Intimidation charges once sought against DeCoatsworth

Richard DeCoatsworth was accused in 2012 of kidnapping, assaulting, and robbing a Port Richmond man, a police official said. The official said he did not know whether prosecutors pursued charges
Richard DeCoatsworth was accused in 2012 of kidnapping, assaulting, and robbing a Port Richmond man, a police official said. The official said he did not know whether prosecutors pursued charges (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 21, 2013

Philadelphia police last year recommended bringing charges of witness intimidation against former Officer Richard DeCoatsworth, once hailed as a hero for his work on the force and charged over the weekend with rape, a high-ranking police official said Sunday.

Capt. John Gallagher, a former commander of East Detectives now assigned to the department's Counter-Terrorism Operations, said the recommendation stemmed from allegations that DeCoatsworth, 27, had kidnapped, assaulted, and robbed a Port Richmond man who lived two blocks from him over an unpaid debt.

Detectives who investigated said they believed the debt was over drugs, said Gallagher, who led the investigation.

Gallagher gave the following account:

The Port Richmond man told investigators in January 2012 that DeCoatsworth had kidnapped him at gunpoint and driven him around the city, including to a barbershop, in an effort to collect on the debt. DeCoatsworth slammed the man's head against a wall and yanked a gold chain from his neck before eventually letting him go, he told police.

"He took the chain, and said, 'I'm going to hold on to this until I get my money,' " Gallagher said the man alleged.

Then DeCoatsworth, who had retired from the force in December 2011, reached into his alleged captive's pocket and stole $218, the man told police.

"We believe the man didn't try to run because he was fearful DeCoatsworth would shoot him," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said investigators from the Private Criminal Complaint Unit of the District Attorney's Office told the man they needed DeCoatsworth's home address before they could pursue the investigation. In an effort to get it, the man's mother drove past DeCoatsworth's Salmon Street house, and DeCoatsworth spotted her, Gallagher said.

The woman told police investigators DeCoatsworth configured his fingers in the shape of a gun, pointed at her, and said, "I've got something for you and your son," Gallagher said.

District Attorney's Office investigators recommended charging DeCoatsworth with simple assault and harassment in the alleged attack on the man, while leaving the investigation into the alleged threats against his mother to police detectives, Gallagher said.

In the latter case, investigators filed an arrest affidavit for DeCoatsworth in February 2012 on charges of threats and intimidation of a witness, Gallagher said. The District Attorney's Office declined to bring charges in the case involving the man's mother, he said.

Gallagher did not know whether prosecutors pursued charges related to DeCoatsworth's alleged attack on the woman's son.

"We believed that he was reluctant to tell us that the debt owed to DeCoatsworth involved drugs," Gallagher said. "However, the majority of his story appeared to be credible. We didn't have any credibility issues with the mother."

Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office, said neither she nor District Attorney Seth Williams could comment without reviewing the case file.

DeCoatsworth remains in jail with bail set at $60 million on charges of rape, sexual assault, terroristic threats, and related offenses in connection with his arrest early Saturday morning.

Officers raided DeCoatsworth's house, where they found guns and drugs, according to police sources. It was unclear what the drugs were. They were still being analyzed over the weekend, sources said.

The fall was dramatic for DeCoatsworth, who as a 21-year-old rookie endured a shotgun blast to the face while on duty. Bleeding heavily and returning fire, he pursued his attacker for several blocks before collapsing and radioing for help.

The gunman, Antonio Coulter, was caught and later pleaded guilty in the shooting. DeCoatsworth underwent extensive surgery and returned to duty in June 2008. His heroism attracted national attention, earning him a seat next to Michelle Obama in 2009 during the president's State of the Union address.

"Shocked," said retired Philadelphia Police Officer Tony Santiago, owner of Tony's Way Sports Bar at Front and Berks Streets, to whom DeCoatsworth went for advice.

"It's crazy how you go from hero to jail," Santiago said. "You wonder if that had anything to do with the trauma he had from the shotgun incident, like what soldiers go through in war."

Law enforcement sources said two weeks ago, DeCoatsworth went to that bar, where he met a woman. He forced her into prostitution at a hotel on Roosevelt Boulevard, the sources said.

On Thursday, according to the sources, DeCoatsworth forced her and another woman to perform sexual acts at gunpoint at a house on Howard Street. He is also charged with assaulting a live-in girlfriend on May 9.

Sources said there were a number of Internal Affairs complaints against DeCoatsworth before he retired at age 25, reportedly because of injuries from the 2007 shooting.


Contact Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman at sabdur-rahman@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @sabdurr.

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