Derrick Rollins, who police say killed a man in a random attack in Haverford Township last month, continued to elude police Monday, nine days after a shooting that stunned a quiet community and sent investigators scrambling to arrest him.
The killing of John Le, 29, came on the same day Rollins brazenly fired shots on a street in Overbrook Park in broad daylight, Philadelphia police said. Ever since, law enforcement officials have been on the hunt.
"We're continuing to ask the public or anyone who knows his location to contact us or call 911," said Philadelphia Police Sgt. Eric Gripp. "He should be considered armed and dangerous."
Rollins, 24, has crossed paths with police before. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for a 2014 drug conviction. In May of that year, he admitted selling cocaine on a North Philadelphia street corner and was placed on five years' probation. He also forfeited the $294 that police found in his pants pockets.
Two months later, he was arrested on firearms charges after police said they spotted him carrying a gun on an East Germantown street. Bail was set at $300,000, and Rollins spent two years in jail before the charges against him were dismissed. The path to that moment was circuitous. At his first trial in July 2015, the judge dismissed charges that he had carried a gun in public and allowed the case to proceed on a single count of gun possession. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on that charge, and the case ended in a mistrial.
Prosecutors sought to retry the case, but a year later, as Rollins' second trial was scheduled to begin, two key prosecution witnesses — both police officers — did not show up to testify. The judge dismissed the case and took the unusual step of barring prosecutors from refiling the charges without his permission.
The District Attorney's Office initially sought to use Rollins' arrest as a probation violation but abandoned that course after the gun charge was dismissed.
Rollins' trouble with the law traces to his days as a student at Simon Gratz High School. In 2010, when he was 17, court records show, he and three other teens, including his then-16-year-old brother Marquesse, were riding a northbound subway train near the Cecil B. Moore station when they surrounded a 15-year-old boy, threatened him and demanded his cellphone.
Police said Marquesse Rollins had a gun tucked into his waistband and showed it to the victim, who then handed over his phone. The four got off the train at the North Philadelphia station and told the victim to stay on the train. As it turned out, the crime was captured on surveillance video, both on the train and later, in the station, where the four could be seen with the stolen phone. Police took the video to several schools in the area. Officials at Simon Gratz identified the boys as the Rollins brothers and a classmate.
Rollins was adjudicated delinquent on robbery and conspiracy charges. Marquesse Rollins was adjudicated delinquent for robbery with a threat to inflict serious bodily harm. He went on to pistol whip and rob a man at gunpoint on a North Philadelphia street in 2012 and is now in state prison after a robbery and firearms conviction.
Court records show that Rollins lived with his mother in Strawberry Mansion before he was jailed while awaiting trial on the gun charges. He is the father of a child, the records show, and he provides voluntary child support.
Rollins had been out of jail for only eight months when police say he went on a bizarre rampage on July 29. That afternoon, police say, he went on a shooting spree on 77th Street in Overbrook Park. Police say he fired 17 shots at two people who confronted him because they believed he had been acting suspiciously. They managed to flee, unharmed. Rollins then left the city in his 2004 Volvo and sped to Haverford Township, where 45 minutes later, just after 6 p.m., police say, he killed Le.
Le, who lived in nearby Narberth, had just left a pizzeria and was on his way to a friend's apartment in the 2300 block of Haverford Road when he was struck by a bullet to his torso. He collapsed in the doorway of the apartment building. Police said his cellphone was missing.
Surveillance video captured images of a man police identified as Rollins, in jeans and a red hoodie, running in the area of the crime.
Haverford Township Police Chief John Viola said Monday that the working theory of the case was that the shooting began as a robbery. "Maybe he saw this guy carrying a bag and thought he had money," Viola said. "We don't know what happened on that doorstep."
Police said they had searched two addresses believed to be connected to Rollins, and as the search enters its ninth day, investigators are asking anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts to contact police.
A $7,500 reward is being offered for information leading to Rollins' arrest.