10/29/2007

Gunman wounds Phila. officer; suspect fatally shot

The Philadelphia News

PHILADELPHIA In just three weeks Koko Bongo, a University City nightclub, is scheduled to host a party with a particularly disturbing theme: "City Under Siege - Part II."

The flyers promoting the upcoming party littered the sidewalks near the club yesterday afternoon, where just hours earlier the theme was played out when a police officer was shot, the gunman killed and a bystander wounded in the police-civilian shootout.

Officer Sandra Van Hinkle, a 10-year police veteran detailed to the University City district, is recovering at home after being treated for a gunshot wound to her right leg at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

In light of recent minor fights outside the club, on 38th Street near Ludlow, 10 officers were assigned to handle crowd control as patrons poured out of Koko Bongo about 2 a.m. yesterday, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore.

As the officers attempted to move the crowd, estimated at between 300 and 800, a small group of individuals refused to budge.

"They said they were waiting for another group to come out," Vanore said.

When officers persisted, at least one man, Lamarr Bembry, turned and fired "directly at the police," according to Vanore.

Two officers returned fire and Bembry, 21, of Race Street near 54th, who had a prior arrest for carrying a firearm without a license, was struck once in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania at about 4 a.m. yesterday, Homicide Sgt. Charles Coan said.

At least 20 police cruisers rushed to the scene and blocked off Chestnut Street from 37th to 39th streets while dozens of students and other civilians gathered to watch the drama.

According to police spokesman Sgt. Ray Evers, Bembry was not the only shooter at the scene. Four other individuals were brought in for questioning but it was undetermined if any of those people face charges in connection with the incident.

Caught in the crossfire was a bystander who was shot in the shoulder and face while inside his vehicle. The man, whose name was withheld by police, was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He remains in stable condition.

Firearms were recovered at the scene, but officers declined to say how many.

Police foresight was credited with containing the situation, which Vanore said could have been much worse if the original detail of 10 officers had not been stationed outside of the club.

Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby said the officers did a great job "under extreme circumstances."

"Fortunately, our officer was OK and the situation ended up being not as serious as it could of been," McNesby said. "It just shows what our officers are out there facing every day."

Yesterday afternoon, neon signs advertising alcoholic beverages still lit up the windows of Koko Bongo and fliers advertising upcoming parties at the club still littered the entrance, sidewalk and nearby potted plants.

A man who answered the door yesterday afternoon and identified himself as a cleaner was so shocked by the news of the shooting that he left the establishment to watch the Eagles game at a nearby bar.

"I don't even want to stay here anymore," he said. "I don't want to be in this environment."

Copyright 2007 The Philadelphia News

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