DeCoatsworth: From worthy to worthless?

Posted: May 21, 2013

Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: View an interactive timeline looking back at the troubled career of former Police Officer Richard DeCoatsworth.

IN 2008, AFTER the sentencing of a man who shot him in the face, Richard DeCoatsworth, who was then a Philly cop, said: "That young man's life is over now. He's going to have to find some way to get used to his new home. I'm sure the guys up there [in state prison] can't wait to meet him."

But this weekend, it was DeCoatsworth who found a new home behind bars, after he was charged with 32 crimes - including promoting prostitution, human trafficking and rape - for two cases involving alleged heinous acts against women.

In one case, DeCoatsworth, 27, is accused of holding two women hostage and forcing them to take drugs and engage in sexual acts at gunpoint. In the other case, he's accused of abusing his girlfriend, police said.

Now, the man who once was hailed as a hero and sat next to first lady Michelle Obama at a presidential address is sitting in a city jail on $60 million bail.

"It's unfortunate," said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby. "If it's true what he did, he deserves to be where he is for a long time."

According to police, about 2 a.m. Thursday, DeCoatsworth left a party with two women. Police have not divulged the location of the party, the names of the women nor their relationship - if any - to DeCoatsworth.

DeCoatsworth then allegedly took the women to another location, where he pulled out a handgun and forced them to perform sex acts and use drugs, police said. After he left late Friday night, the women called authorities, police said.

In that case, DeCoatsworth was charged with rape, possession of drugs, human trafficking, promoting prostitution, firearms offenses, false imprisonment and related crimes. Police and the District Attorney's Office declined to give details on the human-trafficking and prostitution charges yesterday.

The other case against DeCoatsworth involves allegations of aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person for an alleged May 9 incident at his Port Richmond house involving his 27-year-old girlfriend, police said.

The former cop was armed when he was arrested at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, as SWAT officers surrounded his home on Salmon Street near Lehigh Avenue and used flash grenades to take him into custody, police and McNesby said.

Attorney Jimmy Binns said he has been retained by DeCoatsworth's family, but he declined to comment further yesterday.

McNesby said he hadn't spoken to DeCoatsworth since his arrest, but was disappointed at the downward spiral that the former cop's life has taken.

"[He is] one that slipped through the cracks," McNesby said. "It was obviously something that wasn't right there."

DeCoatsworth's rapid downfall was preceded by a much-publicized rise to prominence.

Fewer than six months after graduating from the Police Academy in 2007, DeCoatsworth was shot in the face during a traffic stop in West Philly. He was hailed by many as a hero for chasing the shooter for several blocks and firing seven shots before collapsing.

DeCoatsworth's shooter was sentenced to 36 to 72 years in state prison, and DeCoatsworth was transferred to the department's elite Highway Patrol Unit at his own request.

He received several awards and, in February 2009, accepted an invitation from Vice President Biden to sit in the first lady's box for President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress.

But his fame soon turned to infamy after a series of events that called his judgment into question, beginning with the shooting of a mentally ill man, Anthony Temple, while on duty in 2009. Police said the man tried to take DeCoatsworth's gun, and it discharged as the two struggled for control. Temple later was shot by a second officer and died.

Five months later, in September 2009, DeCoatsworth, claiming self-defense, shot another man in the leg. That man survived, and during the resulting trial, a forensic pathologist and three witnesses testified that DeCoatsworth had shot the man from behind, countering his initial claims of self-defense.

In 2010, Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia University professor and former Daily News columnist, filed a civil-rights lawsuit against DeCoatsworth, claiming that he'd searched him and his car without a warrant or permission. The city settled that suit for $15,000.

Another suit against DeCoatsworth, filed by Anthony Temple's mother, was settled for $90,000.

By 2011, DeCoatsworth had amassed nine Internal Affairs complaints in his four years on the force, but only one was substantiated.

In November 2011, police opened up another Internal Affairs investigation into DeCoatsworth, allegedly for a fight with another cop.

A month later, DeCoatsworth retired from the force. Police claimed it was because his wounds from the 2007 shooting prevented him from doing his job.

Even after he left the force, DeCoatsworth remained in the news. In February 2012, his Port Richmond neighbor Steven Kocher filed a private complaint alleging that the ex-cop threatened him and his mother over a $2,000 debt. Kocher claimed he owed DeCoatsworth $2,000 and when he couldn't pay, DeCoatsworth forced him into his truck and then took him to a house where he threw him against a wall, ripped his necklace off and took $218 from him. Kocher claimed DeCoatsworth made a threatening gesture to his mother the following day.

No criminal charges were filed, but a judge issued a mutual stay-away order.

Other neighbors offered varying opinions of DeCoatsworth yesterday.

Rhoda Nicholson, who has lived down the block from the ex-cop for nine years, described him as a good person.

"He always helped us. He brought me roses all the time," Nicholson said, noting that DeCoatsworth would help her and her husband carry groceries and once helped them bring in a sofa bed. "[It was] all positive, never saw anything negative . . . It's like Rich was a Jekyll and Hyde."

Another neighbor, who declined to give her name, said she saw the 27-year-old's darker side last fall when his pitbull approached her Chihuahua.

"I told him, 'You need to put your dog on a leash.' At that time, he just screamed at me and told me to shut the f--- up," the woman said."His eyes were like two pieces of coal. It was just the way he stared at me."

In a 2012 interview with the Daily News, Commissioner Charles Ramsey acknowledged that DeCoatsworth had "some issues in terms of his temper."

"He's not a bad guy as far as I'm concerned, but he definitely needs some counseling," Ramsey said.


On Twitter: @FarFarrAway

Online: ph.ly/crime

Blog: ph.ly/Delco

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