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Police release new details in Kensington shooting that critically injured officer

Police leaders and prosecutors provided additional details about the incident during a news conference Monday at PPD headquarters.

Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel speaks Monday, June 24, during a news conference providing an update about a shooting that seriously wounded a police officer. (Photo by Jack Tomczuk / Metro Philadelphia)

This article was originally published by Metro Philadelphia.

Ramon Rodriguez-Vazquez allegedly opened fire on police – critically injuring an officer – nearly 30 minutes into a traffic stop Saturday night in Kensington, authorities said.

In the minutes after the shooting, he desperately tried to flee the area, eventually holding a resident at gunpoint inside his home and making plans to leave the city, according to investigators.

Rodriguez-Vazquez, 36, was apprehended not long after the incident, and he is being held on $12.5 million bail on two counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

“When you talk about senseless, this is the most senseless you can ever imagine,” Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said. “It’s just a normal stop, nothing that would give you the rise to take the action that ultimately occurred.”

Police leaders and prosecutors provided additional details about the incident during a news conference Monday at PPD headquarters.

The 31-year-old officer, who was shot in the neck, has six-and-a-half years on the force, and he has not been publicly identified. Bethel, at the request of his family, did not disclose details about his medical condition, except to say that he is hooked up to a ventilator.

“He’s in a battle,” he added. “They asked us not to share any additional information, but to continue to ask the community for their prayers.”

Much of the investigation into the shooting thus far has relied on video pulled from local security cameras and the officers’ body-worn cameras, police said.

At around 7:15 p.m. Saturday, two officers assigned to the 25th Police District pulled over a car on the 3500 block of F Street. Police officials have not said what initiated the stop.

The officers called a Philadelphia Parking Authority tow truck to remove the vehicle, in what is known in law enforcement circles as a “live stop,” because Rodriguez-Vazquez did not have a license or valid registration, Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore told reporters.

Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore speaks Monday, June 24, during a news conference providing an update about a shooting that seriously wounded a police officer. (Photo by Jack Tomczuk / Metro Philadelphia)

While waiting for the tow, Rodriguez-Vazquez made a call, and two women and a man arrived at the scene in a separate car, according to Vanore. Police initially said they had been in the same vehicle as Rodriguez-Vazquez. None of the individuals are currently facing criminal charges.

During the half-hour long process, Rodriguez-Vazquez was captured on video conversing with the officers in Spanish, Vanore said.

The officers began to create an inventory of items inside the car for the PPA. One spotted a holster on the vehicle’s floor, alerted his partner and called Rodriguez-Vazquez over, according to authorities.

At that point, Rodriguez-Vazquez allegedly dropped some personal belongings and ran away. Police gave chase, and, while in the middle of the street and “without any provocation,” he turned and fired three shots at the officers, Vanore said.

He added that the partner of the injured officer fired at least one shot in return. Then, the partner, with the help of the tow truck driver, loaded the wounded officer into a patrol car so he could get to the hospital, according to the PPD.

The tow truck driver then “stayed on the scene, guarding that scene pretty much for us until other officers arrived,” Vanore said.

Rodriguez-Vazquez is seen removing and discarding his white shirt, revealing a dark-colored top underneath, investigators said. He then attempted to get into a garage on G Street but was turned away, Vanore added.

Near the corner of G and Tioga streets, a block from the shooting, he apparently tried to get into a minivan traveling through the intersection, authorities said. He was unsuccessful, and the vehicle sped off. Police want to speak to the van’s driver.

About 15 minutes after the shooting, Rodriguez-Vazquez approached a man in his 20s who was sitting on the front step of his house nearby on the 800 block E. Schiller Street, Vanore said. He ordered the resident into the property at gunpoint and held him there, according to police.

“While he was inside this house, he was on the phone and evidence is showing that he was trying his best to make plans to get out of Philadelphia,” Assistant District Attorney Robert Wainwright said.

Vanore said that, at some point, Rodriguez-Vazquez allowed the man to leave the house, and he alerted police who had begun to blanket the area. The resident did not report any injuries, police said.

Following a brief standoff outside the property, SWAT officers arrested Rodriguez-Vazquez without incident, according to authorities.

Investigators recovered a handgun when searching the house, Vanore added. Detectives have not yet verified whether the weapon was used in the shooting.

In addition to the attempted murder counts, Rodriguez-Vazquez was charged with aggravated assault of a police officer, firearm violations, kidnapping, burglary and a host of other crimes.

Court documents indicate he is being represented by the Defender Association of Philadelphia, which did not respond to a request for comment. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 11.

Bethel said the shooting will not derail efforts to shut down Kensington’s drug market, a top priority of Mayor Cherelle Parker’s nascent administration.

A PPD academy class of 75 new officers was deployed to the neighborhood last week after graduating June 17. The move was intended to increase enforcement in the area as part of a five-phase plan.

The officer was shot just steps outside the department’s focus area for the Kensington initiative, which stretches west to E Street and north to Tioga Street.

Bethel, while noting that police have been wounded across the city, said he recognizes the incident could have a “significant impact” on the rookie cops. He said commanders are “doing some different modeling with them” in response to the shooting but declined to provide specifics.

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