In the attempted robbery of University Police late Monday, a plainclothes officer shot one man in the hand as three other robbers held his partner at bay with what looked like a double-barreled shotgun. The attempted robbery, which occurred on the 4100 block of Locust Street at approximately 11:30 p.m., marked the first time in at least 10 years that a University Police officer has fired a gun at a suspect. The wounded man and a fifth suspect who was to drive the get-away vehicle are in jail. The three other suspects remain at large, and police said they are investigating. The two suspects have been charged with armed robbery. After the assailants fled, police realized the men did not have a shotgun but instead threatened the officers with a painted axe handle with two holes drilled in one end to simulate a gun. Police spokesperson Sylvia Canada said yesterday that the officer fired his revolver at one of the suspects after the man threatened to kill him. The shot struck the man on the wrist and he and the other assailants fled, Canada said. Canada said the officer made the right decision in firing since there was no way to realize the shotgun was fake and they thought their lives were in danger. Philadelphia Police found the wounded man, Omar Burnett, 19, of the 800 block of N. 15th Street, shortly after when they found him resting outside of a building at 41st and Walnut streets. Police did not know he was involved in the robbery. University Police arrested one suspect, Melvin Gore, 20, of the 2400 block of N. 26th Street, in a car at the scene. Canada said the assailants apparently did not realize they were attempting to rob police officers. Neither of the officers were hurt, she said. Police would not release the names of the officers. Canada said both were veteran officers who do not want their identities publicized. Canada said the two officers were on a plainclothes detail walking east on the 4100 block of Locust street at about 11:30 p.m. when they saw a car with North Carolina license plates pull up to the curb 20 yards ahead of them. Four men came out of the car and approached the officers while a fifth remained behind in the car. When the suspects had closed to within about 10 yards, Canada said, one pulled the apparent shotgun out from under his coat and said, "This is a robbery. Give us your fucking money or I'll shoot you." As the suspects continued to approach, one of the officers stepped forward a few feet, drawing the gunman's attention. While the suspects were watching the first officer, the other officer drew his revolver and kept it hidden at his side, Canada said. Police said Burnett and another suspect came up to the officer who had drawn his gun and started to push him face first against a wall. One of the men told him to give up his money or he would shoot, Canada said. Burnett, displaying a bulge in his pocket that appeared to be a gun, then told the officer that "I might just shoot you anyway," Canada said. When Burnett started to bring his hand up over the officer's head, Canada said, the officer fired at him once. Four of the suspects fled immediately on foot. Canada and Police Director John Logan praised the officers for their work. "I think their reaction to it was remarkable," Logan said. "I have nothing but praise for the way they handled this incident." Logan said that had the gun been real, the officers could have been seriously hurt. "A shotgun at close quarters -- it's devastating," he said. Logan said he spoke to many of the officers about the incident at afternoon roll call and planned to do the same last night. Canada said both officers will return to duty immediately. "They're both psychologically sound," she said. "There are no signs of apprehension on either of the officers' part." Canada said the two officers were assigned to a plainclothes detail as a supplement to the department's "T-beat," in which they walk the 3900 block of Walnut Street from Ludlow to Locust streets. On October 1, she said, police extended the beat to include Chestnut and Spruce streets and the 4000 block between Walnut and Spruce. Plainclothes officers were assigned to supplement uniformed officers on that beat. "They're inconspicuous," she said. "Last night is a typical example. They stopped two patrol officers, attempting to rob them not knowing they were police officers." Since expanding the beats, officers have arrested eight suspects, including two for robberies, in the new area. Canada did not know how many of these were arrested directly by plainclothes officers.Comments powered by Disqus
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