A rampaging gunman fired a volley of shots at an unsuspecting Philadelphia police sergeant Friday night, then went on a deadly shooting spree through the city’s west side before he was himself killed by responding officers.
Six people were shot by the gunman, including two injured officers. A civilian woman was killed as the man tore through the city. Another man was critically injured and was being treated at a Philadelphia hospital. The other two people were in stable condition, a police spokesperson told The Washington Post.
Police haven’t released the name of the suspect, but Philly.com reported that officers had recovered a “rambling” letter written by him that “expressed hatred toward police and probation officers.” The news site said officers don’t believe the shooting was motivated by religious beliefs, but an official police Twitter account said it was the work of “an individual driven by hatred.”
The violence started at 11:18 p.m. Sgt. Sylvia Young, working on a task force in West Philadelphia, was sitting in a marked cruiser at 52nd and Sansom Streets when the gunman approached without warning, according to the Associated Press.
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Police told reporters the sergeant heard as many as 15 shots. Some of the bullets hit her arm or were deflected by her bulletproof vest. Injured, all she could do was lean into the passenger seat to try to avoid the hail of gunfire, according to Philly.com.
Seconds later, she could be heard on the police radio: “I’m at the McDonald’s on 51st St.,” she screamed. “Help me, please!”
In a press conference after the shooting, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said “It is absolutely amazing that she is here, along with some of the other (victims).”
After shooting Young, the suspect ran away, headed east on Sansom Street, with officers chasing him, Philly.com reported.
“We’ve got shots fired at us!” one officer can be heard yelling into his police radio during the chase.
As the suspect ran, he fired shots into a bar, wounding a security guard, according to Philly.com. Later, he grabbed a woman and used her as a human shield. Then he shot her in the leg and kept running.
At 49th and Sansom, the gunman fired at two people sitting in a car, striking a man and a woman in the chest, the AP reported. The woman, who was hit several times in the torso, later died of her injuries, while the man is listed in critical condition.
The police radio traffic punctuated the carnage: “Be advised, we need a medic,” one officer says. “We have a male shot in the leg, bleeding profusely.”
Later, an officer says: “It’s coming from everywhere down here.”
Around 11:45 p.m., in an alley at 48th and Sansom, a University of Pennsylvania police officer and two Philadelphia police officers cornered the man, shooting and killing him during a brief gun battle, Ross told reporters. The university officer was shot in the buttocks and the leg.
The AP identified that injured officer as Ed Miller, who formerly worked for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told ABC-affiliate WPVI that the officers were awake and conscious when he visited them early Saturday:
“I had the opportunity to be with both police officers this evening, and their families,” Kenney told WPVI. “One officer was cracking jokes with his kids and wife. The other officer was talking with her family. So we are happy, very blessed that that’s the way it turned out. I think we have to keep them in our prayers.
“The civilians, there are some seriously hurt, and still in various degrees of being treated. And I think all in all it was really a terrible scary night. But our officers turned out OK, and hopefully the civilians will turn out OK.”
The shootings in Philadelphia follow similar, ambush-style shootings in July that left five police officers dead in Dallas and three dead in Baton Rouge.