PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia police officer will be suspended and fired for violating the department’s use of force policy when he shot and killed a 12-year-old boy, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw announced Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference, Outlaw declined to say the specific violations but said the department has rules against excessive use of force and allowing for a proportionate response to the resistance being met. The name of the officer is being withheld by the department because of what Outlaw said is an ongoing investigation into threats against the four officers who were present at the shooting.
The officer’s 30-day suspension will be submitted to the police union and is set to begin Friday, Outlaw said, adding she plans to fire the officer at the end of that suspension. All four officers who were present during the shooting have been on leave. Outlaw did not say whether any of the others would face disciplinary actions.
Police have said the child, Thomas Siderio Jr., was shot in the back by an officer in south Philadelphia and died at the hospital minutes later. The shooting came moments after a bullet was fired into an unmarked police car that had just turned on its police emergency lights, police said.
Police have said Siderio was armed, and that he is the one who fired the bullet into the police vehicle. Those details have not been independently verified.
The District Attorney’s office is also conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting. District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement Tuesday that he would announce whether he plans to pursue criminal charges “when appropriate.”
“The death of a child is always a tragedy, and in this instance, a factually complex and deeply troubling one based on preliminary investigative information,” Krasner wrote.
The four plainclothes officers were in an unmarked car were conducting surveillance at 7:20 p.m. on March 1 as part of a task force responding to social media posts involving a gun. The officers said they saw two young males on a corner — one of whom appeared to be carrying a handgun — and recognized the older one as someone wanted for questioning in that firearms investigation.
According to police, the officers moved the car near the two youths and turned on their emergency red and blue lights. A short time later they heard a gunshot and the shattering of glass as a bullet entered their back window and ricocheted through several surfaces in the car. An officer was stuck by glass in the face and eye and was treated for his injuries.
Witnesses had given conflicting accounts of the officers not identifying themselves as police or turning on the vehicle’s emergency lights. But at the conference Tuesday, Outlaw said she had reviewed corroborating evidence that had confirmed for her that the officers had turned the lights on prior to the gunshot that came through their rear window. She declined to elaborate on what that evidence was.
Two officers exited the vehicle and fired two shots toward Siderio, who they said was still holding a gun, police said. Siderio began to run down the street and one officer chased him and fired two additional shots.
Siderio was struck once in the back. The bullet exited through his chest. Police rushed the boy to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Questions have been raised about whether Siderio still had the gun in his possession when he was shot. Original reports from police said they recovered the gun, which had been reported stolen. Outlaw said Tuesday that she could not comment on where the gun was recovered or whether Siderio had tossed it prior to being shot.
J. Conor Corcoran, a lawyer representing Siderio’s family, said they believe the boy was “murdered at close range.” He said the family will be filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the department and the four officers.
Meanwhile, Siderio’s family is planning for a funeral Thursday.
“He was a product of a loving home, supervised by his grandparents. They did their level best to raise their child in a city with a police department that does not obviously care about the lives of its children,” said Corcoran.
Outlaw said she could not comment on the lawsuit. She said she told her command staff that she rarely loses sleep over things that happen at work.
“I lost sleep over this. There are no winners here,” she said. “This does not reflect who we are as a department and it does not reflect our values.”