Tag Archives: John Pawlowski

R.I.P. 2009

Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski (25) and six other law enforcement officers from Pennsylvania joined 113 more from around the United States as of December 30th. Rest In Peace, heroes all…

Harry Wolf and Brian Bates…

Harry Kalas (73), Danny Ozark (85), Peter Zezel (44), Gary Papa (54), Fred Sherman (86)…

Michael Jackson (50), Patrick Swayze (57), Farrah Fawcett (62), Brittany Murphy (32), Ron Silver (62), Steve McNair (36), Natasha Richardson (45), Karl Malden (97), Ed McMahon (86), Bea Arthur (86), Ricardo Montalban (88), Dom DeLuise (75), David Carradine (72), John Hughes (59), Irving Kristol (90), Jack Kemp (73), Ted Kennedy (77), Eunice Kennedy Shriver (88), Socks Clinton (cat-19), Henry Gibson (73), Mary Travers (72), John Updike (76), Robert Novak (78), Les Paul (94), Oral Roberts (91), Soupy Sales (83), Captain Lou Albano (76), Billy Mays (50), Wayman Tisdale (44), Chuck Daly (78), Sam Cohn (79), Marilyn Chambers (56), Nick Adenhart (22), Paul Harvey (90), Carl Pohlad (93), Fr. Richard Neuhaus (72), James Whitmore (87), Greg Page (50), Doc Blanchard (84), Dom DiMaggio (92), Fred Travalena (66), Gale Storm (87), Walter Cronkite (92), Oscar Mayer (95), Dominick Dunne (83), George Michael (70), Roy Disney (79), Gene Barry (90), Tommy Henrich (96)…

Apologies to anyone who feels that I should have named someone in particular. It is a difficult list to make comprehensive. No one was left off intentionally, so please feel free to add on in a comment. RIP to all…

Grassroots support for Philly’s embattled cops

 

On Halloween morning in 2007, police officer Chuck Cassidy of the city’s 35th district pulled up to a local Dunkin’ Donuts to perform a routine security check and perhaps grab a fresh cup of joe to begin his work day.

Bright sunshine of the morning that day combined with the lesser light inside the business made it impossible for Cassidy to see inside the establishment.

Little did he know as he pulled open the door to that innocent coffee and donut shop, one that Cassidy had entered many times before, that it would be the last door he would ever open.

Inside was an armed robber who turned and fired a gunshot into Cassidy before the officer ever knew what hit him.

Thus began the most deadly string of murders of Philly’s Finest in decades. Just seven months after Cassidy’s murder, in May of 2008, Sergeant Steve Liczbinski responded to a robbery in progress taking place at a bank branch inside a supermarket of his 24th police district. It would be the final call of his career, as Liczbinski was also gunned down in cold blood by the robbers.

Philly cops and their supporters mourned the loss of these two popular officers throughout the summer of 2008. Little did they know it was not over yet. Not nearly.

In early September, the city’s police were again driven to shock when officer Isabel ‘Izzie’ Nazario was killed. She and her partner were involved in a vehicular pursuit of a stolen car, though not in direct pursuit, when the driver suddenly emerged from a blind intersection and slammed into their cruiser at full speed.

The loss of a third officer in less than a year seemed like dirt being rubbed into an already open wound. Then the unthinkable happened – again.

Just a couple of weeks later, still in September, officer Pat McDonald pulled over a vehicle for a simple traffic violation, something that many of the city’s police officers do every single day, something that I did hundreds of times. Only this would be Pat’s final car stop. This time the driver was a wanted man, and he decided to shoot and kill Pat McDonald rather than risk returning to jail.

It was official, Philly’s cops were under siege.
People were taking shots at us, running from us, physically challenging us like never before. The thug mentality had overcome the city, and race became a part of the issue as each of the cop-killers faces flashed across television screens.

Former Mayor John Street’s notorious statement that “the brothers and sisters are running this town now” seemed to be taking on a gangsta tone.

Something was seriously wrong here in Philly, and many of our citizens stepped forward with words of condolence and togetherness, some even with anger at what was happening.

But did they then go back to their communities, to their families, and begin to make real changes that would back up their words?

Less than two months later, Sergeant Tim Simpson, a fellow supervisor in the exact same squad of officers in which Steve Lisczbinski had worked at the time of his murder, responded to yet another robbery call. Like Lisczbinski, it would be Simpson’s final call.

As he responded to the robbery, Simpson entered the intersection of Aramingo and Allegheny Avenues. Here, a drunk driver in a speeding Camaro slammed into Simpson’s cruiser. The 24th district had lost their 2nd Sergeant in six months, and Philly’s cops had lost their fifth officer in under a year.

