Disgraced officer becomes hero

Posted: July 28, 2014

GAIL SKINNER said it was about 6 a.m. yesterday when she first heard the screams.

"I was ironing, and I heard my neighbor hollering 'Help, help!' " the South Philadelphia woman recalled.

When Skinner, 67, and her daughter went outside to investigate, they were greeted by clouds of thick black smoke.

"So much smoke and flames, and it was coming out the window," she said, referring to a home up the street now completely black, its charred contents strewn about the sidewalk.

Roaring flames tore through the rowhouse on Sigel Street near 17th yesterday morning, injuring two adults and a toddler inside. But thanks to the actions of a Philadelphia police officer with a questionable past, the residents escaped the blaze.

The hero of the day was Lt. Jonathan Josey, well-known as the officer who was seen on videotape slapping a woman after the 2012 Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Capt. Lou Campione said Josey was near the scene on an assignment when he saw the blaze. Kicking in the front door to alert those inside, Josey realized the fire was too large for him to enter, so he instructed the residents to leave out the back. He then warned neighbors and called for help.

Police Sgt. Tim McHugh responded to Josey's radio call and alerted the Fire Department a full two minutes before the first 9-1-1 call came in, Campione said.

Josey wasn't speaking to the media yesterday. But in a Facebook post, he wrote: "God continues to put me in the right spot at the right time."

Executive Fire Chief Peter Crespo said the firefighters arrived on the scene at 6:17 a.m. The fire was under control by 6:56 a.m.

After the family escaped, a witness pointed out a man and said that he may have had some involvement in starting the fire. Josey then arrested the man in the suspected arson, police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said.

His name has not been released pending the approval of criminal charges.

"This incident goes to [Josey's] character and his overall ability as a law-enforcement officer," Stanford said.

However, Josey's character hasn't always been infallible.

After a video of the parade incident went viral, Josey was fired by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and criminally charged. He was later acquitted and reinstated through arbitration.

Neighbors said that after Josey's actions yesterday, it's time to forgive.

"When the money was on the line, what did he do?" asked Sigel Street resident Natale Joseph, 61. "He saved three people.

"Everybody makes mistakes. [Josey] is good-hearted and he redeemed himself."

The Fire Department said residents of the home were taken to Hahnemann University Hospital.

The Red Cross will assist the displaced families in the adjacent homes that were also damaged by the fire.

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