/Nothing short of a miracle: Dramatic standoff with Philadelphia gunman ends with no loss of life

Nothing short of a miracle: Dramatic standoff with Philadelphia gunman ends with no loss of life

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This is the second major police shooting this week. The first occurred at a California traffic stop.
USA TODAY

PHILADELPHIA — Throughout a seven-hour gun battle that turned a Philadelphia neighborhood into a war-zone and left six officers injured, the goal was “preservation of life,” police commissioner Richard Ross said, explaining a day of intense gunfire and tear gas salvos before the gunman surrendered early Thursday.

At one point, with hundreds of officers pinned down by erratic gunfire, a SWAT team rescued two officers trapped upstairs with handcuffed prisoners in the north Philadelphia home. 

In the end, the police tactics worked as the shooter, with his hands up, was driven from his home after a tear gas barrage and all the injured officers were treated and released.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today,” Ross said.

Throughout the ordeal, he said, the goal was “preservation of life, irrespective of who it is.”

The gunman was identified as Maurice Hill, 36, a Philadelphia man with an extensive record of gun convictions and resisting arrest, and Associated Press reported.

Pennsylvania prison officials said a man with the same name and date of birth served about 2½ years on drug charges and was paroled in 2006, and served more than a year for aggravated assault and before being released in 2013.

State court online court records indicate that man had multiple arrests in Philadelphia and adjacent Delaware County between 2001 and 2012, producing convictions that include perjury, fleeing and eluding, escape and weapons offenses.

The melee erupted as officers came to the house in a north Philadelphia neighborhood of brick and stone row homes to serve drug arrest warrants.

The standoff was especially unnerving as hundreds of officers, often pinned down by barrages of erratic gunfire from the house, had to operate in the densely populated area of narrow streets and tightly packed houses.

Seven-hour standoff: Gunman surrenders after ‘volatile’ standoff in Philadelphia; 6 officers shot

At one point, dozens of children had to be evacuated from a nearby day care center next door.

Temple University’s medical campuses nearby were placed on lockdown and trains and buses were ordered not to stop along neighborhood routes.

The chaotic confrontation even included an unusual move by Ross, the police commissioner, who got on the phone to negotiate directly with the shooter.

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“I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself,” he said explaining why, from his perch 200 yards away, he decided to get directly involved in the effort to end the stalemate.

The standoff near Temple University unfolded Wednesday afternoon with an attempt to serve arrest warrants that “went awry almost immediately,” Ross said.

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

As gunfire erupted and officers scrambled to safety, two officers were trapped on the second floor – one officer guarding two handcuffed prisoners and the other holed up in a bathroom with a third prisoner.

At one point, one of the officers calmly radioed the chaotic scene to police surrounding the building.

“We are pinned down in the second floor with three individuals handcuffed,” one officer said. “You can hear the male moving down stairs on the first floor.”

‘We have to do something’: Mayor calls for gun control after Philadelphia shooting; suspect identified

During another round of gunfire, another officer can be heard saying, “The male is reloading, the male is reloading, shots fired inside.”

A SWAT team eventually made its way into the structure and brought the officers to safety.

Outside, meanwhile, officers hunkered down behind cars while others tried to keep residents and circling news helicopters at bay.

Dozens of officers on foot lined the streets. Others were in cars and some on horses.

At one point, an armored police vehicle known as a BearCat arrived to move some of the cars outside the targeted home.

“I was just coming off the train and I was walking upstairs and there were people running back downstairs who said that there was someone up there shooting cops,” said Abdul Rahman Muhammad, 21, an off-duty medic. “There was just a lot of screaming and chaos.”

For a large portion of the standoff, the gunman refused to engage with police beyond answering the phone they were using to contact him. Ross said the man would answer but not say anything for much of the time.

At one point, late in the evening, Hill called his lawyer Shaka Johnson, who told CBS3 that his client him around 8:30 p.m. on his personal phone “in a panic.”

“I told him, ‘you gotta surrender, man,’” Johnson said.

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

Police still haven’t determined how much weaponry the gunman had, other than what was found on him when officers took him into custody. Ross said that weapon was a handgun, possibly a .380.

SWAT officers “preliminarily confirmed” there was a long gun inside the residence, as well, but said the scene has not yet been processed because of the use of tear gas inside the house.

“It was a very dynamic situation,” Ross said, “one I hope we never see again.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was thankful that officers’ injuries weren’t life-threatening.

“I’m a little angry about someone having all that weaponry and all that firepower, but we’ll get to that another day,” Kenney said.

Contributing: Associated Press

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