A long, cold winter of grieving got underway, and in the middle of it just about two weeks ago, young 25-year-old father-to-be John Pawlowski and his partner pulled up on a disturbance on the highway involving an argument between two men.

When Pawlowski confronted the aggressor, this male pulled the trigger on a gun which he had concealed in the pocket of his jacket. As officer Pawlowski’s partner drew his gun and killed the assailant, John fell to the ground, the sixth Philly cop killed in the line of duty in less than a year and a half.

There have been seven Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty stretching to the robbery-murder of officer Gary Skerski in May of 2006.

The violence against the police officers who are trying their best to protect the citizens of an increasingly hostile city was just too much for a young woman by the name of Courtney Agger.

Not the wife or family member of an officer, Courtney was just a young woman in her twenties who was among the many who were sick and tired of all of the attacks on cops. She wanted to do something, and in the spirit of the 21st century she took to the internet.

A member of the ‘Facebook’ community that is perhaps today’s most popular internet gathering place, Courtney started a grass-roots effort to organize a march in support of Philly cops. In remembrance of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, both in recent years and throughout the past.

Her little Facebook group advertised a march to take place on Sunday, March 1st, 2009 beginning near the Skate Zone facility in Northeast Philadelphia and proceeding around the Northeast Airport to the home of Philly’s 8th police district at Academy & Red Lion Roads.

Agger likely envisioned dozens, perhaps hundreds if it went well, of her friends and other sympathizers marching in support. Little did she know the power of both the internet and of her cause.

At yesterdays march, thousands turned out in an overwhelming outpouring of emotion and support for Philadelphia’s embattled police force. There were a number of police brass and union officials on hand, regular officers like myself, as well as numerous friends and family members. T-shirts, sweatshirts, wristbands, flags and other items were sold.

In the week leading up to the march, Philadelphia police detective Al Ford was attempting to serve a warrant when he was shot in the leg. Another officer returned fire and killed Ford’s assailant. Ford was taken to the hospital and is going to be okay, but his shooting highlights that this is far from over.

As a color guard led Sunday’s procession, Courtney Agger had to allow herself to feel just a little pride for what she had accomplished. It was completely justified. Grass-roots support from the community such as that showed by Agger is absolutely appreciated and even needed by the Philadelphia Police Department.

We have been seriously demoralized by what has happened in recent months, and outreach such as this sincerely touches us all and reminds us of why we do what we do, that it is important to continue, and that it actually affects peoples lives.

Judicial Misconduct at Broad & Champlost

Philadelphia Judge Craig M. Washington is either the single stupidest person in the history of the American judicial system or he is the most callous, ignorant and disrespectful.

There is no middle ground for the actions that Washington took yesterday at the 35th police district here in the former ‘City of Brotherly Love’ which can no longer claim that moniker with any credibility whatsoever.

The latest in a string of murders of Philly cops happened just days ago when young, bright and talented police officer John Pawlowski of that very 35th district was gunned down in cold blood on our increasingly violent streets. Police officers with badges, guns, vests, and with fellow officers just a radio call away (or closer in Pawlowski’s case) are not safe, so you the average citizen most certainly are not safe.

It was under these circumstances that Mr. Washington, whom to recognize with the title ‘Judge’ would be a severe travesty of that institution, marched into the very home of the 35th district on Tuesday morning.

Washington was there to preside over ‘divisional hearings’, a process by which members of the court go out into the community and conduct preliminary hearings in criminal cases. They do this in order to better serve the community.

The process of appearing at your local police district for what can sometimes be multiple hearings before the criminal case even gets underway is far more convenient for most victims and witnesses than having to travel downtown. It is a win-win, as the victim/witness gets convenience and the justice system gets those same victims and witnesses actually showing up and actively involved in the case.

This process is what brought Washington to Broad & Champlost, the home of John Pawlowski and his fellow brother and sister 35th district officers, on Tuesday morning.

Understand that while divisional hearings have been held at the 35th district for years, these are obviously not normal circumstances inside that building. With one of their own gunned down just days ago, the officers there are still in shock and still processing their grief. After all, John Pawlowski has not even been buried yet.

Washington finally began to process the cases before him after arriving late, a bad habit that a number of justices have gotten into all over the city. At some point well into the proceedings he noticed a memorial display that had been setup which featured a photo of officer Pawlowski and some flowers.

Washington turned to court officer Blanca Rodriguez and ordered her to remove the picture, saying that it was “inappropriate” and a “distraction” to the proceedings.

Now had it ended at this point we could perhaps write off Washington as simply the most stupid individual to ever mar the bench with his presence. I mean at this point we possibly could say that he just didn’t get it, that he was too intellectually and emotionally inferior a human being to process the situation.

