Gun violence claimed the life of Officer John Pawlowski last night, making him the sixth Philadelphia police officer to be killed in the line of duty in the last 16 months.
Pawlowski, 25, was shot several times at 8:20 p.m. by a “thug” who was harrassing a “hack” cab driver in Logan, said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. He died about 20 minutes later at Albert Einstein Medical Center.
Ramsey said Pawlowski, whose father and brother are both Philly cops, was expecting his first child with his wife, Kim, who is five months pregnant.
Ramsey said the gunman had frightened the cabbie and asked how much money he was carrying. When the cabbie threatened to call police, the suspect said, “You call the police, and I’ll shoot you and the police,” Ramsey said.
When Pawlowski and his partner arrived at Broad and Olney streets, they repeatedly asked the suspect to remove his hands from his pockets.
Ramsey said the suspect fired one shot through a coat he was wearing and continued to fire. Pawlowski was wounded several times. Pawlowski’s partner shot back, as did other officers who arrived at the scene, Ramsey said.
Ramsey said the gunman was critically wounded but was operated on at Albert Einstein Medical Center and was expected to survive.
Chaos reigned at the hospital last night.
A frantic family member arrived and asked cops who were directing traffic: “Where do I go? Where do I go?” She then darted into the emergency room at the back of the hospital.
Sources said Pawlowski’s pregnant wife, who was hysterical, had an unltrasound performed on her to ensure the safety of the child.
Pawlowski’s father is a retired lieutenant with the Special Victims Unit. Sources said his brother, Robert, is a police corporal who was working in the radio room last night. A state police helicopter was sent to Wildwood, N.J., to pick up Pawlowski’s sister, sources said.
Outside the hospital, cruisers lined Broad Street as police cordoned off the area to traffic. Two blocks up at Broad and Olney, not far from 35th District headquarters, where Pawlowski was stationed, yellow evidence markers littered the ground and atop what appeared to be the Pawlowski’s cruiser.
In the shadow of a SEPTA station and the Philadelphia High School for Girls, dozens of cops stood at the spot where they lost another one of their own last night.
Rhonda Hill, who was standing at 15th and Olney streets, watched the array of flashing police lights and grim-faced detectives.
“A lot of them seemed to be walking around dazed like they couldn’t believe what happened,” said Hill, who like many other residents, streamed out of the surrounding houses when they hear the commotion.
“This is a disgrace that police officers are out here every day risking their lives protecting us, and they have to deal with something like this,” she said. “There’s no respect in this city any more for human life.”
Traffic was snarled for several blocks south and east of the scene last night.
A hearse with Givnish Funeral Home, which has handled the wakes for all five officers killed recently on duty, slowly rode by the scene, most likely on its way to the hospital.
Last June, Pawlowski heroically fought off an armed man on a SEPTA bus near Broad Street and 66th Avenue. Police said at the time that Sorrell Graves, a convicted drug dealer, was carrying a gun on the bus. Pawlowski jumped on board after an exiting passenger tipped him off; Pawlowski pulled the gun out of Graves' waistband, and both men tumbled out of the bus during an ensuing struggle. Another cop helped Pawlowski arrest Graves.
A reporter asked Ramsey last night if the suspect was also a cabbie. "No," Ramsey replied. "The suspect was just a thug."
UPDATE 2/16: "Two months pregnant" corrected to "five months pregnant."