By CBS3 Staff


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — From a harrowing police shootout that brought the city to a standstill to a massive explosion that rocked a South Philly refinery, here are the top Philadelphia news stories of 2019.

Six Philadelphia Police Officers Shot During Nicetown-Tioga Standoff

Six officers were shot by a gunman during an hours-long standoff that shook Philadelphia’s Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood in August. Alleged shooter Maurice Hill surrendered to police after a seven-hour standoff. All six injured officers were released from the hospital the same day and have been honored at several sporting events in the city.

Philadelphia Police Officers Accused Of Racist, Violent Social Media Posts

It’s been a tumultuous year for the Philadelphia Police Department. In June, the Plain View Project shed light on racist and violent social media posts made by hundreds of police officers. Dozens of officers were initially placed on desk duty as protesters demanded further action. Thirteen officers were fired in July.

More Than $1 Billion Worth Of Cocaine Seized At Philadelphia Port

One of the largest cocaine busts in United States history happened in Philadelphia in mid-June. Nearly 20 tons of cocaine worth more than $1.3 billion were seized by federal authorities from a cargo ship at Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia. Six people were charged in the bust.

PATH OF COCAINE

The ship made port calls to Chile, Peru, Panama and the Bahamas before arriving in Philadelphia. It was destined for the Netherlands.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Resigns

Former Commissioner Ross resigned abruptly in August. His resignation followed allegations of sexual harassment “among the rank and file” in the police department. Ross was not named in the allegations but a federal civil lawsuit alleged Ross was told about the allegations but did nothing to stop the behavior.

Christine Coulter is currently serving as the acting commissioner while the city searches for Ross’ replacement.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery Explosion 

In June, an explosion at a South Philadelphia refinery sent a massive fireball into the early-morning sky. No one was killed in the massive fire, but the damage forced Philadelphia Energy Solutions to close for good, impacting more than 1,000 workers.

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Federal investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) determined a single corroded elbow pipe failed and led to the disaster.

Flyers Stop Using Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America’ After Alleged History of Racism

In April, the Flyers announced they would stop playing Kate Smith’s iconic rendition of “God Bless America” — which dated back to when the team last won the Stanley Cup in 1975 — after the singer’s racist songs from the 1930s were discovered. The team initially covered Smith’s statue outside of the Wells Fargo Center with a black drape before removing it entirely.

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In a statement at the time, the Flyers said, “We cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today.”

The controversial move was met with both approval and its detractors.

Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano backed Smith, saying “God Bless America” will continue to be played on the boardwalk every morning.

5-Year-Old Dulce Maria Alavez Disappears From Bridgeton Park

It’s been more three months since 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez went missing from a park in Bridgeton, New Jersey — and there is still no sign of the little girl. No one has seen or heard from Dulce since the late afternoon of Sept. 16 when she was presumably abducted from a swingset at Bridgeton City Park while her mother sat in a nearby car.Dulce Maria Alavez

Noema Perez Alavez, Dulce’s mother, sat down for a one-on-one interview with Dr. Phil in early December, where she again denied any involvement in her daughter’s disappearance after unfounded rumors circulated that she was involved.

“You did not sell your daughter, correct?” Dr. Phil asked.

“No,” Alavez Perez responded.

“You don’t know who has her?”

“No.”

“You’re not involved in her abduction?”

“No.”

Authorities continue to search for a man described as a possible witness in the girl’s disappearance. Dr. Phil also offered to up the reward for information leading to Dulce’s whereabouts to $75,000.

(credit: Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office)

Joe Biden Kicks Off 2020 Presidential Campaign In Philadelphia

After much speculation, former Vice President Joe Biden formally kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign with a rally on the Ben Franklin Parkway on May 18. There, Biden preached unity while taking several jabs at President Donald Trump.

Phillies Sign Superstar Outfielder Bryce Harper To 13-Year Deal

It took some “stupid money,” but the Phillies got their man. After months of rumors and speculation, the Phils finally signed outfielder Bryce Harper to a record-setting 13-year, $330 million deal to be the face of their franchise and usher in a new era of baseball.

(Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Harper had a solid first year in pinstripes but the rest of the team severely underperformed. While the Phils fired manager Gabe Kapler, Harper’s former team, the Washington Nationals, won the World Series in their first season since he left, much to the delight of trolls.

10-Year-Old Girl Dies After Falling Off Festival Ride

Tragedy struck in Cumberland County, New Jersey in October when 10-year-old Hailey McMullen died after she was thrown from a ride at the Fairgrounds in Deerfield Township.

“A girl fell out of the ride and she got smacked by the ride,” a caller said on a 911 call obtained by CBS3. “I saw her. I saw her fall. It was not up high. It was one of the ones that was going round, whipping round on the ground and she came out of [the ride] and it came around and pushed her down underneath the ride.”

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An official Eyewitness News spoke with says at least a dozen people have died from rides just like the Sizzler across the U.S. over the last 20 years.

Vaping Illnesses And Deaths

Vaping and e-cigarettes became a national health risk in 2019, especially among teens and young adults. Health officials reported at least one person died from each of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

A Delaware County mother and father issued a dire warning after they say their 19-year-old son was put on life support because of vaping.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy established a vaping task force that recommended banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.