Commissioner, DA react to end of Philadelphia shooting, standoff

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Thursday, August 15, 2019
Commissioner Ross discusses standoff resolution
Commissioner Ross discusses standoff resolution. Watch the report from Katherine Scott on Action News at 12 p.m. on August 15, 2019.

PHILADELPHIA -- It took more than seven hours for the suspected gunman who authorities said shot six officers to vacate a Philadelphia home, but not before Police Commissioner Richard Ross used some "unorthodox" tactics to end the standoff.

"Clearly this was a very challenging afternoon, evening, and night - went on for several hours. We have not seen anything of this magnitude in years. We do know that we are very fortunate that no one was killed in this incident," Ross said.

Maurice Hill

Ross said he would not normally have shown up to a standoff, but the one that started around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday was different. Two police officers and three civilians were still trapped inside the North 15th Street home and the suspected shooter was not talking.

Ross told reporters during a Thursday morning press conference that there is nothing that could have made him leave that scene until he knew everyone was out.

"My biggest concern the entire time was that he was going to run up those steps because he knew someone was there, particularly the police officers, and he would exchange them in gunfire," Ross said.

Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross speaks to reporters following the end of a 7-hour long standoff on August 15, 2019.

In another unusual step for him, Ross asked the hostage negotiators if it would be impactful for the police commissioner to speak with the suspect. They agreed it would.

Ross said he asked a question, and, from there, continued to be fed lines throughout the ordeal by Detective Timmy Brooks. Ross said, in the beginning, the suspect would answer his call, but wouldn't say a word. But soon after, the suspect began asking for "unreasonable requests" that could not be accommodated.

In another move Ross called "unorthodox," police also brought in the suspect's attorney, Shaka Johnson, to help with the situation.

"It was an unusual circumstance, so we took unusual steps because we're about the preservation of life. In this case, even his," Ross said.

The suspect has been identified by police sources and his attorney as Maurice Hill. He has not officially been identified by authorities.

"This was a very dynamic situation, one that I hope we never see again, but one we are thankful that no civilians - children, neighbors, people who had the misfortune of being hostages along with those police officers - under the circumstance, no one was seriously injured. And none of the hostages were hurt at all," Ross said.

While Johnson told Action News a conversation between Hill, Ross, District Attorney Larry Krasner, and himself helped lead to the peaceful surrender, Ross said, ultimately, it was tear gas that ended the more than hours-long standoff shortly after midnight Thursday.

Hill emerged through the tear gas with his hands in the air, and, according to police, with a gun on him.

"We do know this guy actually came outside with a gun on his person so this could've even more dangerous and volatile were not for the professionalism of the SWAT unit," Ross said.

In a Thursday afternoon press conference, District Attorney Krasner tried to make it clear of which Maurice Hill is being charged in this case.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks on shooting in North Philadelphia that left multiple law enforcement officers injured, August 15, 2019

Krasner said there are five different Maurice Hills who appear with different birthdates in the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania criminal database.

This Maurice Hill, Krasner said, has a birthday of April 26, 1983.

"(He has) a criminal record as an adult going back to the early 2000s and extending to a few years ago," Krasner said.

Krasner was asked if during the time that he has been district attorney, if his office has had any connection or prosecution of Hill.

"As best I can tell, the answer is absolutely not. As best I can tell there has been no new criminal manner in the city and county of Philadelphia in 2018 and 2019, and not something originating in 2017, which would be the year before we were in office," Krasner said.

Krasner said Hill will more than likely be facing a bevy of charges, including attempted murder, aggrivated assault and firearms charges to name just a few.

"There will be a lot of charges so that Mr. Maurice Hill may never exit jail," he said.

After speaking with the suspect several times during the evening, Ross said he did not think the man would come out alive. That's because the suspect told Ross many times that he was not going back to prison.

The commissioner said the suspect admitted on the phone that he had an "extensive criminal history."

"He knew the system, that's why he was making the outlandish demands that he was making. But we weren't going to lie to him and tell him we were going to acquiesce to what he wanted because that's not what you do either because that creates problems as well," Ross said.

PHOTOS: Standoff and Shooting Scene in Philadelphia

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Police have their guns drawn in this image sent to Action News from a neighbor.
Kristina Bowie

At times, the suspect's phone would go to voicemail when Ross would try to reach out to him, indicating that the gunman was in communication with others. Police knew that the suspect had been Facetiming with his girlfriend early on. That's when they found out that he had a newborn baby.

Around 8:30 p.m., Hill called his attorney, who agreed to be present when Hill surrendered.

Krasner said he received a call from Johnson shortly around 9 p.m. Johnson asked Hill if he wanted to speak with Krasner. Once Krasner was added into the phone call, he said Hill was in a "very excited and animated, frankly, dangerous state."

"I did what I could. I am no hostage negotiator, I have no such training. Neither is Mr. Johnson. But we were doing what we could to try and lower the get him to a more rational position," Krasner said.

Meanwhile, police were also communicating with the two officers who were trapped on another floor of the home. They kept the officers aware of their plans and what they could expect to hear as the day unfolded.

Ross said the suspect may have been aware of the three civilians that were also still in the home, but he did not appear to be aware of the two officers.

Around 9:20 p.m., police said the two officers and the civilians were safely removed from the home.

Ross said of the two officers, "You would've never thought they were trapped up there that long. Even me, I had to ask, 'Are these the two guys?' Their valor and bravery throughout the circumstance; just image being pinned down, knowing that you have a very violent offender who fired multiple rounds not only at them, but other officers, and continues to do so."

LISTEN: Police radio broadcasts reveal tense, chaotic situation during Philadelphia active shooter incident

Radio calls reveal tense, chaotic situation during Philadelphia active shooter incident on August 14, 2019.

The incident began when officers were issuing a narcotics warrant. Ross said there has been a resurgence of crack cocaine in the area. The team was ambushed with officers escaping out doors and windows to dodge bullets.

"For whatever the reason, there is a significant drug issue and it's something that we're looking to deal with. Obviously, we're not looking to go back to the '90s and talk about a war on drugs. That was not successful. We got to do something because with these drugs, not only are people dying in the streets, but it brings violence," Ross said.

As the standoff began, patrol cars were seen speeding toward the scene as armored vehicles and police in tactical gear converged on the street.

Video showed one officer who appeared injured being taken away in a police car. Another video showed two other officers carrying a man and putting him in the back of a police car.

RELATED: VIDEO from the scene of the North Philadelphia Police Shooting

Injured police officer helped to car in North Philadlephia shootout on August 14, 2019.

Hours after the incident began, police officers were able to safely remove two women and two teenage girls from the area. As the women and children were escorted to a police vehicle, one of the women said they were not injured and then spoke about the actions of police, saying officers were doing everything they could to keep them safe.

All the police officers who were shot have been released from the hospital. Two other officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries not from gunshots. Ross said one other officer who was injured in an accident on the way to the scene remains at Einstein Medical Center.

The police commissioner commended the response of the police officers in the area in keeping everyone safe and getting the residents out of harm's way.

"This was a very dynamic situation, one that I hope we never see again, but one we are thankful that no civilians - children, neighbors, people who had the misfortune of being hostages along with those police officers - under the circumstance, no one was seriously injured. And none of the hostages were hurt at all," Ross said.

The shooting has garnered attention across the country. President Donald Trump tweeted his reaction Thursday morning, "The Philadelphia shooter should never have been allowed to be on the streets. He had a long and very dangerous criminal record. Looked like he was having a good time after his capture, and after wounding so many police. Long sentence - must get much tougher on street crime!"