By Stephanie Farr, Jason Nark and Morgan Zalot
Philadelphia Daily News
PHILADELPHIA — When Officer Edward Davies rushed into a Feltonville corner store yesterday to catch a man who had fled other cops, police say, he came face-to-face with the worst kind of criminal: one toting a stolen, .45-caliber handgun who had no plans to go down without a fight.
Police said Eric Torres, 31 — whose record of 12 prior arrests includes five charges for assaulting police — struggled with Davies, 41, and shot the officer once in the abdomen under his ballistic vest.
Davies, a six-year veteran, husband and father of a 2-year-old son and three older daughters, was fighting for his life when he was whisked away from Almonte Mini Market to Temple University Hospital in critical condition, police said. He underwent surgery and remained sedated last night, Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.
"They want to keep him quiet. They want to keep him from moving," Ramsey said outside the hospital after Davies' surgery. He added that the officer will likely face additional operations to repair his badly wounded abdomen.
Police said Torres, whose rap sheet also includes several arrests for assault and drug charges, was arrested at the mini market after a violent clash with other officers.
The .45-caliber Glock police say Torres used to shoot Davies was reported stolen in June 2012 after a burglary, Ramsey said. It was unknown yesterday whether Torres was the one who stole it.
Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross said that about noon, Torres was pulled over at 5th Street and Allegheny Avenue for a broken taillight on the car, and that he was being "evasive" when questioned.
"Subsequently, that male gives [the officer] his identification, but then he takes off at a high rate of speed," Ross said.
Torres soon crashed the 1998 BMW he was driving into a fence at 2nd and Bristol streets. Other officers located the car and traced him to the Almonte market, at 4th and Annsbury streets. Davies was the first cop on scene.
"We were told it was a pretty violent struggle. It lasted at least two minutes or longer," Ramsey said of the encounter with Torres before the officer was shot.
Ramsey said it was obvious why Torres fled the traffic stop.
"He's got a gun, and he knows he's got a record," he said.
Brown Lugo, 18, was on the couch at his home three doors down from Almonte Mini Market when he heard "a lot of screaming."
Soon after, Lugo said, came the "popping" sound of gunshots. "Seconds later there was more screaming," he recounted. "When I came out, there were cops everywhere."
Lugo said he saw an officer who appeared to be nursing an arm injury bring a man in a white T-shirt out of the store and throw him against a police cruiser.
Lugo said the owners of the market are a Dominican couple who often have their young children in the store with them.
"Everybody knows the corner store, even the people who are iffy around here know the corner-store owners," Lugo said.
The chaos wasn't unfamiliar to a neighborhood where residents say violence has become commonplace.
Fourth and Annsbury is a "hot corner" for drug sales, Lugo said, noting that the store owners have been robbed several times in the past few years and had installed surveillance cameras.
Three months ago and two blocks from yesterday's shooting, police fired on a suspect when they arrived on Courtland Street near 3rd and allegedly found a man holding a 16-inch knife to a woman's throat in the street. Police said the 33-year-old man approached officers with the knife, inciting them to shoot him to death.
Several neighbors also mentioned the "Feltonville Four" — a 22-year-old woman and three girls, ages 7, 6 and 11 months, who were killed in 2009 when a carjacking suspect fleeing police drove onto the sidewalk at 3rd and Annsbury streets and crushed all four.
Gregory Roman, 75, who lives about a block from yesterday's scene and has been in the neighborhood seven years, echoed the sentiment of many residents — it's a dangerous place to live.
"I don't know what happened to this world. Everything is going down," he said. "You can't be sure of your life anywhere."
Torres, according to court records, pleaded guilty to drug charges in 2007 and was sentenced to two to four years in jail. He had pleaded guilty in 2004 to drug charges and conspiracy and was sentenced to six to 23 months in jail followed by a year of probation. A year later he pleaded guilty to simple assault after being arrested for aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.
The other charges — including all of Torres' offenses for allegedly resisting arrest and assaulting police — were withdrawn, court records show.
At Torres' house at 4th and Raymond streets yesterday, about a block from the shooting scene, several people were seen carrying out belongings. A female relative who declined to give her name said Torres was not a bad person.
"Everybody has their problems and stuff . . . He's a good father, good family member, good role model for his nephews and family," she said, adding that she didn't believe that Torres shot the officer.
"I'm confused, and I'd like to know [what happened]," she said.
Torres was in police custody at Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was treated for minor injuries incurred during the struggle, police said.
Outside the emergency room at Temple University Hospital, a crowd of cops gathered as their fellow officer was prepped for surgery. Police cruisers blocked traffic on Germantown Avenue near the hospital, where onlookers gathered across the street, hiding from the sun beneath overhangs and noisy air conditioners, telling other pedestrians that a "cop got shot."
One police cruiser sped down Germantown Avenue and pulled into the emergency-room driveway. The officer who was driving retrieved a baby stroller from the trunk. A woman exited the cruiser, embraced an officer, and was led inside. An older man carried a child — Davies' youngest — in his arms into the hospital.
Neighbors on the quiet cul-de-sac in Modena Park where Davies lives with his wife, Marissa, and son, Justin, said they were shocked at the news.
"We're all praying for them," said one neighbor who declined to give her name.
A fellow officer said Davies enjoys working the street but more often works a desk job inside the 25th District headquarters on Whitaker Avenue near Erie.
Both Ramsey and Mayor Nutter expressed frustration at a news conference that Torres, a convicted felon, was carrying such a powerful illegal handgun on the streets.
"This incident plays out the day-to-day dangers that our police officers face on a regular basis because of gun violence," Nutter said.
Ramsey said the department will work with the District Attorney's Office to determine Torres' latest charges.
"If it were up to me, he wouldn't see the light of day, that's for sure," Ramsey said.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the Philadelphia Daily News