Officer dies; police press manhunt

New details emerge about final moments before shooting. FBI joins hunt for killer. Reward raised to $115,000.

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Heather Derussy (left) of the Guardian Angels speaks at the candle light vigil held in the parking lot of the Duncan Donuts where Officer Cassidy was shot.

The first full day in the hunt for Police Officer Chuck Cassidy's killer ended with officials posting a larger reward for the tattooed assailant, federal agents joining the search, and new details emerging about the last moments before the officer was shot.

With no strong suspects in custody, officials boosted the reward from $50,000 to $115,000 and distributed photographs of a distinctive gray hooded sweatshirt with striped sleeves recovered from a September robbery they suspect was committed by the same man.

All day yesterday and into the night, members of the police SWAT unit and homicide detectives canvassed the West Oak Lane neighborhood for potential witnesses in the shooting of Cassidy, who was gunned down Wednesday morning as he walked in on a robbery inside the Dunkin' Donuts at 6620 N. Broad St.

As helicopters hovered overhead, investigators searched storm drains, rooftops and alleys for evidence the killer may have discarded. Police said they searched at least one house and recovered fingerprints.

Police questioned scores of people who matched the assailant's description - a heavy-set black man, with a distinctive gait and a spider tattooed on his left hand. The aggressive police activity stirred murmurings of discontent in a neighborhood where more common slayings receive scant attention by comparison.

Police sent a surveillance video of the killing to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., for enhancement. They hope an artist can develop a sketch of the suspect from the video.

Officer Cassidy, 54, a married father of three, died at 9:40 a.m. yesterday at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Hundreds of officers lined up at his bedside to pay respects.

Detectives said yesterday that Cassidy, a respected 25-year veteran, walked into the doughnut shop after a witness told him "something" was happening inside. The gunman, alerted to the officer by a bell on the shop's door, turned to see Cassidy with his gun drawn. The killer took two steps toward Cassidy before firing one shot into his head from about five feet away.

Investigators questioned dozens of men they found on the street or in police databases whose descriptions matched the killer's. Those who had a tattoo of a spider on their left hand similar to the suspect's were likely to receive a visit from a team of investigators.

Word quickly spread that police were patting down those men who matched the description of the shooter, who was said to have worn a black hooded sweatshirt, khaki pants, and tan boots.

"We're not allowed to wear hoodies around here any more," said John Sanders, 33, who was among a group of men at 20th Street and 68th Avenue who watched police descend on a residence and then go away, apparently empty-handed. "The cops tell you anybody wearing one is subject to be stopped."

"It's like Vietnam around here, with all these helicopters and guns," said a man standing near Sanders.

The increase in the reward was announced at an afternoon news conference.

"This is the kind of crime that makes you sick to your stomach," said John C. Apeldorn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of Delaware Valley, which will administer the reward. "Somebody guns down one of our officers and has the audacity to go back and take equipment. There's nothing that is worse than that.

"Anybody out there that knows anything, there's money out there," Apeldorn added.

The Rev. Kevin J. Moley, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church at Fifth Street and Girard Avenue, was at the officer's bedside yesterday.

"If you go into the room, you'll see officers, and they know this was a comrade, this was a friend," he said. "It's absolutely senseless and painful, and there's no way you don't cry about this."

Mayor Street ordered flags at city buildings to be lowered to half-staff.

Street scheduled an interdenominational prayer service for 10 a.m. today in the Mayor's Reception Room in City Hall. Last night, dozens - civilians and uniformed officers - gathered outside the Dunkin' Donuts in a vigil for the fallen officer.

"This tragedy calls into question the direction that we are headed in as a society," the mayor said at a brief news conference earlier yesterday at Police Headquarters. It "will take many, many years to overcome."

Said Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson: "It's a sad day for the Police Department, it's a sad day for the citizens of Philadelphia, and it's time to have remorse and sorrow for the family and give them the proper respect that they deserve.

"This is not a time for political statements. This is not a time for anything other than sorrow, condolences for the family of the deceased," Johnson said.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, who visited the wounded officer at the hospital on the day of the shooting, offered his condolences.

"I hope and pray for an end to the senseless violence plaguing the city of Philadelphia," the cardinal said. "The lack of regard for human life plays out tragically on city streets each day. I urge all people of good will to join me in working for an end to violence."

Cassidy was a devout Catholic who attended St. Jerome Church in the Northeast. Services were pending.

