Philly Police Officer Grazed in Head by Bullet, Suspect Shot Dead

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Department of Justice is investigating the shooting of a Philadelphia Police Officer early Tuesday in the Tacony Section of the city. Officer Kopalski and his partner attempted to stop the suspect after they heard reports of a man with a gun in the neighborhood when shots were fired. Kopalski suffered a bullet wound to the head but is expected to recover. The suspect was killed. (Published Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014)

    An overnight shootout in the Tacony section of Philadelphia injured a police officer and left a suspect dead.

    A bullet grazed Officer Stephen Korpalski in the head as he and his partner responded to a report of an armed man at the intersection of Torresdale Avenue and Magee Avenues at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to Philadelphia Police.

    "Immediately [the suspect] fired his weapon and it actually struck the police wagon," said Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross. Shortly after, a second bullet from the suspect's gun hit Korpalski in the head, said investigators.

    Korpalski, his 15th District partner and two other officers returned fire, striking 29-year-old David Ellis multiple times. Ellis died a short time later at the hospital.

    "He did have a significant graze wound to the left side of his head," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. "We are very fortunate, about a half inch over, a bit more, and we would be planning a funeral right now."

    Korpalski, a 14-year-veteran of the force, was rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center where he was listed in stable condition. The 34-year-old is a married father with a newborn child. His family rushed to the hospital to be by his side.

    Ramsey and other Philly officers also made their way to the trauma center where uniformed officers could be seen embracing outside the emergency room. Korpalski was released from the hospital later in the morning.

    Police said Korpalski, who was in full uniform at the time of the shooting, will be placed on medical leave as he recovers at home.

    The early morning shootout was the 18th police-involved shooting so far this year and the first in which an officer was hurt. This was the second police-involved shooting in which the suspect died. According to Ramsey, the number of police-involved shootings in the city have gone down since 2012.

    "It's something that unfortunately does happen periodically," Ramsey told reporters. "We have some pretty brazen criminals, and our officers, that's what we do -- we send them in harm's way. We put them in the toughest areas to go after the people that are causing a lot of harm out here in our community."

    Police closed streets in the area for nearly six hours as they investigated the incident.

    In addition to police, the District Attorney's Office and Internal Affairs, the Department of Justice will also investigate the incident as part of their ongoing review of police-involved shootings in Philadelphia.

    "The real issue is whether or not the shooting was justified at the time it occurred," Ramsey said. "We have to really make sure that we have a thorough and complete investigation." 

    Byshera Richardson, who ducked for cover with her daughter when the shooting took place, believes the officers handled the situation correctly.

    "I'm glad that they did what they had to do," she said.