Officials call for gun control after Philadelphia shooting

Nicholas Sakelaris

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Authorities said Thursday that the accused gunman in a Philadelphia standoff in which six officers were shot a criminal record, prompting calls for gun control measures.

Maurice Hill, 36, was arrested after a seven-hour standoff when police used tear gas on the home he was in. He and the injured officers were treated and released from the hospital.


Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey spoke about the bravery of the officers responding to the incident at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"Wednesday was a heart-wrenching day for the city of Philadelphia," Kenney said. "I'm very grateful that their injuries were not life-threatening. In the face of what could have been a horrific tragedy, the peaceful resolution of the incident marks one of the finest moments in the history of the Philadelphia Police Department."

"Their careful and professional response, which spanned seven hours, ensured the safety of their fellow officers and the residents of north Philadelphia," Kenney added.

Kenney also said he was moved by the footage of officers carrying babies and walking children out of nearby day care centers.


The footage gave him faith in "what the city is really all about," he said. "When it comes to reaching out and helping each other we're there."

Still, Kenney said that more needs to be done to address gun violence in general with legislation.

Lawmakers need to "step up" and address gun violence with legislation or "step aside" and "allow cities like Philadelphia that struggle with gun violence to enact their own solutions," he said. "No one should have access to the kind of weaponry and firepower that we saw in north Philadelphia."

He thanked police officers for their heroism before handing he microphone over to commissioner Ross.

Ross commended all the officers on the ground, especially the two officers stuck in the house with the gunman before he surrendered.

"They were officers who knew they were trapped. ... They were astute enough and brave enough and wise enough to say do not come in here," Ross said. "Your natural inclination is to say help come get me, but they did the opposite of that."

Gov. Wolf also praised the officers' bravery and said he was pleased that the injured are out of the hospital.

Sen. Casey also expressed gratitude that the incident wasn't worse, and the officers shot at survived.


Then, he seized on the moment to address the need going forward for gun control legislation.

"It's time for the United States Senate to vote on a background check bill, but also not to forget about and not to push off for another day, finally at long last a ban on military style assault weapons, which are weapons of war, which should not be on our streets."

In Washington, D.C., the National Rifle Association and far-right groups "have a grip" on the Senate's Republican caucus, which is an obstacle to getting gun -control legislation passed, Casey said.

When they refuse to debate or vote on such legislation, they're saying "the American people who represent the most powerful nation in the world should surrender to this uniquely American problem of gun violence," Casey said.

"That is not the American way, we don't do that in America, we don't surrender to any problem, so it's about time that we had a debate on the floor of the United States Senate, not simply on a background check bill, but also on a bill that deals with the weapon itself."

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa., who also spoke at the press conference, added that the police officers, communities and hospitals have done their part, and legislators must also take action.


Among other speakers, Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke said that "their prayers were heard," as officers walked away without serious injuries.

Urging people to put "partisan politics at the door," Clarke said that "there's one underlying fact, there's too many weapons on the streets of this country, bottom line."

Hill's attorney, Shaka Johnson, said Hill called for help during the standoff in the Nicetown-Tioga section of Philadelphia late Wednesday. Johnson said he urged Hill to surrender, which he did shortly after midnight Wednesday.

"Maurice called me in a panic, obviously," the attorney said. "He did not want this to end violently and he really was sort of taking an opportunity to speak his piece."

Pennsylvania District Attorney Larry Krasner told reporters Thursday Hill has been in an "animated, excited, frankly dangerous state.

"Emotionally, he seemed to be, on the one hand, reaching out to someone to try to end the situation without being killed," he added. "On the other hand, he seemed to be a man who probably at the other end was holding a gun, and as far as I know was still had hostages."

Krasner said the "timely, careful use of tear gas" compelled Hill to give up.


Despite his background, which officials said includes drug charges and aggravated assault, Hill was able to obtain weapons and ammunition -- and Krasner said he has a "lengthy" criminal record going back to the early 2000s.

"I think it's clear that this man should not have been on the streets," Krasner said. "There certainly has been a lengthy and extensive criminal record that includes many convictions in the state system."

Wednesday's standoff started when narcotics officers tried to serve an arrest warrant, but became pinned down by gunfire.

The encounter came amid a still-growing debate over gun control in the United States, following recent shooting attacks in Texas, Ohio and California.

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