'Harrowing night': Wounded Philly transit cop ID'd, video shows gunfight

Officer Ervis Onuzi was shot in the abdomen while covering fellow officers during a chaotic shootout


By Ellie Rushing, Rodrigo Torrejón, Thomas Fitzgerald and Barbara Laker
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — Marcellous Andrews was resting inside his Frankford apartment when a voice boomed in the hallway.

"Open the door!" the man yelled, banging on Andrews' door.

Before Andrews could react, the man burst into his home with such force it splintered his wooden door.

The intruder glanced at Andrews briefly, Andrews said, before running into his living room. It was just after 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Andrews rushed out of the building.

Dozens of Philadelphia police officers were waiting outside and told him to take cover. Andrews watched as the man shattered the living-room window of his second-story unit on the 4700 block of Leiper Street.

Then the man pulled out a gun and started shooting.

What followed was a nearly 90-minute standoff between the gunman and Philadelphia and SEPTA police that started with the shootings of three people outside the bus station, and ended with a transit officer critically wounded and the gunman dead from what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

[EARLIER: Transit officer among 3 shot in Philly gunfight; gunman dead]

"It was a harrowing night," SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel III said Thursday.

The incident began when SEPTA police responded to the sound of gunfire near the Arrott Transportation Center in Frankford. Officers found two women, ages 42 and 57, with gunshot wounds at Arrott and Griscom Streets, police said.

Law enforcement sources believe the two women were hit by stray bullets while waiting for buses outside the transit center as the man fired at someone else on the street. The gunman also shot his intended target, who police said Thursday was a 33-year-old man who later walked into Jefferson Frankford Hospital with two gunshots to the neck and a graze wound to the head.

Police chased the man believed to be the shooter, and he ran into the apartment building on Leiper Street, about three blocks from the transit center. He barricaded himself and began shooting at the officers from the second-story window. Multiple officers returned fire, police said.

Ervis Onuzi, 28, a three-year member of SEPTA's police force, was shot in the abdomen. He was treated at Temple University Hospital and is expected to recover, Nestel said.

Video from the scene obtained by The Inquirer shows Onuzi crouched near a police cruiser when gunfire erupts.

He appeared to yell, "I'm shot," before falling into the street behind the cruiser and limping away to try to get to safety.

Several other officers were pinned down, unable to retreat from the flying bullets, but were later rescued with the help of a SWAT armored vehicle.

Officers from across the city rushed to the scene even while supervisors debated where to set up a safe staging area and how to secure the perimeter. The citywide and Northeast police radio bands at times crackled with chaos — growing so crowded that supervisors and dispatchers repeatedly tried to herd everyone onto one band and warned those who were nonessential to "clear the air."

As the shooter began firing from a second-floor window, at least three officers were trapped in positions exposed to the crossfire. Other officers warned them repeatedly to stay down, and warned snipers who responded with long guns not to shoot without a clear sight on the target.

The shootout was declared under control around 8:25 p.m. Police later said the gunman — whom they have not identified — was found dead inside the property of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, and a gun was found near his body.

The women he shot earlier in the night were in stable condition, police said, one with a gunshot wound to the buttocks and the other shot in the hip. The man was also stable.

Police continue to investigate.

Nestel said Thursday that Onuzi did not fire at the shooter. He did not know how many total shots were fired by officers or the suspect at the scene.

After the shooting, more than 70 SEPTA officers gathered Wednesday night at Temple University Hospital, where Onuzi was being treated.

"Teammates of the officer naturally are focused on their colleague and want to be there with them at the hospital," he said.

Crime-scene crews arrived at the Frankford building, a cream-colored home converted into apartments, on Thursday morning. Shattered glass and bloodstains remained scattered across Andrews' floor.

Staff writers Max Marin, Robert Moran, Chris Palmer, Samantha Melamed, and Marina Affo contributed to this article.

(c)2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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