Accounts differ on fatal shooting by officer

Part of a memorial for William Panas, 21, who was shot and killed by an off-duty officer on Nov. 21, 2009, in Port Rickmond.
Part of a memorial for William Panas, 21, who was shot and killed by an off-duty officer on Nov. 21, 2009, in Port Rickmond. (Peter Mucha)
Posted: November 23, 2009

Last night, family and friends of William Panas filled a Port Richmond street to remember the 21-year-old, who was fatally shot Saturday night by an off-duty officer.

Some of those gathered also disagreed with parts of the version of events given by the police, according to reports.

"He killed my boy – blew his heart right out of his chest," the young man's father, also named William, told Fox29. ". . . We just want justice for this guy, to have his badge taken off of him and be tried for murder."

The officer, identified as Frank Tepper by 6ABC, brought out his gun around 11 p.m. after fighting broke out in a large crowd in the 2600 block of Elkhart Street, both sides seem to agree. Records show Tepper lives on the block.

The younger Panas was shot in the chest and was taken Temple University Hospital, where he died at 11:33 p.m., according to police.

The officer, trying to break up the fight, identified himself as a police officer, and fired his weapon a single time after being physically pushed and attacked by several males, according to police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore.

The fight had already started, and Panas and some friends were just walking by, when one of them got punched, prompting them to join the fracas, friends told 6ABC.

Panas fell to the ground fighting with a son of the officer, who lives on the street, but they were getting up before the officer drew his gun, one of the friends told Fox29.

The officer identified himself but didn't show a badge, friends told Fox29.

One friend, Troy Tortis, told 6ABC that the officer started "pointing the gun at everybody."

"He put it to my chest and my face. He put it to another kid's face," Tortis said.

"Everybody ran except my son," the senior Panas told 6ABC. "My son said, 'You ain't going to shoot me.' He said, 'Oh, no?' Boom."

The Homicide Unit, Internal Affairs and the District Attorney's Office are investigating, Vanore said.

The off-duty officer, who was not identified by police, had been assigned to the Civil Affairs Unit, which polices such things as demonstrations and labor disputes, he said. The officer has been placed on modified duty while the investigation is under way.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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