The unidentified suspect, described by witnesses as tall and heavyset, had allegedly stolen a man's backpack, witnesses said.
When confronted by the officer, the suspect immediately pounced on the him, throwing punches and grabbing, for the officer's gun, said Emmanuel Griffin, 64, a cook at the Park Side Breakfast and Lunch, who said he witnessed the shooting.
During the struggle, the officer used his walkie talkie strapped across his shoulder to call for back-up, said a custodian for the shopping center who identified himself only as Rob. He said he witnessed the incident.
The suspect managed to wrestle the officer's baton away, Griffin said.
"He took it from him and started beating him on the cop," Griffin said, estimating that the suspect struck the officer close to six times across his head and upper body.
That's when the officer went for his gun, firing at point black range, Griffin said.
"He had to shoot him - he had to do what he had to do," Rob said. "He was fending for his life."
Despite being struck by bullets multiple times, the assailant kept coming forward, witnesses said.
"He shot him a couple times," Griffin said. "The guy went down, but got back up, still strong enough to be wielding the nightstick at the cop."
Other officers responding to the officer's distress call surrounded the suspect, still on his feet, and got him to lie down in the street, Griffin said.
But still, he kept fighting.
"Police went over to handcuff him and he jumped back up, elbowing and knocking policemen down," Griffin said. "They jumped on him again and got him cuffed and over to the car."
Both the officer and the suspect were rushed to the University of the Hospital of Pennsylvania.
The officer is in stable condition and expected to survive, said Officer Tanya Little, a police spokeswoman.
The suspect was in surgery, police said.
Griffin said he believed the suspect was shot about six times, including in his shoulder, chest, thigh, groin, chest and leg.
"But he didn't stop, he just kept going after the cop," he said.
Crime scene investigators marked ten bullet casings in the street.
As in every police shooting, Internal Affairs officers are also investigating the shooting.
Only the officer under attack fired, police at the scene and witnesses said,
In what police said was an extremly close call, one bullet ricocheted off the windshield of a responding police cruiser, narrowly missing an officer getting out of the vehicle.
Another bullet struck the front steps of the home of Darlene Chapel, who lives down the street and dove for her cover inside her living room when she heard the shots.
Contact staff writer Mike Newall at 215-854-2759 or email@example.com.