PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A judge upheld a murder charge Tuesday against a speeding drug suspect in the crash death of a Philadelphia police officer, despite defense claims that no malice was involved.
William Foster, a career petty offender, allegedly sped through a red light at a busy intersection as he was being chased by police and smashed into a second cruiser. The force of the impact sent the cruiser hurtling into a building, killing the lone officer inside, 46-year-old Sgt. Timothy Simpson.
Simpson had been cited for exemplary work by the department only a day before the Nov. 17 crash. He is one of seven city officers killed on duty in three years, including a partner, Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, who had been ambushed by bank robbery suspects six months earlier.
"We're glad he was held on all of the charges," said the victim's brother, Officer Terry Simpson, a member of the department's SWAT team. He otherwise declined to comment.
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Foster, 41, of Levittown, expressed little emotion in court. His prior record involves mostly drug and theft charges, and includes at least one court-ordered attempt at drug treatment. Police say they found three packets of heroin on him after the crash.
Foster's driving license had been suspended for about a decade. The dented black Chevrolet Camaro he drove that night had been stolen days earlier from a Bristol salvage yard owner who kept the keys in the console, according to testimony Tuesday.
The owner's son spotted it later that day, Nov. 13, and chased the driver to a light where he confronted him. But Simpson jumped onto nearby Interstate 95 South and disappeared into traffic, the son testified.
Four days later, the car careened into Simpson at a speed that one witness Tuesday, a Septa bus driver, estimated at 60 miles an hour.
Foster had only trace amounts of drugs or alcohol in his system, leading prosecutors to drop drunken driving charges -- and argue that he had "a clear mind" and the "consciousness of malice" required for murder and aggravated assault charges.
He is also charged with vehicular homicide, receiving stolen property and other charges. His arraignment was set for April 21. He is currently serving a 5- to 10-year term on other charges.
Simpson, a 20-year veteran, was married and had several school-age children. He was remembered at his funeral as a man who loved fishing and practical jokes, and who cultivated close friendships with many people, including Liczbinski.
He came from a long line of police officers that included his father and grandfather.