Drugs, weapons con­vic­tions in sus­pect’s past

‘It could have been far worse,’ po­lice com­mis­sioner says of nearly 8-hour stand­off

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Kris­ten De Groot and Mark Scol­foro

PHILADELPH­IA – The crim­i­nal his­tory of a man sus­pected of bar­ri­cad­ing him­self in­side a Philadelph­ia rowhome should have pre­vented him from legally own­ing the fire­power he used Wed­nes­day to wound six po­lice of­fi­cers in a stand­off that car­ried deep into the night, au­thor­i­ties said.

Mau­rice Hill, who au­thor­i­ties say had at least a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle and a hand­gun when he opened fire on of­fi­cers serv­ing a drug war­rant, has on his record mul­ti­ple ar­rests in Philadelph­ia and ad­ja­cent Delaware County be­tween 2001 and 2012, ac­cord­ing to on­line records.

He has con­vic­tions for an ar­ray of crimes that in­clude as­sault, per­jury, flee­ing and elud­ing, es­cape and weapons of­fenses.

Hill, 36, served two stints in state pris­ons — three, count­ing a re­turn for a pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tion. He was also hit with a 55-month fed­eral prison term over a pair of con­vic­tions for be­ing a felon in pos­ses­sion of firearms.

Pennsylvan­ia prison of­fi­cials said Hill served about 2½ years on drug deal­ing charges and was paroled in 2006, and then did more than a year for ag­gra­vated as­sault be­fore be­ing re­leased in 2013.

Philadelph­ia Dis­trict At­tor­ney Larry Kras­ner said Thurs­day that Hill’s ar­rest his­tory also in­cludes bur­glary, re­sist­ing ar­rest, taunt­ing a po­lice an­i­mal and reck­less en­dan­ger­ment, although he cau­tioned not all re­sulted in con­vic­tions.

“I think what it says is that the sys­tem had mul­ti­ple con­tacts with this man, and the sys­tem … did things that ob­vi­ously did not stop this in­ci­dent,” Kras­ner said.

Au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to de­ter­mine whether there is an out­stand­ing war­rant pend­ing against Hill, based on a docket ref­er­ence to a March 2018 pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tion, said Philadelph­ia-based U.S. At­tor­ney Wil­liam McSwain.

“He’s an in­di­vid­ual who spent most of his adult life sort of bounc­ing in and out of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” McSwain said.

The prospect of a re­turn to prison was on Hill’s mind dur­ing tele­phone ne­go­ti­a­tions to end the nearly 8-hour stand­off, Philadelph­ia po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross said.

Hill told him he had an ex­ten­sive record and “did not want to deal with prison again,” the com­mis­sioner re­counted.

Ross ex­pressed amaze­ment that the stand­off ended with no one dead and no life-threat­en­ing in­juries, de­spite the gun­man fir­ing over 100 rounds.

The six of­fi­cers who were struck by gunfire were re­leased from hos­pi­tals Wed­nes­day night.

Ross said of­fi­cers “had to es­cape through win­dows and doors to get (away) from a bar­rage of bul­lets.”

It “could have been far worse,” Ross said Thurs­day out­side the Philadelph­ia Po­lice Depart­ment. “This was a very dy­namic sit­u­a­tion, one that I hope we never see again.”

Hill, who has so far not been charged with crimes, came out of the home in the wee hours of Thurs­day after po­lice used tear gas. He was taken to a hos­pi­tal for eval­u­a­tion and then placed in cus­tody.

The tear gas pre­vented in­ves­ti­ga­tors from en­ter­ing the house for much of Thurs­day, but mem­bers of the crime scene unit were seen mov­ing in and out of it in the evening.

While stand­offs with po­lice are not un­com­mon, the sit­u­a­tion in Philadelph­ia drew par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion be­cause of how long gunfire was ex­changed and the fact that the com­mis­sioner made the unusual de­ci­sion to speak to the shooter di­rectly and that two po­lice of­fi­cers were trapped dur­ing the stand­off.

Those of­fi­cers were safely ex­tracted by a SWAT team, as were three peo­ple that of­fi­cers had taken into cus­tody in­side the house be­fore the shoot­ing broke out.

Hill’s lawyer, Shaka John­son, said Hill called him dur­ing the stand­off ask­ing for help sur­ren­der­ing. John­son then called Kras­ner, and the two men patched in both Hill and the po­lice com­mis­sioner, ac­cord­ing to Kras­ner.

Hill told John­son he wanted to make it out alive to see his new­born daugh­ter and teenage son again.

On Thurs­day, politi­cians from Pennsylvan­ia called for new gun con­trol mea­sures. Demo­cratic Mayor Jim Kenney told re­porters he called on state and fed­eral law­mak­ers to “step up or step aside” and let cities deal with the prob­lem them­selves. He did not give specifics on what he wanted to see done.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who post­poned a cer­e­mony to sign an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to re­duce gun vi­o­lence sched­uled for Thurs­day morn­ing in Har­ris­burg, was in Philadelph­ia at the news con­fer­ence with Kenney and other city of­fi­cials. Wolf will sign the ex­ec­u­tive or­der to­day in Har­ris­burg, his of­fice an­nounced Thurs­day.

ELIZ­A­BETH ROBERTSON/ THE PHILADELPH­IA INQUIRER

Po­lice take shoot­ing sus­pect Mau­rice Hill, 36, into cus­tody after an eight-hour stand­off that left sev­eral of­fi­cers wounded in Philadelph­ia early Thurs­day.

PHO­TOS BY MATT ROURKE/AP

Philadelph­ia of­fi­cers gather for crowd con­trol near a mas­sive po­lice pres­ence set up out­side a house as they in­ves­ti­gate an ac­tive shoot­ing sit­u­a­tion on Wed­nes­day.

An of­fi­cer pa­trols near a house as po­lice in­ves­ti­gate an ac­tive shoot­ing sit­u­a­tion Wed­nes­day in Philadelph­ia’s Nice­town neigh­bor­hood. The sus­pect was taken into cus­tody Thurs­day morn­ing.

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