Philadelphia police officer testifies about partner John Pawlowski's killing

Rasheed Scrugs pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Officer John Pawlowski at Broad and Olney.
Rasheed Scrugs pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Officer John Pawlowski at Broad and Olney.
Posted: October 23, 2010

In a space of seconds, the voice on the police radio screamed into hoarseness: "Assist Broad and Olney! Assist Broad and Olney! He's down! He's down!"

On the witness stand Friday, Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Klein, 26, listened to the tape, face flushing, jaw clenched, as his desperate call hung in the silence of the courtroom.

It was about 8:25 p.m., Feb. 13, 2009. Klein was radioing for help for John Pawlowski, his partner of a year and friend since high school, shot and killed in a brief standoff with a man at Broad Street and Olney Avenue.

Klein's testimony brought to a solemn close the second day of testimony in the death-penalty hearing for Rasheed Scrugs, 35, the West Philadelphia paroled robber who has admitted killing Pawlowski.

Scrugs pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder on what was to have been the first day of his trial in the shooting of Pawlowski, 25. A recently married expectant father, the officer had been on the force just five years.

With his plea, Scrugs focused the proceeding on the jury's choice of sentence: death by lethal injection or life in prison without parole.

Klein, a boyish redhead who said he joined the force because of his friend, told the Common Pleas Court jury that he and Pawlowski were on patrol on their 6 p.m.-to-2 a.m. shift when a call came in about a man with a knife at Broad and Olney.

They were 10 blocks away.

"Mobile 35 on," said Pawlowski, the driver, responding to the call.

As they arrived, Klein said, Pawlowski pulled over near a shuttered newsstand on the northeast corner of the intersection, where freelance cabbie Emmanuel Cesar was waving at them.

Cesar told them a man in a brown coat - Scrugs - standing about 15 feet away, in front of the SEPTA transit station, had roughed him up and was giving him "a hard way to go," Klein said.

The partners got out of the car and moved to the sidewalk, Klein said. They both ordered Scrugs, his hands stuffed in his coat pockets, to show his hands.

Instead, Klein said, Scrugs backed away. Muzzle flashes erupted through his coat pocket.

Deputy District Attorney Edward McCann asked Klein what happened to his partner.

"I could tell John got hit," Klein said. "He tensed up and then collapsed. I heard him screaming."

Klein said he ducked down to pull Pawlowski to safety as Scrugs walked by to cross to the west side of Broad Street, firing the remaining three shots in his .357-caliber revolver.

As Scrugs reached the median island, Klein fired 10 shots from his pistol and watched as Scrugs fell, wounded, to the concrete.

By then, fellow Officer Stephen Mancuso had arrived, and he helped Klein pull Pawlowski into the squad car to go to nearby Albert Einstein Medical Center.

"He wasn't good," Klein said. "It was pretty much pulling deadweight."

Klein drove with Mancuso and his partner in the backseat, leaving behind on the street Pawlowski's handheld radio and handcuffs and broken auto glass and a red ribbon they had tied to the antenna of their squad car.

When the officers arrived at Einstein, emergency room crews took over and moved the mortally wounded officer inside.

"After that, I pretty much sat on the curb and cried," Klein said.

His testimony riveted the courtroom.

Kimmy Pawlowski, the officer's widow and mother of their now 17-month-old son, John III, wept quietly. Her father, Edward Leigh, his face a red mask of anguish, leaned from behind and rubbed her back.

To her right, John L. Pawlowski, 59, the officer's father and namesake and a retired police lieutenant, sat hunched with his hands clasped between his knees, rocking back and forth and fighting tears.

On the other side of the courtroom, Scrugs' mother and family sat, grimly facing front. A few feet in front of them, Scrugs hunched over the defense table.

The jury, which resumes work Monday at the Criminal Justice Center, also heard from Cesar, the cabbie, and Luke Cooper, a bystander who was waiting on Broad Street for his bus.

Cooper corroborated Cesar's testimony about what Scrugs said as the cabbie walked away to call police: "You better not be calling the cops. If you call the cops, I'll shoot you and the cops."


Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.


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