Alleged copper-wire thief dies after struggle with SEPTA police

    Philadelphia police are investigating the death of a man who died Friday night following a struggle with SEPTA police at a Germantown rail yard.

    At 7:52 p.m., two SEPTA police officers responded to a report of a copper theft in progress at Wayne Electric Shops on the 1800 block of Windrim Avenue, according to SEPTA officials.

    There, the officers — whose names are not being released — found a man attempting to roll away a large spool of copper wire. The suspect attempted to elude the pair, but was arrested.

    During the chase, the man slipped down a hill inside the yard. He was also sprayed with pepper spray.

    SEPTA police took the man to Albert Einstein Medical Center. SEPTA officials could not confirm media reports that the man complained of strained breathing while en route to the hospital.

    He was pronounced dead at 9 p.m. Friday. The Medical Examiner’s Office has not released a cause of death. Police confirmed that homicide investigators are looking into the incident, but wouldn’t release the man’s name. A Fox29 report identified him as 48-year-old Willie McCray.

    The transit agency has launched an internal investigation of the incident. The two officers were reassigned to desk duty in the radio room pending the outcome of the investigation.

    SEPTA officials said using pepper spray is standard practice during police pursuits.

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