But then he went more than a step further. The court officer refused to take down the memorial, and Washington stormed off his bench and out to the office of the 35th district’s commanding officer, Captain John McCloskey. He demanded that McCloskey order the memorial taken down during the court proceedings.

McCloskey, being both a human being and a true leader of men, denied Washington’s request. The incensed Washington, ego bruised, then marched to a police Inspector who also turned him down. Washington had now gone from possibly stupid to utterly childish as he stomped around the district building crying and whining for someone to listen to him and do what he said. After all this was his court and he was the judge, which meant he was the boss here.

He stormed back into the area being used for the court hearings, took officer Pawlowski’s picture, and in the act that finally showed his colors he turned the fallen hero’s picture over on its face.

What Washington failed to consider was that this was not a courthouse and he was not the boss. This was a police facility, a particular facility where a family of officers were in grief and mourning. This was their house, not his. He was lucky to get out physically unscathed.

Members of the police union, FOP Lodge #5, were notified and arrived at the building and immediately confronted Washington, who scurried from his bench like a dirty, slimy, frightened rat. He ran out into his car and hastily pulled away from the district, possibly contacting a police wagon as he did so.

In these final actions, Washington proved exactly who he is. The man is not stupid, he is quite simply ignorant and disrespectful and cared more about his ego than the memory of a murdered police officer.

Philadelphia is less safe today because John Pawlowski is dead and Craig Washington will still be hearing criminal cases in a courtroom.

In a final act of cowardice by the local judiciary, the top judge in the Municipal Court system backed her man’s actions by saying that Washington’s moves were proper and did not show disrespect.

Judge Marsha Niefield, who herself should feel shamed and embarrassed this morning after her ‘rally around my buddy’ statement:

“I understand that emotions are running high, and that is completely understandable considering the tragic loss of the officer. That having been said, Judge Washington attempted to maintain the proper court decorum consistent with other places.” 

If the circumstances were not so tragic that statement would be comically ignorant rather than arrogantly so. The fact is that the memory of a fallen hero, John Pawlowski, and his fellow officers of the 35th district were completely and utterly disrespected yesterday by Washington. His actions show the street thugs how police officers can and should be viewed and treated by them.

If this is how we can treat them in their own house, then we can do even worse when they come into our neighborhoods or down to our corner. What Washington did yesterday at Broad & Champlost was nothing short of judicial misconduct.

Hands that shed innocent blood

Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski

For the past couple of weeks this ‘Sunday Sermon’ series (each entry can be read by clicking on the label at the bottom of this post) has been focusing on Proverbs 6:16-19 which covers the six things that the Lord hates, and a seventh which is an abomination.

The third item in this list would be “hands that shed innocent blood” which is sadly ironic considering Friday night’s murder of Philadelphia police officer John Pawlowski.

Whether or not John’s killer will end up spending an eternity in hell, whether anyone who takes an innocent human life will suffer that fate, is not for us to say or know. One thing that Proverbs makes undeniably clear is that this murder of innocents is particularly detestable to God Himself.

On Friday night, John Pawlowski was an innocent man. Perhaps more than that, he was working actively to try and help keep peace and order in his community. He was a police officer in an increasingly violent major American city that is itself ironically nicknamed ‘The City of Brotherly Love’. It is a moniker that is no longer appropriate.

John and his partner exited their police vehicle after being flagged down to handle a disturbance on the highway. While handling this dispute, one of the individuals involved reached into his own pocket and shot right through his jacket, killing John Pawlowski there and then.

Innocent blood once again shed in one of the acts that God hates.

Each year, hundreds and hundreds of Philadelphians are murdered in cold blood by their fellow citizens. Webster defines ‘murder’ as “unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.

Sometimes as a legal definition it has been divided into ‘degrees’ of murder based on the intent of the killer as well as other accompanying actions.

But it is not only murder which sheds innocent blood.

The taking of another life is, as a legal matter, usually acceptable to the larger society when that action comes in self-defense or in a justifiable military or police action.

A police officer killing someone who is trying to kill that officer or another person is justified. A member of the military fighting in a war in defense of the overall freedom and liberty of others is justified. A citizen taking the life of one who is actively attempting to take the life of that person is justified.

However, there are circumstances similar to each of those when the taking of life is not justified. Any time that any such action is taken and innocent blood is shed, this is what God hates.

A military or police action resulting in the death of someone truly innocent, what is sometimes referred to as ‘collateral damage’, is no different to God just because the intent of the actor did not involve killing such innocents.

That isn’t to say that the person acting in what most would deem to be a just manner, and who in doing so takes the life of an innocent by mistake or happenstance, will answer to God for that life in eternity.

Nonetheless, it remains something that God hates. It is something that we should always take the time to evaluate within our own conscience.

