunday evening, witnesses said, Officer Rudolph Gary stood over him and fired several more times.

"He's already down. Why do you stand over him and keep shooting?" asked the victim's mother, Diane Williams. "He wanted to kill him."

Officials began the process of firing Gary on Monday, said Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman. Gary, 26, has been an officer for less than a year, assigned to the 26th District, which includes parts of Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and North Philadelphia.

It was unclear Monday if Gary had an attorney. John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Sunday was not the first time Gary had pulled a gun on Howard Williams, family members said. In October, Gary's estranged wife, Shanae Williams, said she and Gary's girlfriend, Amber Colon, had squared off, and Gary had slammed Shanae Williams into the steps outside her home.

When Howard Williams came to confront Gary, Shanae Williams said, Gary pulled a gun and displayed his badge. Police arrived and took a report, said Alice Walker, one of Williams' four sisters.

"It should have been taken care of the first time," she said.

Internal Affairs investigated a different confrontation involving Gary and Colon. Last year, Colon's ex-boyfriend accused her of attacking him in front of Gary. He told investigators that Gary threatened him and did nothing to stop Colon's assault.

Gary denied making any threats and was exonerated, according to an Internal Affairs memo.

On Sunday, Gary and Colon went to the 1800 block of Hoffman Street to pick up his son from Shanae Williams.

When they arrived, neighborhood children and adults were engaged in a water battle, witnesses said. Colon got squirted with water, said Walker.

Colon got out of Gary's truck and "attacked" one of Walker's nieces, she said. A fight broke out, and Gary got out of the truck as well.

Shanae Williams said her brother and other family members were trying to break up the fight, but she acknowledged that the scrum probably looked as though they were ganging up on Colon.

She said she told Gary that she would get the situation under control and he "walked off" to the truck. He came back with his gun.

"That's intent," said Alice Walker. "You know what you're going to do."

Shanae Williams said Gary fired once in the air before turning the gun on her brother.

Williams, 22, was pronounced dead at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania shortly after the 6:30 p.m. shooting.

Two bystanders hit by gunfire - a 26-year-old woman wounded in a leg, and an 18-year-old man grazed by a bullet - also were treated at the hospital, police said.

Colon could not be reached for comment Monday.

District Attorney Seth Williams said investigators did not approach the case any differently because Gary was a police officer. After looking at the facts, "it was clear former Officer Gary had to be arrested," he said.

Seth Williams said there was none of the "gray area" that can arise when officers use force in the course of their duties.

"It wasn't like he was trying to catch a fleeing suspect," he said. "There was a water-gun fight, people got angry, he shot an unarmed man."

This was the second time this year a Philadelphia police officer has been charged with murder after an off-duty shooting.

In February, former Officer Frank Tepper was charged for shooting an unarmed neighbor after a street brawl in front of Tepper's Port Richmond home.

Tepper said he was acting in self-defense, but witnesses said the killing of William Panas Jr. was unprovoked. Tepper remains jailed pending trial.

Shanae Williams said she met Gary at a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant when she was in middle school. He was working there; she had gone for a party.

They were married in 2002 and have been separated since 2005, she said. They have been battling for custody of their 8-year-old boy.

Both have taken out protection-from-abuse orders against the other, she said, and a Family Court judge warned Gary to keep Colon away from the Williams family.

"He's been evil for a long time," Diane Williams said.

Speaking to reporters, Diane Williams took her cane and pounded the sidewalk in front of her rowhouse, feet from where her son was shot.

"He's going to pay," she said of Gary. "My son will not die in vain."