Massive manhunt for suspect who shot Phila. officer

By Barbara Boyer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Related: Gunman wounds Phila. officer; suspect fatally shot

By Barbara Boyer and Jennifer Lin
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia police are looking for a man they described as "extremely armed and dangerous" as the suspect in the shooting of Police Officer Charles Cassidy this morning.

Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said that Cassidy, a 25-year veteran, was in extremely critical condition and in surgery.

"The officers who are going out there with violent criminals and weapons are being basically assassinated, basically shot for just doing their job and nothing else," Johnson said. He said police have the attack on videotape, which was taken from security cameras and would be released this afternoon.

Cassidy, 52, was critically injured when he walked into a robbery in progress at a Dunkin' Donuts in West Oak Lane. He was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, and police cruisers with lights and sirens took family members to be with him. They were met by top police officials and Mayor Street.

Police said that Cassidy stopped into Dunkin' Donuts in the 6600 block of North Broad Street about 10:30 a.m. as part of his morning routine. Johnson said he regularly checked on local businesses where recent robberies had occurred. Cassidy entered at the same time a robber pulled a gun and demanded money. The gunman spun around and fired at least one shot at the officer.

At a press conference outside the hospital this morning, Johnson said the gunman shot the officer once in the head and the bullet lodged in his brain. The officer fell near a trash can and the gunman then took the officer's gun. Police are conducting a massive manhunt in the area.

The robber was described as a heavyset African American man about 5-foot-11 to 6 feet tall wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, tan khaki pants and tan boots, and had a spiderweb tattoo on his left hand. He may have been carrying an extra hoodie that is black with gray stripes.

"We need the public's help," Johnson implored, urging anyone with information to call 911. Johnson said the shooter was "extremely armed and dangerous."

"There is a criminal element in this city and around the county that have completely lost any respect for authority, and the proliferation of guns and weapons in this city and in cities around the country make this a very tough and challenging and difficult job for the police department," he said.

Asked about the recent spate of shootings of officers, Johnson said, "Somebody's got to realize we've got a gun problem in this city."

Mayor Street, speaking outside the hospital after a meeting with the officer's family, vowed: "We are going to find the person who did this and they're going to be punished."

Cassidy's wife and three children are at the hospital. Cardinal Rigali arrived to be with the family.

Street said the family is very "distressed. We told them we would be here for them and that they had our prayers. We told them we are going to catch the perpetrator of this act."

He added, "A person who would be in a Dunkin' Donuts robbing a Dunk Donuts, then putting a gun at the head of a police officer and then shootign him down in cold blood, this is a troubled individual."

Street said he was shaken after meeting with the family and said that while he has opposed the death penalty, a crime like today's "makes you reevaluate your beliefs."

He deflected criticism of the city's high rate of violence, and called the worsening crime situation a national problem brought on by federal cuts in job training and education.

The officer's shooting “shows a blatant disregard for authority that we’re going to have to come to grips with,” Street said. “We’re creating an underclass of people who are likely to resort to violence in a serious way.”

After the shooting this morning, police flooded the neighborhood and conducted a house-by-house search for the man whom they believe lives locally.

Authorities said they found clothing in the area they believe the gunman took off while fleeing.

Teams of SWAT officers called in on the manhunt have searched numerous addresses based on tips from the public. Authorities urged all residents in the area to keep their children with them and inside their homes. The Philadelphia School District has placed every school in the North and Northwest regions of the city in lockdown.

Copyright 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer

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