Delco cops shoot man who 'used his car as a weapon'

Police investigate the crime scene on Garrett Road in Drexel Hill on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, after officers fatally shot Joseph Pacini (pictured).

"I'M JUST GOING to the gym to work out . . . hopefully there won't be any problems."

Joseph Pacini recorded that statement in a YouTube video railing against police in Delaware County.

About 30 minutes after the video was posted online yesterday, Pacini, 52, of Clifton Heights, died in a hail of gunfire at a Drexel Hill intersection after he allegedly tried to mow down a cop with his Nissan sedan, officials said.

The deadly shooting was preceded by a pursuit through Delaware County, after law-enforcement officials from Haverford Township and Clifton Heights tried to arrest Pacini on a warrant for terroristic threats and related offenses, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said last night.

"He was making threats on YouTube to kill cops and FBI agents," Chitwood said. "This individual had a history of mental-health issues."

Those videos are filled with bizarre ramblings, accusations and religious imagery: Pacini, amid references to his "twin flame soul mate," insists that the FBI and CIA are watching his every move, thinking he's a hit man for the mob in South Philly.

At one point, he plays a recorded voice mail from Haverford Township Police Detective Matt Hufnal inquiring about "a report made at the LA Fitness in Havertown."

In a video posted Monday afternoon, Pacini issues an ultimatum.

"Clearly these guys want me dead or in prison, and there's no way in hell that I'm going back to prison, no f---ing way," Pacini says.

"You're gonna try to bring me down? I will f---ing kill you and your whole f---ing family."

A second video posted Monday features an even-more-incensed Pacini ranting about what will happen if police try to arrest him.

"I will immediately take out anyone who attempts this [arrest] on the spot," he says. "That means you'll have to kill me on the spot."

That warning became eerily prophetic about 4:15 p.m. yesterday at Garrett Road and Shadeland Avenue in Drexel Hill.

When police - including a SWAT team unit - tried to serve that aforementioned warrant on Pacini, he fled his apartment in Clifton Heights, Chitwood said.

The officers gave chase, eventually calling for backup from Upper Darby Police.

With that extra support, the officers were able to pull Pacini over on Garrett Road, "boxing him in" the driveway of a Bank of America branch, Chitwood said.

After Clifton Heights Police Chief Timothy Rockenbach approached Pacini's Nissan and told him he was under arrest, all hell broke loose.

Pacini sped backward, using "his car as a weapon" and slamming into Rockenbach's cruiser, nearly hitting him, Chitwood said.

In response, five of the responding officers - two from Upper Darby, one from Haverford Township and two from Clifton Heights - opened fire.

Pacini was hit several times in the head as he sat in the car, and was pronounced dead at the scene, Chitwood said.

It was unclear last night if Pacini was armed during the incident, Chitwood said.

As the smoke cleared, George Wilkie was sitting a few yards away inside Marathon Pizza.

"It sounded like fireworks to us," the pizza-delivery driver said. "Then we saw the cop cars coming and knew something was wrong."

Wilkie said the "excitement" of the evening is rare for that section of Drexel Hill.

"We're not used to that around here," he said.

Chitwood said that the officers involved were "lucky to escape injury," and promised that a thorough review of the shooting would be conducted.

He also noted that this wasn't Pacini's first brush with law enforcement: Court records show that Pacini was arrested in Philly in 2005 and charged with reckless endangerment, simple assault, unlawful restraint and related offenses.

Those charges later were withdrawn.

Later, in 2009, he pleaded guilty to a disorderly-conduct charge in the city. That charge was dismissed a few months later on appeal.

Last night, after crews had removed Pacini's body and reopened the intersection, neighbors at his apartment complex were stunned to hear the news.

One woman, who spoke with the Daily News on the condition of anonymity, said that Pacini had moved into his mother's apartment in the complex about a year ago.

She characterized him as a shut-in, a loner. In the 12 months he lived there, she never saw him, she said. She only knew he was staying a few doors down through his mother, a longtime friend.

Now, as police continue to piece together what happened, the best window into Pacini are the electronic screeds he left behind, which are now even more troubling.

"Get me out of here, because I'm going to be dead or in prison within the next 12 hours, 24 tops," Pacini says in a video directed at a woman he claims is his soul mate.

It was uploaded just before 6 p.m. Monday.

 


On Twitter: @Vellastrations