Philadelphia Inquirer, July 13, 2000

Police Chase Down Suspected Carjacker in Shoot-Out, Violent Arrest
The suspect was shot several times as he fled officers, including one who was shot in the hand. A TV helicopter broadcast his capture.

By Thomas J. Gibbons Jr., Robert Moran and Rita Giordano,

A suspected carjacker, wounded by police trying to arrest him yesterday, stole a cruiser and led officers on a chase to North Philadelphia, where he was subdued during a violent struggle captured live on television.

One officer was shot in the thumb before the suspect, Thomas Jones, 30, of the 1400 block of North Hollywood Street in North Philadelphia, made off with the police vehicle. It was unclear last night whether the officer was shot by the fleeing man or by another officer.

As police tried to arrest Jones in the Francisville section of North Philadelphia, he was shot four or five times. But Jones escaped in the cruiser amid radio traffic reporting an officer was shot.

A Philadelphia television station had a helicopter aloft and broadcast much of the chase and capture. Dramatic footage, repeated on the air several times during the evening, showed Jones being surrounded by more than a dozen officers, several of whom struck and kicked him. It was the top item on the ABC network's evening news, drawing a nationwide audience to the story. It was even broadcast on the BBC.

Mayor Street last night cut short a trip to Baltimore, where he had been attending the NAACP convention, to hold a City Hall news conference - televised live on the local network affiliates and on CNN - to address what was shown on the videotape, which he termed "troubling."

"While we will not condone improper behavior by the police," he warned, "we cannot conduct a police witch-hunt by jumping to conclusions in the absence of all the facts."

The mayor, who said Jones had shot the officer, promised a full investigation.

More than 45 shell casings were found where Jones was first stopped and where Officer Michael Livewell, 24, was wounded. Livewell, a four-year veteran whose father and brother are also on the force, was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital in Center City, where he was reported in fair condition last night.

"How he was shot, we're still trying to figure out," Police Commissioner John F. Timoney said.

Jones was in serious condition last night after surgery at Temple University Hospital. He suffered bullet wounds to the stomach and arm during the first encounter with police and incurred various injuries while officers were taking him into custody.

It was while police were subduing Jones, at 26th and Oxford Streets, that a WPVI-TV (Channel 6) helicopter taped several of them kicking and punching him as he was on the ground.

Questioned by reporters at Hahnemann, Timoney said it was a "little premature" to comment on whether the arresting officers used excessive force.

"When somebody doesn't want to get arrested, there really isn't an easy way of doing it," Timoney said. "Let's not jump to any conclusions. Let's wait to see what happens [in an Internal Affairs investigation]."

He said three police investigations were under way: one by homicide detectives, who review all shootings of officers; one by the Internal Affairs Bureau into the possibility of excessive force during the arrest; and another by Internal Affairs that is routine whenever an officer fires a gun.

During Jones' arrest, Officer James F. Henninger, 56, was bitten by the suspect, police said. Henninger was treated at Medical College of Pennsylvania and released. A third officer, splashed with blood during the arrest, was also treated there and released.

Meanwhile, Jones' family was holding a vigil last night at Temple University Hospital and complaining bitterly about how police handled the arrest.

Tracey Jones of Logan, the suspect's sister, said police had overreacted.

"They had already shot him five times. They didn't have to beat him," she said. "The point is they had shot him up, then chased him, then beat him."

Jones, who had not yet seen her brother, and his fiancee, Victoria Bryant, described him as a big man, 6-foot-2 and about 245 pounds.

Timoney said Jones had been driving a Chevrolet Cavalier that on July 1 was carjacked from a woman in the 8700 block of Frankford Avenue in the Northeast.

The Cavalier was listed in the police computer, and officers were routinely on the lookout for it. At 12:40 p.m. yesterday, officers saw a car in North Philadelphia being driven erratically. A chase began but was called off when officers lost the car.

At some point, police learned that the green Cavalier was the carjacked vehicle, and officers pressed to find it again. Livewell and his partner, Lawrence McKenny, both from the Ninth Police District, which encompasses western Center City, saw it and picked up the chase. Just off Ridge Avenue at 17th and Francis Streets, the Cavalier was involved in a collision with another vehicle, injuring two occupants of that car.

Livewell and McKenny, along with scores of other officers, moved in.

Timoney said last night that it was uncertain whether Jones was armed when the officers first stopped him or whether Jones stole an officer's gun during that first confrontation. But several witnesses said Jones and the police were firing at each other.

Bertha Jones, 40, was sitting on her porch with several other people when she saw officers chasing a man across the street. She said the man jumped an iron gate with his hands in the air, as if to surrender.

"The cops ran over and started beating on him . . . beating on the man," she said. "He got one of their guns, started shooting.

"He fired his shots off. They fired. There was a whole lot of shooting going on," she said.

That battle left spent casings littering the street and sidewalks. While police later said Thomas Jones was armed, they would not confirm where he got his weapon or whether it had been recovered.

Daniel Bohannan, 22, lives on Francis Street and said he heard the car crash. "I was laying up in my bed and I heard a boom. I went to my window," he said.

A man got out, Bohannan said. "He looked like he didn't know whether to run or put his hands up."

The man then put his hands up but also ran. At 17th and Francis Streets he was caught - momentarily. "He had his hands up, but instead of getting him on the ground, they started rushing him. . . . I couldn't see that much because of the trees, but I [saw], like, a tussle," Bohannan said.

Bohannan thought the gunfire erupted after the man stole the police cruiser.

"When the first shots were fired, all the cops jumped back, as if in danger," Bohannan said.

When the man got into the patrol car, No. 2211, Livewell reached into the car on the driver's side, and that is when the gunfire erupted and Livewell was shot, Timoney said.

Livewell shot Jones at least once, Timoney said. Police did not identify the officer who drove the patrol car to the scene.

Slugs tore into cars and houses. Others ricocheted into the air.

With its overhead emergency lights still burning and police radio crackling reports of a gun battle, the man sped away, leading a caravan of police cars on a chase deep into North Philadelphia. The helicopter recorded the scene.

The chase ended a mile away at 26th and Oxford, where a crowd of officers, guns drawn, surrounded the vehicle, - its rear window blown out by gunfire and its side creased by at least one shot. There was also evidence of other bullets striking the cruiser.

The driver's-side door opened briefly, but the man stayed inside. Then he was yanked out by a police officer.

More than a dozen officers - some in plain clothes - surrounded him. Some were captured on video punching and kicking him as he lay on the ground. The man is not fully visible on the videotape, so his resistance cannot be measured.

Then the man, bloodstains on his plaid shorts, could be seen as he was taken to a police vehicle by two plainclothes officers, one in Bermuda shorts, who had him in a head lock.

"There was great resistance even when he was shot," said Chief Inspector Frank Pryor, who heads the department's Patrol Bureau.

Timoney said Jones likely would face a "whole host of charges" after police consult with the District Attorney's Office today.

Livewell's parents went to the hospital to see their son. His uncle, a retired police lieutenant, was also there. Officers said Livewell was recently engaged to be married.

Richard Costello, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, also arrived at the hospital. "It is very, very clear that it is increasingly more dangerous to be a police officer in Philadelphia," Costello said after visiting with Livewell.

Costello said Livewell was in good spirits. He said that the shooting would not be used as leverage in union talks with the city but that the organization would focus on providing support to Livewell.

"When you shoot one of us, you shoot all of us," Costello said.

Copyright © 2000 Philadelphia Inquirer

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