03/19/2004

One Officer Dead, Two Injured, Serving Warrant

Officer Down: Joseph LeClaire - [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]

The Associated Press

One court officer was killed and two others injured early Friday when they were shot serving a warrant on a man wanted for failing to appear at his trial on rape charges, police said.

Joseph LeClaire, a 50-year-old supervisor, was shot in the head and stomach in an apartment in the city's Germantown section at 1:42 a.m., authorities said.

He was pronounced dead at Albert Einstein University Hospital just before 4 a.m., according to Homicide Sgt. Alex Strong.

Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said shots were fired after a woman opened the apartment door and the three court officers identified themselves and entered.

Another officer was shot in the stomach and the third in the hand, Johnson said. Those officers, Vincent Disandro and Carlo Delborrello, both 30, were in stable condition at Temple University Hospital, according to broadcast reports.

Police said the suspect, Darien Houser, 40, was shot in the back and the leg. He tried to flee but was captured a short time later, authorities said. He was in stable condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Warrant officers work for the city court system and are not members of the Philadelphia Police Department.

"It's a dangerous job when you go out there and try to apprehend people that have committed crimes, especially violent crimes," Johnson said.

Houser was scheduled to go on trial last November on charges that he raped a 13-year-old girl, but failed to appear in court. He was tried in absentia and acquitted. Following the trial, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest on a contempt of court charge for failing to show for the trial, according to prosecutors.

Houser has a lengthy criminal history, according to court records. He received a 4-to-10 year prison sentence for robbery in 1997, was placed on probation in 1987 for burglary and theft, and was sentenced to a pair of 11 1/2-to-23 month jail terms in 1986 and 1988 for offenses including robbery, aggravated assault and burglary, the records said.

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