A man who apparently mistakenly thought his home was being broken into opened fire on police as they sought to serve an arrest warrant for his grandson, critically wounding one officer before he was killed by return fire, the police commissioner said.
“This is an all-out, absolute tragedy all the way around,” Commissioner Richard Ross told reporters Monday afternoon.
Police SWAT team members went to the home early Monday in search of the couple’s 20-year-old grandson on a weapons violation warrant but the homeowner apparently didn’t hear them announce that they were police officers and told his wife to flee out the rear of the home, he said.
“And he went about the business of protecting his home, not knowing that it was the police at the door that he was firing upon,” Ross said.
The man then fired on police, striking 49-year-old Officer Jaison Potts, who suffered a broken jaw and may have artery damage along with other injuries. Ross said Potts walked into the hospital and was expected to survive, but was under heavy sedation because of his injuries and was scheduled for surgery Tuesday.
Officers returned fire, and the man, 59, was later pronounced dead of his injuries. His name wasn’t immediately released. The woman, 67, was hit in the abdomen by what police believe was shotgun pellet and also sustained back injuries while running out of the rear of the home. She was in stable condition. The grandson being sought later turned himself in.
Ross said the man may not have heard police announce their presence due to a television set being on. He said police made the announcement more than once and neighbors reported hearing them do so.
“It is important to note that we did not fire until we were fired upon, but sadly it doesn’t change the circumstances that … all accounts, this is just tragedy,” Ross said.
Asked whether the situation could have been avoided, Ross said “I don’t see how.” He said SWAT serves about 300 such “high-risk” warrants each year without incident, and the last time SWAT members even fired their weapons was in 2015. In each of the three previous incidents, officers were shot while making entry, he said.
Potts is a 20-year veteran of the force. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the married father of three was due to start a vacation on Monday. The woman injured, Ross said, is actually the mother-in law of one of the department’s own officers.