“It’s a bizarre case,” Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I hope I never see anything like this again ... We’re just thankful more people were not seriously hurt.”
Ross said the couple, who are engaged and have a 7-month-old daughter, was reported missing by a grandmother who had not seen them for several days. Police are looking into reports of drug use, which Ross said were “clearly not hard to believe, given the circumstances.”
“We have every reason to believe drugs were involved,” he said.
Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson said the couple had been spotted Sunday in a Camden neighborhood that is known for drug activity, and that when police tried to question them, they drove away and managed to evade the officer. They are also suspected of attempting to carjack a woman near 3rd and Market streets in Camden Tuesday morning, shortly before they stole the cruiser.
The chaos erupted just before 10 a.m. in Camden when an officer identified as 49-year-old Sekou Reid-Bey, a 16-year veteran of the department, pulled over a Jeep for a violation near Haddon and Federal streets, near police headquarters. As Reid-Bey spoke to the motorist, Bills and Sykes got into his cruiser and drove it straight into him before speeding off, according to the Camden County prosecutor’s office.
Reid-Bey was thrown in the air from the impact and his leg was fractured, Thomson said. He was in stable condition and being treated at Cooper University Hospital in Camden Tuesday.
Bills and Sykes had no connection to the car stop, the prosecutor’s office said, and they were not even interacting with police before stealing the car.
The couple sped east on Admiral Wilson Boulevard, reaching more than 100 miles per hour at times, Thomson said, before turning around and driving over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
“It shows the complete recklessness and abandon of any consideration for the general public,” he said.
As helicopters from television news stations followed overhead, New Jersey State Police joined the chase, then Philadelphia police, until the couple crashed the car at the corner of 7th and Norris Streets in North Philadelphia.
As police were arresting Bills, the driver, Sykes managed to climb into a second cruiser and take off with it, Ross said. Officers are generally supposed to take the keys out of the ignition of their cruisers when they stop, Ross said, but the officers were on high alert due to the report of an officer down in New Jersey, and their focus was on apprehending Bills as quickly and safely as possible.
“It was an extremely volatile situation,” Ross said. “Who would think that the female is going to get out of her car and get in the police cruiser?”
Sykes took police on another chase through the streets of Philadelphia, Ross said, hitting three cars and a truck, and nearly striking a pedestrian who had to dive out of the way of the cruiser.
The car stopped on the 1100 block of Hope Street, just before 10:30 a.m., leaking fluid, Ross said, and she was arrested.
Police are interviewing the couple and will conduct toxicology tests, Ross said.
Bills has an open criminal case stemming from an August 2012 burglary arrest in Macungie Borough, Lehigh County, records show, and Sykes has been arrested twice since 2007 for driving under the influence in Lehigh County.
Bills also has ties to New Jersey. He graduated from Kingsway Regional High School in Gloucester County, and their daughter was born at Cooper Hospital in July. Bills’ and Sykes’ online profiles include numerous musings on their lives as new parents. In December, Sykes posted to Twitter: “Once you have a baby you pretty much immediately get used to insomnia however now it's called ‘life.’” And in November 2011, Bills tweeted, “Im going to be a proud father w the woman of my dreams ... time to really step my game up!”
Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.