Phila. officer shot by masked gunman who shot 3 others
By Joseph A. Gambardello, Dwight Ott and Andrew Maykuth
Traffic officer Mariano Santiago, 44, was shot and wounded last night by a masked gunman who police said had just brazenly shot three people in a vehicle at a Center City intersection.
The shootings, the frantic search for the suspect who apparently disappeared into the Schuylkill and the convergence of dozens of emergency vehicles on Center City triggered chaos less than a mile from the Drexel University campus, where Democratic presidential candidates were concluding a nationally televised debate.
Four people were taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital with gunshot wounds. Two of them, apparently the targets of the assassin's execution-style hit, were in critical condition.
Santiago, who apparently gave chase in his vehicle after getting shot in the shoulder, was listed in stable condition.
The madness broke out shortly after 10 p.m. when a masked gunman in a sport utility vehicle fired into another vehicle at 15th and Sansom streets. Two men in the vehicle were wounded severely, and a woman in the vehicle was injured less severely.
Responding to a radio call of the shooting, Santiago, an 18-year veteran, intercepted the gunman's SUV at 15th and Market and gave chase, police said. The two vehicles traveled west on Sansom Street.
At 22d Street, the gunman got out of his vehicle and approached Santiago's squad car, firing twice through the window. One bullet struck the officer in the right shoulder, said Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson, who spoke with the officer at the hospital last night.
Santiago and the gunman then continued their chase on Sansom Street for at least another block before supervisors advised the officer to discontinue the pursuit. Santiago apparently got off at least one shot at the suspect.
The gunman got out of his vehicle around 24th Street and headed toward the river, police said. Police later recovered a gun at 24th and Sansom.
Scores of police and firefighters converged on the Schuylkill to search for the suspect, who disappeared into the dark waters.
The Police Marine Unit criss-crossed the river in an inflatable boat, probing the waters with poles. They were assisted by lights hoisted from Fire Department ladders and a U.S. Coast Guard vessel.
Dozens of officers also searched the banks and the railroad tracks along the river in case the suspect got out of the cold water.
Commissioner Johnson noted that Santiago was the second officer to be shot and wounded in the last week.
"This shows what is happening in the city of Philadelphia," he said.
Copyright 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer
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