Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET Thursday
Officials in Philadelphia are praising city law enforcement for peacefully resolving a chaotic episode Wednesday night in which a gunman armed with an AR-15 and a handgun fired off more than 100 rounds, hitting six police officers, then barricaded himself inside a residence, creating a more than seven-hour standoff.
The suspect is now in custody and all six wounded officers have been released from local hospitals.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who updated the news media throughout the evening wearing a bulletproof vest, himself negotiated on the phone with the gunman, Maurice Hill, 36, who eventually surrendered to authorities when officers fired tear gas into the building in North Philadelphia.
Hill came out of the house with his hands up just after midnight, as live television cameras captured police ordering him to get down.
Before his surrender, Hill, who has a lengthy criminal record that includes aggravated assault, robbery and attempted murder charges, expressed to Ross that he did not want to be incarcerated again, mentioning his newborn daughter. The standoff began after officers attempted to execute a search warrant at Hill’s rowhouse.
“Preservation of life was obviously a concern for all involved, and I think we demonstrated that last night,” said Ross. He noted that Hill made a number of “outlandish” demands but did not say what Hill requested.
Ross said he is amazed the long impasse did not result in more bloodshed, saying officers involved in the incident deserve credit: “If you feel like you’re not appreciated, trust me, you are,” Ross said.
Sgt. Eric Gripp of the Philadelphia police backed that up on Twitter, writing: “6 officers shot — several more injured. A neighborhood terrified, and many lives forever changed. It seems strange to look back at yesterday as a ‘good’ day, but yet, here I am.”
The investigation continues, but prosecutors are expected to indict Hill on attempted murder, aggravated assault and firearms charges.
“I think it’s clear this man should not have been on the streets,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told reporters.
Krasner also personally talked to Hill on the phone during the hours-long showdown.”He was in a very animated, excited, dangerous state,” Krasner said. “We were doing what we could to bring the volume down.”
At certain points throughout the night, officials were worried that two officers trapped in the building were being held hostage.
“The officers were hostages, in a sense,” Krasner said.
Mayor Jim Kenney became emotional talking about seeing officers escorting more than 50 children from a nearby day care to safety. He called on lawmakers to act fast on gun control.
“Nobody should have access to the kind of weaponry and firepower we saw in North Philadelphia last night,” Kenney said. “I say to our state and federal lawmakers, step up or step aside,” he said. “And if you choose not to help us, then get out of the way.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said addressing gun violence will be the subject of executive actions he will announce on Friday. Wolf did not elaborate on those plans.
The incident began at about 4:30 p.m. ET Wednesday as the narcotics unit was serving a warrant in the Nicetown-Tioga section of North Philadelphia. Officers had “already entered the premises and got towards the rear in the kitchen area when gunfire erupted. The shooter fired multiple rounds,” Ross said.
Ross said police did “everything in our power to get him to come out,” including offering the shooter a personal assurance that he wouldn’t be harmed if he came out. “Normally I wouldn’t even take this posture, but I have officers in a very volatile situation,” he said.
On Thursday, Ross said the tense standoff was “unlike anything I’ve seen in my 30 years.”