August 17, 2012 by Helen Nowotnik
A man shot twice by a Drexel Police officer Aug. 3 is in custody and has been charged with reckless endangerment, harassment, aggravated assault, attempted robbery, assault on a police officer, and other related offenses.
The arrest happened after the man allegedly punched a Drexel Police officer in the face and reached for his firearm on the 3200 block of Arch Street. The officer then shot the man twice, once in the wrist and once in the leg.
At around 6 p.m. Aug. 3, the perpetrator was allegedly following a female Drexel employee on her way to her car. The man reportedly approached her a couple of times, and she yelled at him to get away. She sought refuge in Drexel Police headquarters at 3219 Arch St. A Drexel Police officer escorted the woman to her car before confronting the perpetrator, and the altercation then ensued.
“Through the struggle, which only lasted seconds, this guy seemed very intent on trying to get the officer’s gun,” Domenic Ceccanecchio, senior associate vice president of Public Safety for Drexel University, said.
Both the officer and the assailant were taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where the officer was treated with lacerations, bruising and swelling on his face.
Noah Sinkiewicz, a biology major, witnessed the incident while walking down 33rd Street.
“I heard someone yelling ‘Don’t move,’ so I looked over and a police officer has his gun drawn pointing at some white guy. The guy then goes to charge at the officer and he shoots twice and the guy just drops, Sinkiewicz said.
He added, “It was hands down one of the most exhilarating things I have seen at Drexel.”
Kevin Biallas, a sophomore environmental science major, also heard the event even though he was not on the street like Sinkiewicz.
“I was in my dorm in North Hall, which faces Cherry Street toward the police station, when I heard two popping sounds, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘That kinda sounded like a gunshot,’ but since I didn’t know what gunshots sounded like, I dismissed it as a car that backfired or some other similar noise,” he said.
However, when Biallas left his dorm to go to the rec center, he realized that his gut reaction was correct.
“I saw someone being wheeled into an ambulance. I couldn’t get very close or take a picture with my phone because there were police there shooing any spectators away,” he added.
Just like the memory of this event, the literal aftermath of the incident lingered at the scene, according to Sinkiewicz and Biallas.
An hour later, Biallas was walking down 33rd Street an hour after he left for the gym when he realized that the ambulance and police tape were gone, so he walked down the 3200 block of Arch Street.
“About halfway down the block I almost stepped in a huge pile of blood and saw chalk circles that I’m assuming showed were the bullet casings had landed,” he said. “I was really surprised that they were letting people down walk down the street without fully cleaning up the crime scene.
Similarly, Sinkiewicz also saw remnants from the crime scene long after the crime had been committed.
“I did walk by again after dinner, and there was still lots of blood and few chunks of what looked like skin,” he said.
The female Drexel employee was not injured and is back at work. She is using victim support, the Drexel Counseling Center and the Drexel Employee Assistance Program.
A Drexel Alert was not issued at the time of the incident because the occurrence did not pose an ongoing threat to the community. The alert system is used in ongoing instances like active bomb threats or if the perpetrator of a violent crime is still in the area.
“We’re very careful about sending alerts. We’re required by law to send out alerts for incidents that pose ongoing threats to the community. Given the circumstances with this event, it was over in seconds,” Ceccanecchio said.
According to Ceccanecchio, the perpetrator was in police custody, and the situation was under control..
The perpetrator had a previous contact with law enforcement in Bucks County and Center City going back several years. According to Ceccanecchio, he had been previously charged with assault and resisting arrests.
“This is a situation that I think the potential was there for it to grow into a much more serious incident than it was. The officer most probably saved lives by denying this person access to his weapon, and clearly we’re dealing with someone that’s unstable and unpredictable,” Ceccanecchio said.
All Drexel Police officers are trained to handle active-shooter situations, according to Ceccanecchio.
He added, “I intend to solicit everyone’s help when this person goes to court and show our support for the officer and how he averted what could have been a greater tragedy, … and we want to keep this guy off the street. We don’t want him coming back to Drexel or any other campus for that matter.”