SourcePHILADELPHIA — A police officer was released from the hospital Saturday evening after being beaten with his own baton during what authorities called a "life-or-death struggle"; Saturday morning that ended with a robbery suspect wounded outside a busy shopping center in West Philadelphia.
"This was an absolute battle," said Lt. Ray Evers, a police spokesman, "and we are very lucky this officer was not killed."
About 10:30 a.m., the officer pulled up to investigate the report of an attempted robbery outside a restaurant near the Park West Town Center at North 52d and West Jefferson Streets. The uniformed officer was alone in a marked police cruiser, Evers said. Police did not release his name.
A man pointed to the tall, heavyset suspect, saying he tried to steal his backpack. Police did not release the suspect's identity Saturday.
When the officer approached, the suspect began striking and punching him, Evers said. The officer tried to defend himself with his expandable steel baton, Evers said, but dropped it while grappling with the suspect, who tried to pry his service weapon from its holster.
The suspect picked up the baton and began beating the officer, Evers said. During the struggle, the officer used his shoulder walkie-talkie to call for backup, witnesses said.
Emmanuel Griffin, 64, a cook at Park Side Breakfast & Lunch, described the suspect as about 6-foot-1 and 320 pounds — much larger than the police officer, he said.
The officer fired about seven shots at close range, Evers said, striking the assailant five or six times.
But the bullets barely slowed him down. Despite being shot, he kept attacking the officer, witnesses said.
"The guy went down, got back up, still strong enough to be wielding the nightstick at the cop," Griffin said, describing bullet wounds to the suspect's shoulder, chest, groin, and legs.
Police are investigating whether the suspect was under the influence of drugs, Evers said.
Officers responding to the distress call surrounded the suspect, still on his feet, and got him to lie down, Griffin said.
But he kept fighting.
"Police went over to handcuff him, and he jumped back up, elbowing and knocking policemen down," Griffin said. "They jumped on him again and got him cuffed."
The suspect, Evers said, was listed in critical condition.
Said Evers: "We escaped a tragedy today."