In a statement delivered by the hospital, the family said: "Obviously, we are in mourning. We are deeply appreciative of all the support and prayers from the police, the clergy, the community and many folks we don't even know."

The doughnut shop remained closed yesterday, the pavement stained where the officer fell.

Detectives said that the gunman entered the Dunkin' Donuts about 10:30 a.m., pulled out a gun, and forced his way to the counter.

Cassidy arrived moments later as part of his regular rounds - the shop had been held up before. After getting out of his vehicle, a woman told him, "Something is going on in there," according to investigators.

Detectives who viewed the surveillance video said Cassidy, his gun drawn, entered the shop while the robber's back was turned toward him. As the robber moved toward the officer, he appeared to lean to the side to avoid the gun's aim.

In the video, the assailant can be seen stooping to pick up Cassidy's sidearm before running away. He had an uneven gait.

Police believe the gunman may have been involved in at least four previous robberies, including a Sept. 18 strike at the same doughnut shop. Yesterday, police displayed a hooded gray sweatshirt that they said was discarded by the man who committed the Sept. 18 robbery. The sweatshirt has a depiction of a basketball cartoon and the words Paco Jeans. There are yellow and black stripes on the sleeves. Police hope the sweatshirt will help lead to the suspect.

Residents of the neighborhood were fearful yesterday.

Kenya Thompson, 30, a mother of five who lives around the corner from the shop, said she would not let her children play outside, even in her front yard. The night before, there was no trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.

"It was crazy yesterday. My older daughter, who is 8, understands," she said. "I walked her this morning to school, just to be safe."

Anwar Kane, an employee at a used-car lot next to the doughnut shop, said his business was closed for five hours Wednesday. He said he heard the gunshot.

"It's a shame, in this day and age, that people go to that extreme to survive," he said of the robbery and killing. "Here's a man desperate enough that he'll shoot a cop. He'll shoot anyone."

Some residents expressed resentment of the intense police presence in West Oak Lane.

"It's harassment," said Ken Smith, 42, who was cruising the neighborhood on a scooter. "No way they can stop everybody. [The killer] is not around here anymore. I think they're just wasting taxpayer's money flying around here and breaking into people's houses."

Audrey Brooks, 47, a resident of 16th Street, was among those who were struck by the resources devoted to searching for the killer of a police officer, compared with the hunt for a more common homicide.

"At least I feel safe for a change with so many police officers," she said, as two patrol cars flew by with their lights flashing. "They stopped some boy right out here and patted him down."

Cassidy, the third Philadelphia police officer to be shot this week, was universally lauded for his decency and gentleness.

"He was a gentle giant," said Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax. "He was so tall in stature and so low-key and mannerly. I know he always remembered my first name when we'd pass in the halls, even five to 10 years after we prosecuted together."

In October 1995, Sax and Cassidy worked together on the trial of a cocaine user. It was during a police-corruption scandal involving some 39th Police District officers. Cassidy, then assigned to the 39th, found himself and his partner the targets of a defense theory that they had planted drugs on the defendant.

Cassidy was not angry about the attack on his integrity, Sax recalled.

"Chuck always had a professional demeanor," Sax said. "I remember that he was not flustered or angry."

The defense tactic failed, and the defendant was convicted.


Cassidy Fund

Members of the Police Department's 35th District have established a trust fund for the family of Officer Chuck Cassidy, killed Wednesday in the line of duty.

Contributions can be made in several ways:

By mailing a check payable to the Charles Cassidy Family Memorial Trust Fund, 901 Arch St., Philadelphia 19107

Donations can be taken to the 35th Police District, 5960 N. Broad St., Philadelphia

Donations may be taken to any of the following Police and Fire Federal Credit Union branches: 901 Arch St., 7604 City Ave., 8500 Henry Ave., 3338 S. Broad St., Leo Mall at Byberry and Bustleton Avenues, 7500 Castor Ave., and 3330 Grant Ave.


Reward Posted

A $115,000 reward has been established for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the man who killed Officer Chuck Cassidy. Police ask that people with information on the gunman call the Homicide Division at 215-686-3335. They can also call the Citizens Crime Commission of Delaware Valley at 215-546-8477.


Contact staff writer Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947 or amaykuth@phillynews.com.

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Gene D'Alessandro, Jennifer Lin, Dwight Ott, Lita Prout, Joseph A. Slobodzian and Susan Snyder.