Philly Police Commissioner Will Fire Officer Who Shot Boy, 12, to Death

The police commissioner said the actions that led to the death of Thomas Siderio, 12, in South Philadelphia on March did not match the department's motto of "honor, integrity, and service."

NBC Universal, Inc.

Philadelphia police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw on Tuesday said she will fire the plainclothes officer who shot and killed a fleeing 12-year-old boy last week in South Philadelphia.

The officer, who Outlaw has still not identified, shot Thomas Siderio on March 1 as the boy ran away, striking him once in the upper right side of his back, with the bullet coming out through the front left side of his chest, the Philadelphia Police Department said last week.

A Philadelphia police officer was fired after he shot and killed a 12-year-old boy. NBC10's Matt DeLucia has the details.

Outlaw said the officer would be fired because he violated the department's "Use of Force" directives, including using excessive force in the shooting of Siderio.

"Based off the evidence I reviewed, it's clear that the use of force policy was violated," Outlaw said. "All use of force has to be proportionate to the resistance they are trying to overcome. I will also tell you that our policy states excessive force will not be tolerated. That's the gist of what we're talking about."

Thomas Siderio faces forward in a photo.
Thomas Siderio

The Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents police officers, said it would not comment on Outlaw's comments or the findings released at the press conference.

"This incident does not reflect who we are as the Philadelphia Police Department. It is not aligned with our values of honor, integrity and service. And while I don't speak for the FOP, we're all still cops, and we all understand the gravity of the situation behind this incident," Outlaw said. We all understand how unfortunate this entire incident was and how tragic it ended."

She added, "I think we all say in solidarity that this does not reflect who we are as a police department."

The District Attorney's office said it has its own ongoing investigation into the incident.

"Philadelphians are owed a comprehensive and transparent accounting of all activity surrounding the circumstances of young Thomas Siderio’s death and an unbiased and thorough investigation," District Attorney Larry Krasner said. "When it is appropriate for us to do so, we will disclose findings of our currently active investigation and decision on whether or not to pursue any criminal charges.” 

Outlaw also said for the first time that evidence suggests that Siderio fired a bullet into an unmarked police vehicle that contained four plainclothes officers prior to the chase and the boy's death. A stolen 9mm semiautomatic gun was recovered at the scene, she added.

An officer sitting in the rear passenger seat was hit by shards of glass in the face and eyes, according to police. He suffered injuries to his face and eyes, Outlaw said.

The officers were conducting surveillance in the area of 18th and Barbara streets around 7:24 p.m. Tuesday when they spotted two boys on bicycles, the PPD said. They noticed one of the boys, a 17-year-old, was wanted in a gun investigation, the department said.

The officers drove toward the pair, stopping a few feet north of Barbara Street and turning on the vehicle’s lights, the department added.

At that point, the officers heard gunfire and glass shattering from the rear passenger window, police said.

The officer who was driving and an officer sitting in the rear driver's side seat got out of the car and fired at Siderio, who was holding a gun and running away, PPD Deputy Commissioner Ben Naish said. One of the officers continued chasing the boy, firing two more times and mortally striking him with one of the bullets, the deputy commissioner added.

He said he could not "get into specifics" about whether the officers told the boy to stop or to drop the gun.

None of the officers was wearing a body camera because current policy does not require plainclothes officers to wear one, Naish said.

Though the boy was shot in the back, it doesn't mean he wasn't pointing the gun toward or "in the vicinity" of the officer, the deputy commissioner said. The gun Siderio was holding had one live round in the chamber and five in the magazine, he added.

The boy was taken by police to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 7:29 p.m. The officer hit by glass was treated at the same hospital and later released.

The 17-year-old wanted for questioning in the firearms case was released pending further investigation, the police department said. The teen's mother, who didn't want to be identified, told NBC10 her son and Siderio didn't know they were being approached by police.

"They're saying the cop car turned their lights on, that never happened," the woman said. "So they didn't make themselves known as police officers. So the two kids assumed it was somebody from another neighborhood so the one kid shot at the car."

The four officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a full investigation, Outlaw said.

The Philadelphia School District confirmed Siderio was a 7th grader at George W. Sharswood Elementary in South Philadelphia. Those who knew Siderio said he had a troubled upbringing and bounced around different schools and homes throughout his life. He was reported missing by Philadelphia Police two years ago.

An attorney for Siderio's family told NBC10 they are filing a civil suit against the Philadelphia Police Department. That same attorney once represented Siderio's father, Thomas Siderio Sr., in a police brutality case several years ago. The accused officers in that case belonged to the same district of the officers involved in last week's shooting. The case involving Siderio Sr. was settled out of court with undisclosed details.

Siderio Sr. is currently facing time in state prison on gun charges that were reduced from murder charges.

The Philadelphia School District made counseling services available for students at Sharswood Elementary.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

Contact Us