PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia police officer was shot in the city’s Tacony neighborhood early Tuesday morning. The officer was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center in stable condition with a deep graze wound to the left side of the head.
The injured officer has been identified as 15th District Officer Stephen Korpalski, a 14 year veteran of the force.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said police responded to a report of a person with a gun shortly before 12:45 a.m. Tuesday to the 6400 block of Ditman Street. The suspect, who has been identified as 29-year-old David Ellis of Philadelphia, was spotted by officers at Magee Street and Torresdale Avenue. Police say Officer Korpalski and his partner were working in full uniform, operating a marked police wagon when they attempted to stop the suspect.
“The officers were working a patrol wagon, pulled up on the scene. They had a description of the individual,” Ramsey said. “They recalled en route seeing an individual that fit that description not too far from the scene.”
Commissioner Ramsey said after returning to that area on Torresdale, the officers found the individual that matched the description they had.
“Officer Korpalski got out of the car to confront the individual. The individual turned and fired a round at Officer Korpalski. Officer Korpalski yelled to his partner that he had been hit. He suffered a graze wound to the left side of his head.”
Even after he was struck, Korpalski returned fire, Ramsey said. “He did an incredible job there under some very difficult circumstances.”
Korpalski and his partner returned fire as the suspect took off down Torresdale Avenue. At that point, Ramsey said, “Two other officers encountered him, and they also fired at this individual who was struck multiple times. He was pronounced dead at 1:35 a.m. at Aria Torresdale Hospital.”
At a press conference, Commissioner Ramsey said the officer was very fortunate.
“He’s got a deep graze wound right to the left side of his head, but he is alert, he is talking.” he said. “Very fortunate. A half-inch over, a bit more, and we’d be planning a funeral right now.”
The violence of the incident was reflected in bullets that struck nearby cars, lodged in tires, and shattered the window of a nearby pharmacy lodging in a lottery machine.
Officer Korpalski has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home.
Commissioner Ramsey also stated that the District Attorney’s office will be reviewing the incident as soon as the police investigation is complete. “That is standard in all cases where we have an officer involved shooting,” he said.
Officer Korpalski is married with a 3-week-old daughter. He’ll be given medical leave and time away from patrol for counseling and evaluation. “We don’t start our day wanting to shoot or hurt anybody, but when you have a situation like that, it is something that we don’t take for granted – the officer’s ability to bound back,” said Ramsey.
Police say the suspect, Ellis, had “prior contact” with police that dated back to 2000.
Records show Ellis, despite a history of 8 prior arrests, was granted parole by the State Parole Board in August, 2013 after serving half of a 4 to 10 year sentence that could have kept him behind bars until 2018.
The Parole Board, citing in its decision, the suspect’s “positive institutional behavior”.
“There’s no question in my mind this suspect should never have been out on the streets of Philadelphia,” commented John McGrody, president the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police.
KYW Newsradio’s Jim Melwert and CBS 3’s Cleve Bryan and Walt Hunter contributed to this report.
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