Sambor silent on events of MOVE

Posted: May 12, 2010

The 1985 police action at 6221 Osage Ave. began at sunrise with Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor, then 57, flat on his stomach in a house across the street, a bullhorn in his hand.

"Attention, MOVE, this is America," Sambor called out. "You have to abide by the laws of the United States."

By the end of that long, deadly day, the plan to restore peace and quiet to the West Philadelphia block had ended in tragedy.

In testimony before the MOVE Commission in October 1985, Sambor took full responsibility for the police operation.

"The use of the [explosive] device itself gives me the least pause," Sambor said. "It was selected as a conservative and safe approach to what I perceived as a tactical necessity. I was assured that the device would not harm the occupants. What has imprinted that device on the mind of this city is, in fact, the method of delivery. If it had been carried or thrown into position, or if it had been dropped from a crane, the perception of that action would be quite different.. . ."

He went on, "The entire operation of gas, water and smoke was predicated on the safety of all of the occupants of the house, not just the children."

Sambor, a 35-year veteran of the police force, had been appointed commissioner just one year earlier. He announced his retirement the month after he testified.

Now 82, he lives with his wife, Mary, in Drexel Hill, about four miles due west of the scarred Osage Avenue block. Over the years he has turned down all requests for interviews, including recently, when his wife said, "It's not possible, not possible."

The Sambors suffered a loss of their own in 2000: Their son Nicholas, 40, was slain in a robbery attempt outside his home in the Overbrook section of the city.

   - Connie Langland

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