Move Cop Dies & Suicide Is Suspected

Posted: May 01, 1989

A veteran Philadelphia stakeout officer who participated in two MOVE confrontations has apparently shot himself to death.

The death of Officer Terrance Mulvihill, 46, stunned his colleagues, who described the 23-year veteran as "fearless" and "the epitome of the quiet professional."

Mulvihill's wife found her husband's body in the master bedroom of a house in Bensalem Township at 12:45 a.m. Saturday, police said. He had been shot once in the mouth and was pronounced dead at the scene by the Bucks County coroner at 1:40 a.m., police said.

It was not known who owned the house. Bensalem authorities declined to give any information about the incident.

Philadelphia police said yesterday Mulvihill's death appeared to be a suicide. The sad conclusion baffled his friends.

"Suicide and Terry Mulvihill don't go together," said Richard Costello, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 and a friend.

"Terry always seemed to be well- adjusted," Costello said. "As far as working with him, he was one of the foremost officers in stakeout.

"When you worked with Terry, you didn't have to worry about your back," Costello said.

"MOVE affected him no more so than anybody else involved," Costello said. ''A few of those guys got psychological disability pension right after the 1985 confrontation. But I would hesitate at this point in time to say his death had anything to do with MOVE."

Police Capt. Richard DeLise, who worked with Mulvihill in the stake-out unit during the 1985 MOVE confrontation, called him "fearless."

"He was a very courageous officer," DeLise said.

Mulvihill had recently transferred from the stakeout unit to the Traffic Divison when his former commander in stakeout, Inspector James McFadden, was promoted to the Traffic Division.

Mulvihill gained notoriety during the Aug. 8, 1978, MOVE confrontation.

He and two other officers were charged with beating MOVE member Delbert Orr Africa immediately after a shootout at the MOVE stronghold in Powelton Village.

During that tense August day, Officer James J. Ramp was killed and 18 others, mostly police and firefighters, were hurt. Orr was convicted of killing Ramp. A Common Pleas judge eventually acquitted Mulvihill and the other officers of the beating charges.

Then during the May 13, 1985, MOVE confrontation, Mulvihill was one of a number of officers whose mission it was to shoot tear gas into MOVE's Osage Avenue compound in an attempt to drive the occupants from the house.

Mulvihill and Officer Lawrence D'Ulisse watched Ramona and Birdie Africa - the only known survivors of the fire - escape from the rear windows of the

flaming fortification and into the back alley.

Neither officer reported hearing any gunfire in the back alley, which conflicted with reports by young Birdie Africa, who said MOVE members were unable to flee the burning house because of police gunfire.

During his 23 years as a police officer, Mulvihill received a number of commendations for bravery, said DeLise.

In January 1974, Mulvihill received the department's highest award for valor when he shot and wounded a man who had opened fire on him and his partner at 21st and Westmoreland streets.

In September 1975, Mulvihill shot a Pittsburgh man to death inside a warehouse that the man had broken into. In November 1982, Mulvihill shot and killed a South Philadelphia teen-ager during a robbery in Center City.

Mulvihill's demeanor on the street was one of reserve and calm, colleagues recalled. Towering, muscular and disciplined, Mulvihill always maintained a quiet presence.

"I guess still waters run deep," DeLise said.

comments powered by Disqus