Philly police lieutenant waited to report friend's drowning in her pool, sources say

Police remove the body of Mark Cummins, 45, from the backyard swimming pool of Philadelphia police Lt. Aisha Perry on the morning of July 6. FRANK KUMMER / STAFF
Police remove the body of Mark Cummins, 45, from the backyard swimming pool of Philadelphia police Lt. Aisha Perry on the morning of July 6. FRANK KUMMER / STAFF
Posted: July 13, 2012

A CALL WENT out over police radio just before 11 at night on July 5 for a report of a prowler in the back yard of a woman's house in Northeast Philadelphia.

When cops arrived at the property, on Winchester Avenue near Narvon Street, they found a man submerged in the murky waters of an algae-infested inground swimming pool.

The man, Mark Cummins, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene by medics, the victim of an apparent accidental drowning, according to police.

But he wasn't a prowler — he was a close friend of the homeowner, Philadelphia police Lt. Aisha Perry.

Investigators don't believe that foul play was involved in Cummins' death, but they're still working the case, puzzling over a few details.

"I don't know why [the radio call]went out as a prowler," said Capt. Jack McGinnis, the commander of Northeast Detectives.

McGinnis said investigators want to review copies of 9-1-1 tapes from that night to see if there's an explanation for the odd description of Cummins, who was at Perry's house for several hours before the accident occurred.

Police sources familiar with the case said Perry made several phone calls before she called 9-1-1.

"We'll look at everything," McGinnis said. "If there were two or three other calls, we'll want anybody that she called to be interviewed."

Sources said Perry objected to providing detectives with home-surveillance footage of the incident. "We got a warrant," McGinnis said, "just to make sure we covered our bases."

Police obtained the footage, which showed Perry and Cummins talking near the pool. Cummins went in for a brief swim, got out, then Perry went inside her house, McGinnis said.

Cummins entered the pool again, but went under water moments later and didn't resurface, McGinnis said.

Perry returned outside about five minutes later, and appeared to call out to Cummins several times as she looked around the yard.

"The pool was dirty, filled with algae. Even in the daytime, you couldn't see into it," McGinnis said.

Perry was shown on tape using a pole to poke into the pool, McGinnis said, but it appeared at first that she didn't find Cummins.

She called 9-1-1 shortly before 11 p.m. It's not clear what time she was searching for Cummins.

McGinnis said investigators are still awaiting toxicology results for Cummins. A vodka bottle was found in the pool.

Relatives of Cummins, of Megargee Street near Loretto Avenue, declined to comment earlier this week.

Perry, 52, could not be reached for comment. She is currently assigned to the Differential Police Response Unit because of an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation into allegations that she stole public utilities, sources said.

"Somebody died, so we have to make sure we do a thorough investigation," McGinnis said. "The person deserves that." n

— Staff writer Morgan Zalot contributed to this report. Contact David Gambacorta at 215-854-5994 or gambacd@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter at @dgambacorta.

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