Three Philadelphia police officers riding in an unmarked car were checking on a man on a bike when he pulled out a gun and fired at them before a second shooter joined the fray, setting off a gun battle that saw two officers briefly hospitalized, police said.
The 14th District officers, two men and one woman, were driving down the 1400 block of Sharpnack Street, in the Cedarbrook section of the East Mount Airy neighborhood, when the first gunman pulled up next to them on his bike around 8 p.m. Friday, Philadelphia Police Department Sgt. Eric Gripp said.
The officer driving the car rolled down his window to check on the man when he suddenly pulled out a gun and started shooting, causing the officer to pull off Sharpnack Street and onto Fayette Street, where he crashed the car into a fence, Gripp said.
The first gunman kept firing after the officers crashed, striking their vehicle multiple times, with one bullet piercing the car door, going through the seat and hitting the driving officer in the back, Gripp said. The officer’s bulletproof vest saved him, the sergeant added.
As the cyclist kept shooting, the officers were able to get out of the car and return fire, but that’s when a second shooter further down the street joined in and also rained bullets on the officers, placing them in a crossfire, Gripp said.
The gunmen ran away in an unknown direction, leaving behind the wounded officer as well as causing the female officer, who was riding in the back seat of the police vehicle, to sustain cuts to her left leg, the sergeant said. The third officer, who was riding in the front passenger seat, was uninjured.
Both injured officers were taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where they were treated and released Saturday.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
The gunman riding the bike is believed to be 28-year-old Jeffione Thomas, who is described as being 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing around 180 pounds and whose last known address was on the 7800 block of Fayette Street, Gripp said. He and the other alleged shooter, whom police have not described, are wanted for attempted murder and related charges.
In an emailed statement, City Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker said she was relieved to hear the officers were not seriously hurt.
"This was a situation that potentially could have ended up a lot worse than it did," she wrote. "Having said that, this is the height of lawlessness and it is completely unacceptable behavior in a civilized society. It is despicable and morally bankrupt."
Police have not named the three officers in the shooting, but the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 said they were working an undercover narcotics detail.
The order, which represents officers in labor negotiations, is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of the suspects.
"Our officers were ambushed for simply doing their jobs, working to get drugs and guns off our streets," Lodge President John McNesby said. "This brazen disrespect of law enforcement is unacceptable."