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Just after midnight on Thursday, a man emerged in a fog of teargas, as dozens of police officers screamed “hands up, hands up, get down,” ending an eight-hour standoff that saw six officers shot.
All six officers sustained non-life threatening injuries, though one bullet did graze an officer’s head. They were released from hospital hours after they were admitted, and all are expected to make a full recovery.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said at a press conference outside Temple University Hospital, where some of the officers were treated.
Officers had entered a house in a northern Philadelphia suburb on Wednesday afternoon to execute a drugs warrant, but were met almost immediately with a hail of bullets. Officers jumped out the windows to avoid injury.
Moments after the police dispatcher announced an officer had been shot, dozens of police vehicles descended on the scene.
The suspect, named by the Philadelphia Inquirer as 36-year-old Maurice Hill, is in custody, and police say there are still trying to assess if a second gunman was involved.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters he was “angry” that someone could possess “all that weaponry, all that firepower,” and called for stricter gun control laws.
“If the state and federal government don’t want to stand up to the NRA, then let us police ourselves,” he said. “Our officers deserve to be protected."
At 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday, a Narcotics Strike Force unit entered a rowhouse on the 3700 block of North 15th Street, in the Nicetown-Tioga district of north Philadelphia, to execute a drugs warrant.
As they made their way to the back of the house, the officers were met with gunfire. Many officers “had to escape through windows and doors to get [away] from a barrage of bullets,” Ross said.
“I got an officer shot at this location in the leg!” one officer yelled to a police dispatcher, who shared the alert three times. This resulted in a flood of officers and police vehicles arriving at the location within minutes.
The number of wounded officers quickly grew from one to six, all of whom were taken to hospital.
But in the chaos, two other officers were trapped on the second floor of the building, with three other people, who were handcuffed. As the hours passed, the gunman continued to shoot sporadically into the ceiling.
A SWAT team was able to free the hostages just before 10 p.m.
Police attempted to speak to the gunman and get him to surrender peacefully. He did pick up the phone, but he didn’t respond verbally, Ross said during a news conference while the gunman was still holed up inside the building. The officers inside the house did, however, hear him speaking to other people on the phone, and talking to himself.
Finally, around midnight, Hill emerged from the building after officers fired tear gas into the house.
Who is Maurice Hill?
Police sources told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the suspect in custody was Maurice Hill, a 36-year-old Philadelphia man with a lengthy history of gun convictions.
Hill’s lawyer, Shaka Johnson, said in an interview with CBS3 that his client called him around 8:30 p.m. “in a panic.” as the siege was entering its fifth hour.
“I told him, ‘you gotta surrender, man,’” Johnson said, adding that he has known Hill for about a decade.
Public records show Hill has been arrested a dozen times since he turned 18, and convicted six times on charges including illegal possession of guns, drug dealing, and aggravated assault. He has also beat a number of criminal charges against him, including kidnapping and attempted murder.
He has served several prison sentences, including a 4-and-a-half-year sentence handed down in 2010. It is unclear if the warrant being executed on Wednesday was for Hill.
Cover: Officers gather for crowd control near a massive police presence set up outside a house as they investigate a shooting in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)