Philadelph­ia po­lice com­mis­sioner praises ef­forts of of­fi­cers

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Joseph A. Gam­bardello

PHILADELPH­IA — Philadelph­ia Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross said Thurs­day that he per­son­ally tried to talk the gun­man who wounded six po­lice of­fi­cers into sur­ren­der­ing in North Philadelph­ia’s Tioga sec­tion, but it was “the tear gas that ul­ti­mately brought him out­side.”

“This was the first time, and I hope it is the last time,” Ross said of his unusual foray into ne­go­ti­at­ing with a bar­ri­caded gun­man.

Hours after a seven-hour stand­off ended with the sus­pect sur­ren­der­ing and the six of­fi­cers wounded by gunfire re­leased from hos­pi­tals, Ross praised the ac­tions of the of­fi­cers, which al­lowed the sit­u­a­tion to end without a loss of life, and spoke of his own part in the res­o­lu­tion.

Ross said one thing that weighed heav­ily on him was the fact that two po­lice of­fi­cers were trapped in­side the house from which the gun­man was fir­ing after the ex­e­cu­tion of a nar­cotics war­rant went awry.

He also said he felt “bad” about not go­ing to Ein­stein Med­i­cal Cen­ter to visit some of the wounded of­fi­cers, “but given the fact we had two of­fi­cers trapped, I just couldn’t leave that scene. I just couldn’t leave that scene.”

The trapped of­fi­cers, who had three peo­ple in cus­tody with them on the se­cond floor of the house, com­mu­ni­cated at first by ra­dio and then by cell­phone with su­per­vi­sors out­side, alert­ing them to their po­si­tions and re­ceiv­ing in­struc­tions on a plan to res­cue them.

“The gist of the con­ver­sa­tions were where they were, were they OK, and at some point let­ting them know what we were do­ing so that they could know, should they hear things like break­ing glass, which we had to do at dif­fer­ent times to of­fer vantage points for the trapped po­lice of­fi­cers,” Ross said.

He said he did not know if the gun­man on the first floor knew any­one was up­stairs.

Around 9:30 p.m., five hours after the stand­off be­gan, SWAT of­fi­cers res­cued the two of­fi­cers and the three peo­ple in their cus­tody without fir­ing a shot.

“It would’ve been even more dan­ger­ous and vi­o­lent were it not for the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of that SWAT unit,” Ross said. “The man­ner in which they got those of­fi­cers out who were trapped, and those other civil­ians who were trapped, was just amaz­ing to me. They were able to do that in such a clan­des­tine way without draw­ing fire from him. Ob­vi­ously, there were at­tempts to dis­tract him.

“We would not have taken the last ac­tion we took, which was tear gas, with those other peo­ple in­side. Be­cause then you don’t know what he would’ve done.”

The res­cue trans­formed what was a hostage sit­u­a­tion into a bar­ri­caded shooter sit­u­a­tion, Ross noted.

Ross said the gun­man, iden­ti­fied as Mau­rice Hill, 36, re­buffed ini­tial at­tempts by po­lice to ne­go­ti­ate with him but was us­ing his phone to talk to other peo­ple, in­clud­ing his girl­friend with whom he re­cently had a daugh­ter.

At some point, Ross said he asked the po­lice ne­go­tia­tor if it would help if he talked to Hill, and the ne­go­tia­tor agreed.

The ne­go­tia­tor in­structed Ross on what ques­tions to ask. Hill, he said, spoke of his new­born daugh­ter and his crim­i­nal record.

“In fact, he told me on the phone he used the word ‘ex­ten­sive,’ he had an ex­ten­sive crim­i­nal his­tory, and that he knew the sys­tem, and why he was mak­ing the out­landish de­mands he was mak­ing,” Ross said, without de­tail­ing those de­mands.

“But we weren’t go­ing to lie to him and tell him we were go­ing to ac­qui­esce to what he wanted, be­cause that’s not what you do ei­ther be­cause that cre­ates prob­lems as well,” he said.

Hill’s lawyer, Shaka John­son, also spoke to his client Wed­nes­day night. Ross said they had a three-way con­ver­sa­tion at one point.

“But that was to­wards the end of the night when he de­cided to talk a lit­tle more,” Ross said. “I guess we started to wear on him a lit­tle bit, be­cause you’ve got hours of peo­ple in his ear. Peo­ple, mean­ing me, try­ing to ap­peal to why he had a rea­son to live, talk­ing about his daugh­ter, a new­born.”

De­spite the ne­go­ti­a­tions, “it was also the tear gas that ul­ti­mately brought him out­side,” Ross said.

Even then, the com­mis­sioner said, he did not ex­pect the sus­pect would give up peace­fully.

“I was sur­prised he came out,” Ross said. “He in­di­cated he wasn’t go­ing back” to jail.

Dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency

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