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Arrest made in stabbing of off-duty Philly officer

The 19-year veteran of the force was stabbed four times outside the Venture Inn

By Aubrey Whelan
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia police on Friday arrested a suspect in the stabbing of an off-duty police officer and a friend of his in Center City late Thursday night, police said.

The 19-year veteran of the force was stabbed four times outside the Venture Inn, 255 S. Camac St., just after 11 p.m. Thursday, police said.

The officer remained in stable condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after having emergency surgery for two stab wounds in his chest and two in his legs, police said.

Other law-enforcement sources identified the officer as Fran Rafferty, 49, who works a foot patrol beat in Center City. Rafferty is the son of former City Councilman-at-large Francis W. Rafferty and once worked on Mayor John Street's protection detail.

Friday afternoon, police arrested William Johnson, 39, a homeless man whose last known address was the 400 block of Morris Street and who panhandles in the area, and said they planned to charge him in the attack.

Around 4 p.m. Friday, police found Johnson sleeping in some bushes near 11th and Pine Streets. He didn't put up a fight, police said, but he said his ribs hurt. Police took him to Hahnemann University Hospital. He will be charged when he is released, they said.

On Thursday night, Rafferty and a friend were leaving a bar when Johnson approached them and asked for money and cigarettes.

Rafferty identified himself as a police officer and asked Johnson to leave them alone. That's when Johnson became aggressive, police said.

Johnson responded with obscenities and said he didn't care what Rafferty said he was, according to police. Then he charged at the officer.

Witnesses told police Johnson was acting as the aggressor. Rafferty, who never lost consciousness, also told police that Johnson had attacked him, sources said.

Rafferty was stabbed four times in the struggle while his friend tried to intervene and was slashed on the chin. The friend noticed Rafferty doubled over in pain and the two went into a bar on Camac Street to check his injuries.

Johnson, who has 17 prior arrests for theft, drugs, criminal mischief and prostitution, also uses the name William Wheaton, police said.

Police recovered a knife from the scene, as well as a soda can from which Johnson drank before the attack. The evidence was being tested for prints and DNA.

The incident is the second wounding of an off-duty police officer this month.

On March 2, Officer Robert Penn, 46, assigned to the 16th Police District in West Philadelphia, was shot from behind in his Overbrook Park driveway as he arrived home from a shift. He is still recovering from a wound to his shoulder. No arrests have been made in that case.

Copyright 2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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