TO SOME FOLKS, John Pawlowski was always just “Johnny Boy” — the tall, handsome, quick-witted Northeast Philadelphia guy who had law enforcement in his blood.
His friends said he always flashed his trademark smile, even as the years wore on and he grew from a wiry kid who chased his brothers on Parkwood Manor ballfields into a husband, expectant father and veteran Philadelphia police officer.
Now, Pawlowski is simply another fallen hero whose promise was snuffed out far too early by a heartless criminal.
More than 1,000 of Pawlowski’s friends, loved ones and fellow cops crammed into St. Anselm Church in Northeast Philadelphia last night to pay tribute to Pawlowski, who was gunned down Friday night in Logan.
Scores of people spilled out onto the church’s front steps and side hallways, desperate to share their grief and make sense of the latest tragedy to haunt the Philadelphia Police Department.
Pawlowski, 25, was the seventh cop to be killed in the line of duty since 2006.
“It’s a real tragedy,” said Rob Raby, a longtime friend who drove past King of Prussia Friday night to pick up one of Pawlowski’s brothers and ride him back to the city.
“He was a good kid. They had a tight-knit family. This hurts all of us,” Raby said.
Pawlowski, whose father, John Sr., is a retired police lieutenant, and whose brother, Robert, is a corporal who works in the police radio room, joined the force at age 19.
He first went to the 6th District, at 11th and Winter streets, where he worked with Capt. Brian Korn. “He was a quiet, unassuming guy. He didn’t let his hair down too much, but he had a great sense of humor and made his friends crack up,” Korn said.
Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Walton worked the overnight shift in the 6th District when Pawlowski arrived. “He became my special project,” Walton said. “He was a good kid, but I had to enforce on him the responsibilities of the job and the fact that there were dangers to it.”
Pawlowski was still given to youthful flights of fancy. “Sometimes his uniform would be askew, or his face wouldn’t be totally shaved,” Walton said. And when the Eagles reached the Super Bowl, Pawlowski and several pals drove down to Jacksonville, Fla., to try and sneak into the big game. They forgot to tell Walton.
“He was supposed to be working that night,” Walton chuckled. “But he looked at me with those big puppy dog eyes and I thought, what could I do?”
Slowly but surely, he grew into a solid cop, Korn said.
Last year, he asked to be transferred to the 35th District, at Broad Street and Champlost Avenue, the same district where Officer Chuck Cassidy was gunned down on Oct. 31, 2007.
Pawlowski wanted to be with his “best friend” Officer Mark Klein, said Capt. John McCloskey, the commander of the 35th. Klein was with Pawlowski Friday night when, police said, Rasheed Scruggs opened fire at Broad and Olney.
Pawlowski’s murder is equally shattering to his family, who were among the mourners — including Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Mayor Nutter — at St. Anselm last night.
Robert Pawlowski read a short statement after the mass let out, asking city residents to pray for the family, particularly for John’s wife, Kim, and their unborn child. Pawlowski’s wife is five months pregnant.
“It was helpful to have this service tonight,” said Nutter, who noted that the past year has been hard on the city and the Police Department.
Marge Raby, another family friend, noted how close the Pawlowski family was — particularly having suffered through the loss of John’s mother, Renee, to illness many years ago. John and his older brothers, Robert, Christopher and Vincent, banded together to watch out for their younger sister, Lauren.
"The highest compliment I can give ‘Johnny Boy’ is to say he was a good cop,” said Walton. “The last time I saw him, I asked him if he was behaving himself. He said, ‘Yeah sarge. You would be proud of me.’ And you know what? We are.”
A viewing will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the John F. Givnish Funeral Home, 10975 Academy Road.
Services will be Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul, 18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway.