North Philly shooter had AR-15, to face ‘many charges’ as leaders call for gun control

Elected officials praised police handling of the Wednesday night shooting, and used the occasion to make passionate pleas for increased gun control.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, center right, speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. A gunman, identified as Maurice Hill, wounded six police officers before surrendering early Thursday, after a 7 ½-hour standoff.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, center right, speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. A gunman, identified as Maurice Hill, wounded six police officers before surrendering early Thursday, after a 7 ½-hour standoff.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Maurice Hill could face so many charges that he never leaves jail, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said on Thursday.

Hill is the man in custody for firing off more than 100 rounds in a prolonged standoff with police in North Philly Wednesday night. The episode in the city’s Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood saw six officers shot — but, amazingly, zero fatalities.

“In the face of what could have been a horrific tragedy, the peaceful resolution of the incident marks one of the finest moments in the history of the department,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said at a Thursday afternoon news conference, “and I am proud of every officer who was involved.”

Police cordon off a large area aroung Broad and Erie streets after a gunman opened fire and held police at bay for seven hours. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Speaking from Philly, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf echoed Kenney’s praises. “It was miraculous in the end that only six people were injured from gunfire and all of them are OK,” Wolf said.

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The 36-year-old Hill, who eventually surrendered to police around midnight after being barricaded in a rowhouse for seven hours, has not been formally charged, Krasner said. But he will face multiples counts, likely including attempted murder, aggravated assault and firearms offenses, Krasner said, as well as the possibility of drug and conspiracy charges.

A warrant for Hill connected to a state investigation into unspecified drugs was the start of the incident, Krasner confirmed.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross indicated the main weapon Hill fired repeatedly at the police was an AR-15. Ross confirmed that Hill also had a handgun — which was in Hill’s pocket when he walked out of the house and surrendered.

Passionate pleas for gun control

Alongside Wolf and Kenney in Philadelphia on Thursday were a slew of other elected officials, and each used the occasion to make passionate calls for passing gun control legislation.

Every leader in the room — Kenney, Wolf, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, City Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilmember Cindy Bass, state Sen. Sharif Street and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta — noted that bills meant to stop gun battles like the one that happened on Wednesday were already pending in various legislatures.

“This is not Afghanistan. This is not Iraq,” Clarke said.

The local investigation into how many weapons Hill had, and what drugs he may or may not have stored at the house is ongoing, per Ross, who called the crime scene “fluid.” Tear gas was used to end the conflict, so police are “still unable to gain access because when you use tear gas, it lingers,” Ross said.

Hill is a married father of two children, including a baby girl born Monday this week, his attorney told 6ABC. Holding a 12-page summary of various charges brought against Hill, Krasner said he has a criminal record going back to the early 2000s for burglary, DUI, firearm and other offenses.

Heavily armed police officers stand by at 15th and Erie while negotiators persuade a gunman to surrender. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“It is clear he should not have been on the streets,” Krasner said.

The standoff with police began around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when narcotics officers arrived at a rowhome in the Nicetown neighborhood of North Philadelphia to serve the warrant.

Hill allegedly began firing, shooting multiple rounds from inside the house. Two police officers and three civilians became trapped inside with the shooter, according to officials. Across the street from the scene, a daycare was on lockdown with more than 50 children inside.

Dozens of officers on the scene worked throughout the afternoon and evening to get Hill to surrender, sustaining injuries as they did so. As crowds gathered, police repeatedly reminded people to stay back for safety. News helicopters hovered overhead and began broadcasting, prompting police to plead with media to avoid releasing tactical information.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, three remaining prisoners and two officers still inside the home were freed.

Police blockade 15th Street a block from Erie Avenue, while negotiators persuade a gunman to surrender. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Heroes on the scene

Police Commissioner Ross singled out the cops stuck in the house with the shooter, calling them “heroes.” They were trapped before a SWAT team arrived, he said.

“The natural inclination is to say, ‘Come in and get me.’ They did the opposite,” Ross said on Thursday. “They were were brave enough and astute enough and wise enough to say ‘Do not come in here.’”

Just after midnight, Philly Police were able to get Hill out of the house using teargas. During a Thursday morning press briefing, Ross said they were able to communicate with Hill why he should surrender through phone calls. It was Ross’s first negotiation as commissioner.

“People [were] just trying to appeal to him about why he even had a reason to live … talking about his daughter significantly … there was a newborn,” Ross said. “It was the tear gas that ultimately brought him outside.”

DA Krasner was also involved in the phone calls with Hill, he said. Krasner stressed that he did not want credit for resolving the situation. “I don’t take any credit for this,” Krasner said. “I truly believe it was just brilliant policing and perhaps a bit of a miracle.”

U.S. Attorney General William McSwain issued a statement pinning blame for Wednesday’s mass shooting squarely in the lap of Krasner, his political nemesis.

McSwain noted the suspect’s rap sheet with numerous gun offenses, and claimed the city’s top prosecutor had downgraded gun offenses in favor of diversionary programs, accusing Krasner of “lawlessness.”

But Hill had spent years before Krasner took office slipping in and out of the justice system. He faced at least six convictions since 2001, court records show, serving time in both state and federal prison.

A federal judge sentenced him to a four-and-a-half-year prison term — his longest in an 18-year criminal career — for a firearms violation in 2008.

District Attorney Seth Williams oversaw a plea deal with Hill in 2011 over attempted murder charges, reducing his sentence to a maximum of three years for aggravated assault.

“No one should have access to the kind of weaponry and fire power that we saw in the North Philadelphia incident,” Mayor Kenney said. “If we fail to act, we will continue to see gun violence ravage our communities and tear families apart. So I say to our state and federal lawmakers: step up — or step aside.”

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