Alleged gunman in North Philly standoff to stand trial on more charges

Policer officers watch as a gunman is apprehended following a standoff Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Policer officers watch as a gunman is apprehended following a standoff Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

From the top of an armored car, Officer Joseph Cooney says he tried to put an end to the seven-hour standoff that shook a residential North Philadelphia block and sent six fellow police officers to the hospital with bullet wounds last August.

Midnight wasn’t far away.

“This is the Philadelphia Police Department. Put down your gun. Come out with your hands up,” Cooney said repeatedly into the vehicle’s public address system.

Twenty minutes passed.

“Maurice. This is the police department. Put down your gun. Come out with your hands up.”

Cooney said he never got a verbal response, just more gunfire.

Eventually, police pumped tear gas into the rowhouse to get the alleged gunman to come out.

Maurice Hill emerged from the house just after midnight. Cooney helped take him into custody.

Details of the final moments of last August’s shootout came to light Thursday during the third part of Hill’s preliminary hearing, which began in December and continued in March, on dozens of charges stemming from the incident.

After more than three hours of virtual testimony almost one year to the day of the standoff, the 37-year-old is now scheduled to stand trial on even more criminal charges, including additional counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons was set to hear 24 cases during the hearing, and tossed seven due to lack of evidence. Prosecutors said the officers tied to the related charges were unavailable to testify.

Hill’s arraignment on this latest batch of offenses is scheduled for Aug. 27. He is being held on more than $5 million bail.

Hill’s attorney, Edward C. Meehan Jr., was not immediately available for comment.

The majority of Thursday’s testimony came from police officers who took fire on the block, but were not shot during the standoff, which stemmed from an attempt by narcotics officers to serve a search warrant on the 3700 block of North 15th Street.

Bullets were already flying when Sgt. Edward McLaughlin arrived on scene on Aug. 14, 2019, he said. As he took cover behind a pickup truck, one bullet struck a ladder rack sitting six inches above him.

“It sounded like a piece of metal hitting metal and I felt something breeze by me,” said McLaughlin. “I thought I was shot. Everyone thought I was shot.”

He fell to the ground.

McLaughlin wasn’t hit, but seconds later, an officer who came to his aid was shot in the hand.

Then another officer was struck.

The shooting continued.

“I looked around and I could see the faces of all the officers there. It was just the face of fear,” said McLaughlin.

At one point, there was so much gunsmoke coming out of the rowhouse, it looked like the property was on fire, he said.

The sergeant never laid eyes on the gunman, only a shadow emanating from just inside the doorway.

McLaughlin crawled, then ran to safety, injuring his left shoulder along the way. He was sidelined for two months.

“It was just overwhelming. It wouldn’t stop,” said McLaughlin.

Officer Joseph Simpson started in an alleyway in the back of the house, where 10 cops were “pinned down,” doing their best to protect themselves from being shot.

He later took cover behind a set of steps by a vacant lot near Sydenham Street, then a police vehicle parked a couple doors down from the gunfire.

Bullets flew in his direction.

“I saw glass breaking, rounds coming through the police car doors. I remember there was a wall behind me. I could see concrete flying up from the wall,” said Simpson.

It was dark out when he left the block.

Later, as he slipped out of his uniform at home, shards of glass fell to the floor from his shirt and vest.

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