Crazy night tonight, folks. The Police Department held its collective breath when a veteran sergeant was found unconscious in his patrol car in North Philadelphia at about 6:45 p.m.
Mayor Nutter and Police Commissioner Chuck Ramsey emerged from Temple University Hospital shortly before 9 to deliver the news: Sgt. Andrew Stackwicz, 57, was in critical condition after he suffered an apparent heart attack. He was undergoing tests in an ICU and appeared to be responsive, the mayor said.
Stackwicz is a 26-year-old veteran who works in the 22nd District. He was out on a patrol when a citizen spotted him in his cruiser. Nutter -- visibly relieved that he didn't have to once again address the loss of an officer -- praised the unidentified resident, who called 9-1-1 and even waited with Stackwicz until help arrived. Nutter said four cops performed CPR on the married father of two on the ride up to the hospital, probably saving his life in the process.
There was a sigh of relief amongst the press and a handful of passersby who grew nervous when they saw a collection of cop cars jam the entrance of the hospital for the second time this week.
But all was not calm in the neighborhood surrounding the hospital. When I first got up to Temple around 7 o'clock, a loud argument started to unfold on the 1200 block of Russell Street, which sits about 50 feet away from the hospital's rear driveway. The argument eventually turned physical, and the dozen or so participants started to scream and take swings at each other. A single 25th District cop tried to sort out the melee, only to find himself surrounded and shouted down. A pair of quick-thinking cops noticed their out-numbered brother and rushed to his side. The turmoil was quieted -- for just a little while.
From there, things got surreal. At about 8:30, while reporters aimlessly shuffled along the sidewalk outside the hospital and cops leaned against a wrought iron fence, noodling with their cell phones, a familiar sound filled the night air. Pop-pop-pop. Firecrackers, maybe? 'Fraid not. The Russell Street slapfest had just turned into a gunfight.
A woman screamed out from the street, "He's shooting! He's shooting!" as the reporters and cameramen realized they were in the middle of a whole different type of live shot. Within seconds, a wave of blue poured out of the hospital and flooded Russell Street. There were more stories than neighbors: "She stabbed my sister and he shot her," said one woman. "I saw the man shooting right here, in front of the house," cried another man. An ambulance tore down the street as cops searched the street for shell casings and victims.
Eventually, a verdict came back from the chaos: no one had been shot, although it appeared one woman -- who was walked across the street to the hospital in cuffs and a blood-stained t-shirt -- had been stabbed. "Just a little thing we call a disturbance in the city," one cop said.