Two men who said they witnessed the shooting at 52nd and Market streets, but did not want to give their names, said Major - known as ``Ali'' to customers of his wooden stand under the Market-Frankford El - had his hands up and his back to the officer when the shot was fired.
``I saw his hands in the air and the cop shot him,'' said a man who said he had bought a newspaper moments before the 8:20 a.m. shooting.
``I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe what I saw: Hands up in the air, shot in the back like that.''
Major had run about 20 feet from his newsstand when he saw the officer, said police. The shooting took place between two food trucks.
Major was cursing and pushing the officer's hands away, said the two witnesses.
Inside the rear door of one of the trucks, police found a 9mm handgun with a round in the chamber. Under the truck was a 9mm clip with 11 live rounds. Six more bullets were found in Major's pockets at HUP, police said.
The officer was summoned to the scene by a circulation district manager for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Daily News and the Inquirer.
According to police, the PNI supervisor, William Mobley, 44, told the officer that the newsstand operator had pulled a black handgun out of his waistband and pointed it at Mobley's face during a dispute over billing and day-old newspapers.
Mobley was in the back of the patrol car and did not witness the shooting, said police.
``The altercation became a threatening situation for the district manager, who responded as he should have by calling the police,'' said Charles Fancher, a PNI spokesman.
``At that point, the dispute becomes one between the newsstand operator and the police, which apparently resulted in the shooting of the newsstand operator by the police.''