There is no one on earth more innocent than a tiny child, one that has had no opportunity to commit evil. Yet the fact remains that over 11 million Americans have had their innocent blood shed in the womb just since the turn of the century in the act of abortion.

Hundreds of millions of Americans have been murdered in the womb since the SCOTUS decision of Roe vs. Wade legalized this type of killing.

God does not distinguish using human terms such as ‘legal’ or ‘moral’, He is concerned with ‘innocence’, and there is no one more innocent than a baby in the womb.

To take such a life, one that has done nothing wrong, one that is rarely threatening the life of the mother, may indeed be the most selfish and immoral act someone can take. It most certainly is the shedding of innocent blood, no matter how we might try to justify it in our own minds and to our own conscience.

Catholicism and most other forms of Christian morality speaks to the taking of innocent blood in the topics of murder, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide as always wrong. Certainly God sees all of these situations as resulting in the shedding of innocent blood, which He hates.

Be it that of an innocent police officer just doing his job of protecting and serving others, or an innocent baby in the womb, God hates the shedding of innocent blood as much as He hates anything.

NOTE: This series from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs will continue with the fourth item as next week’s entry in the ‘Sunday Sermon’ series.

Numb…Again

Another Philadelphia police officer lies dead this morning. He was only 25 years old. His young wife is now a widow as she carries their first and only child in her womb, a child that won’t be born until the coming summer is almost over. A child that will never know it’s father, never even get to meet him.

He is John Pawlowski of the PPD’s 35th district, and he is the 7th Philly cop to be killed in the line of duty in the past 33 months. I remember a time when it seemed that we lost a brother or sister officer every few years. Now we don’t even get six months, and often it’s been much less.

There was a time when it made me sad and angry. But the wave of murders of our officers over the past couple years has simply left me numb. I can’t even watch the stories on TV anymore beyond the headlines to get the basic facts. I am well aware that the danger is part of the job for which we have all signed up, but I want it to just all stop, even if just for a couple years.

Part of the problem for cops is that we do a job that few others could ever possibly relate to, but we can all relate to one another. No matter what our current responsibilities in this career that we have chosen, we were all John Pawlowski at some point.

We all put on the uniform and the badge, strapped the gun to our hip, slid behind the wheel of a marked police car, and slipped out into the night to patrol the streets of Philadelphia. It is alternately thrilling and dangerous, exciting and deadly. It is sometimes slow, but rarely boring. And always, always, there is the next corner to turn, around which may lie one of the funniest things that you’ve ever seen, or the end of your life.

You work those streets as a cop in a squad of men and women who become your extended family. You are with them almost every day or night in those circumstances and situations. Especially as a young person in your early years on the job, you form a bond in that squad that will never leave you.

My squad was special to me, and always will be. It included my own brother, Mike Veasey, with whom I had the absolute pleasure to work with as a partner for a few years.

Our squad in the early years of the 1990’s also included others who I will also always carry in my heart: Dave Lee, Juan Perez, Lisa Collins, Tom McComesky, Bob Donahue, Joe Kramer, Tommy DiFlorio, Aaron Horn, Chris Faber, Kevin Bethel, Thom Hoban, Stevie Susson, Denise McDonough, Nick Campolongo, Herbie Felder, Kevin Wong, Charlie Kelly, Ray Plymouth, Anne Klineburger, Eddie Blunt, Patti Parks, Bobby Bonds, Dominic Tursi, Dennis Andraczak, Tommy Key, Gary Burrell, Louie & Stephanie Velazquez, and many others.

There are so many people that touch you on this job, that you lean on to get you through the tough times, that you laugh with during the good times. Not only those folks in your own squad, but also those in the other squads within your district, and other cops all over the city, and the many business and community people that become a part of our everyday lives.

Working the streets is addictive. It is an experience that is difficult to describe. Having that kind of respect from most people, experiencing that affection from folks you don’t even know, and carrying the burden of the power that the people have bestowed on you that includes taking away someones freedom and even their life. Only police officers who have worn that uniform and stepped out on those patrols will ever know that feeling.

This was the life that young John Pawlowski was living, the same one that I lived, that my brother lived, that our father lived. The same one that every street cop has lived. It is what makes losing John, and all the others in recent months and years, so very difficult.

It is always worth mentioning them all by name, because what has happened recently will forever link them: Gary Skerski, Chuck Cassidy, Steve Liczbinski, Isabel Nazario, Pat McDonald, Tim Simpson and now John Pawlowski.

We are them. They are us. It is Valentine’s Day, and a young woman carrying a baby should be waking up to her young husband and thinking about things like cards and flowers and candy and dinner. Instead she has to plan a funeral. I am numb…again.