Maurice Hill surrendered. He walked out with hands in the air just after midnight. After nearly eight hours of taking turns between exchanging gunfire with police and talking to them, Hill was taken into custody.
The 36-year-old barricaded himself in on the first floor of a “row” home, equipped with several handguns and a semi-automatic rifle. He has a history of gun, drug and assault convictions. A lawyer who had represented him on some of those prior charges had been telling him all night that the best thing he could do was surrender, but in the end, police used tear gas to smoke him out.
Officers were serving a narcotics warrant at a row house in North Philadelphia, but “that went awry almost immediately” when gunfire erupted, police Commissioner Richard Ross told reporters.
Police went to a home in the Nicetown-Tiago neighborhood around 4:30 p.m. local time, with a narcotics warrant, Ross informs. One of the officers noted that “it was a state warrant, but at least one person in the house is the subject of a federal law enforcement investigation,” CNN reports. It wasn’t long before the excited radio calls started coming in.
Gunshots can be heard ringing in the background as “priority — shots fired! Shots fired!” crackles through the airwaves. “Other voices followed. One repeated the address… over and over,” CNN writes. The flurry of chaotic calls went on for minutes. “Officer down!” one voice said. “We need SWAT!” another yelled.
Someone who sounded like they were in charge ordered, “get me SWAT, ASAP! Long guns, ASAP!” Calls kept coming in from officers scattered through the building, and the anxiety was clear. “This is the second call … shots fired at police!” one said. That prompted the dispatcher to note, with wide eyes in her voice, “shots fired AT police.”
“I’ve got an officer shot, radio!” one patrolman said, at times cracking. “Radio, listen. I’ve got one officer shot, one officer shot, radio!”
Some officers were in the first floor kitchen of the house when the shooter opened fire, starting a gun battle as police shot back. “Many of them had to escape through windows and doors,” commissioner Ross relates. “The shooter has continued to fire out of the windows.”
There was more than one officer shot. All told, five were treated for gunshot wounds, including one which was a head wound, but thankfully, only a graze. None of the officers were critically injured. A sixth, and possible seventh officer, were injured in a car crash as they were on the way to the scene. All six officers were released from the hospital.
While all this was happening on the first floor, two more officers with three prisoners and four female civilians were trapped on the second floor. The first floor gunman was apparently unaware. Officers played that intelligence close to the vest, especially before they got the women out. There were unconfirmed reports that the gunman was livestreaming his end of what was happening, and officials were scrambling to pull his plug.
For the rest of the afternoon, Hill traded gunfire with police, who crouched behind their cars as bullets ricocheted along the pavement. Temple University’s Health Sciences Center campus was put on lockdown.
At one point, a couple hours after the incident began, two women and two girls were suddenly escorted out of the building by SWAT officers. It isn’t clear how they were able to get out from the second floor without alerting the gunman. “I thank God for these cops. They’re good people. Don’t say nothing bad about them, they kept us safe the whole time,” one of the women told reporters on the scene as she was tucked into a vehicle and whisked away.
It was Around 9:30 p.m. before the SWAT team could get the two officers and their innocent until proven guilty civilian prisoners off the second floor. “They were able to use stealth to do it,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
Negotiators tried to communicate with the suspect, but he was picking up the phone and not responding. They got a break in the case when Hill called his former lawyer. Police Commissioner Richard Ross told CNN, “I gave his attorney, Shaka Johnson, a lot of credit that he came and he was able to certainly engage him in conversation much longer.”
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Hill’s former attorney was watching the drama unfolding on TV when his phone rang about 8:30 p.m. It was Hill, begging for help. “I realized who it was. The game for me became getting him out of there safely. He did not want this to end violently. … I told him you got to surrender now, you know, in short you have to surrender.”
Johnson came down to the scene and help to negotiate with a bullhorn, at one point, even walking up to the front door. “It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today,” notes a relieved Commissioner Ross.
President Donald Trump weighed in with a tweet. “The Philadelphia shooter should never have been allowed to be on the streets. Long sentence – must get much tougher on street crime!”
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