Cop fatally shoots man after 'violent struggle'

Posted: February 06, 2014

A ROBBERY SUSPECT was fatally shot by a police officer yesterday in Oxford Circle after the 45-year-old man "body slammed" the cop when the officer's Taser and pepper spray failed to subdue him, according to police.

The officer, a 17-year veteran whose identity wasn't released, was patrolling on foot on Castor Avenue near Greeby Street about 4 p.m. when he saw the suspect allegedly robbing a 35-year-old man of his cellphone and cash, Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

When the 39-year-old cop approached, the man refused to surrender and began a "violent struggle," punching the officer several times in the face, Small said. The cop then twice shot the man with his Taser, which had "no effect on the suspect," Small said.

The officer chased the man along Castor Avenue a block south to Hellerman Street, where he used his pepper spray on the suspect, according to police. In response, the man picked up the cop and body slammed him onto the ground, Small said. Although his head hit the pavement, the officer was able to reach for his firearm and shoot the suspect once in the chest, according to Small.

"Detectives watched the recordings [from nearby surveillance cameras], which clearly justified why the officer used deadly force," Small said. "This officer was out here doing what he was supposed to be doing; he just happened to be faced with a very violent suspect."

The man was taken to Aria Health's Torresdale hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:52 p.m. Small said he had been arrested several times in the past.

"He does not reside in the neighborhood and had no business being here," Small said.

Police Inspector Ben Naish said at the scene that the officer had been working the foot beat in the area for the last six months specifically to combat a recent spike in robberies there.

"The community is totally endeared to the officer's presence, and he's made tremendous impact on making the whole community feel safer," Naish said.

The officer was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he remained last night after undergoing a CAT scan for "major head injuries," Small said.

Homicide detectives were interviewing at least six witnesses last night, and police were reviewing surveillance footage from nearby businesses on Castor Avenue.

One such business was On Charcoal, a Colombian restaurant across Greeby Street from where the alleged robbery took place.

The eatery's manager, Yenni Ballesteros, said the area had not always been dangerous.

"When I came here, it was OK," she said. "I guess the economic situation is making things worse."

Salar Abdullah, who works at Techno Spot, an electronics store a few doors away, said the area is "terrible," and that he hasn't felt safe walking along Castor at night since his store was robbed in 2012.

"The city has to continue to invest in the area," Abdullah said. "It's not only up to police to keep us safe."

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