A man was killed and an officer is recovering from a gunshot wound after a traffic stop led both the man and police to open fire on one another in Philadelphia's Olney neighborhood, officials said.
The ordeal began at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday on the 1500 block of Somerville Avenue when two police officers pulled over a blue Kia Optima that failed to stop at a stop sign, according to investigators.
The officers approached the Kia and spotted a woman and three men inside.
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The officers learned that the driver had an outstanding warrant for parole and probation violations while one of the passengers, later identified as 24-year-old James Alexander, had an outstanding warrant for bail jumping out of the state of Wisconsin.
The two officers then requested additional backup and four more officers in uniform and marked vehicles arrived to help.
All six officers then approached the Kia. Two of the officers told the driver to step out of the car and he complied, police said. Two of the other officers walked to the rear passenger door. One of the officers then opened that door and told Alexander to step out. The officer also told Alexander to leave his cell phone inside the car and asked him if he had a gun on him.
Investigators said Alexander then removed a gun from his waistline prompting the officer to yell, "He's got a gun."
As three of the officers retreated, Alexander allegedly fired his gun at police. He then stepped out of the car and fired two more shots at the officers, investigators said.
Five of the officers then fired at Alexander, striking him multiple times in the torso. During the shootout, one of the officers, a 29-year-old man in the 35th District, was shot in the left foot, though investigators have not yet revealed if he was shot by Alexander or hit by friendly fire.
Alexander was taken to the nearby Einstein Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7 p.m. The injured officer was also taken to the hospital in stable condition. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw spoke with the officer and his family. The officer, who has been with the department for four years, was later released from the hospital.
None of the other officers involved nor the three other people who were inside the car were injured. Those three people were taken into custody for questioning. Police also recovered Alexander's weapon, a Ruger .40 caliber, semi-automatic handgun, investigators said.
During the interviews, the three people inside the Kia told investigators that Alexander had told them he had a gun and that he could not go back to jail, according to police. They also told police they assumed Alexander had removed his gun when the officers initially approached the vehicle. One of the passengers also said he spotted Alexander leaning back and motioning to his front waistline prior to the shooting.
Another witness who was outside the car told investigators he spotted Alexander on the sidewalk, facing away from the officers and extending his arm in the opposite direction while shooting at them.
"Utilizing deadly force is one of the most difficult decisions that an officer will ever face," Commissioner Outlaw said. "These actions have long-lasting effects on everyone, not just those directly involved in these incidents. I want to assure the public that a thorough and complete investigation will be conducted into this police-involved shooting."
Homicides reached the second-highest total in 60 years in 2020, and the number of deaths is actually well above last year's pace in 2021.
Editor's Note: Police initially told NBC10 a woman had also been shot. The story has been updated to reflect that the officer and the 24-year-old man were the only two people who were struck during the shooting.
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.