Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cassidy murder fugitive held in Miami; cousin charged with aiding his escape

Cassidy murder fugitive held in Miami; cousin charged with aiding his escape

Posted on Tue, Nov. 6, 2007

By Barbara Boyer, Joseph A. Slobodzian and Andrew Maykuth


Police in Florida apprehended fugitive John Lewis at dawn today at a homeless shelter in downtown Miami, ending a dramatic multistate dragnet for the man wanted in the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Chuck Cassidy.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said authorities were tipped off that Lewis was staying at the Miami Rescue Mission after local television broadcast photos of the 21-year-old suspect.

At midday, five Philadelphia police investigators boarded a flight to Miami to retrieve the suspect. Observing a police tradition, the detectives tucked Cassidy's crome handcuffs in their belongings, which they plan to use to bring the suspect north to face prosecution here.

Lewis faces a charge that he murdered Cassidy last week when the officer was shot in the head after interrupting an armed robbery at a West Oak Lane Dunkin' Donuts.

"Now that the killer is in custody, the wheels of justice will begin to turn, and we will use all of our resources to bring this defendant to justice," District Attorney Lynne Abraham said in a statement.

Authorities this afternoon charged a cousin of Lewis with obstruction of justice and hindering arrest. Police said the cousin, Hakim Glover, 29, put Lewis on a bus for Florida on Saturday, allowing the suspect to escape only minutes before police closed in on his mother's home on Roosevelt Boulevard.

Miami Police Chief John Timoney, the former commissioner in Philadelphia, said Philadelphia police alerted him yesterday afternoon after they learned that the suspected killer had fled to Florida. Timoney set up a task force to hunt the fugitive down and enlisted Miami television stations to broadcast a mugshot of the suspect.

Terri Ramos, a spokeswoman for the shelter, said the man identified as Lewis arrived yesterday afternoon, saying he had just arrived in town on a Greyhound Bus.

Ramos said he was dressed in a yellow jacket and gave his name as Akim Melvin Atwell, but he volunteered little else about his background or where he had come from.

Ramos said Atwell spent a quiet night at the 220-bed shelter and interacted with some of the 150 men now staying there.

Shortly after 6 a.m. today, Ramos said, a male staffer at the center saw Lewis' image on the morning news.

"He said, 'I think that's the guy I saw yesterday,'" Ramos said.

Ramos said the staffer – whom she would not identify -- was struck by the hair plaits on the televised image of the suspect and the fact that Atwell's hair had a "wild look" as if he had recently loosened plaits in his hair.

While police were alerted, Ramos said the staff lured the suspect into the chapel on the pretense of attending morning prayers. When Miami-Dade police arrived, the man was told he was needed in the lobby.

"He went very submissively," said Ramos.

"I'm sorry," arresting officers quoted Lewis as saying.

Ramos said the shelter this morning was overwhelmed with television camera crews. "Now we're in the middle of a media frenzy," she said.

The arrest ends an extraordinary manhunt for the man who allegedly gunned down the officer during a botched armed robbery.

"In the city of Philadelphia, we do not stand for this kind of violence, nor do we stand for this kind of violence against our police department," Mayor John F. Street said at a news conference this morning."

"Law enforcement has no boundaries," Johnson said at the news briefing. He thanked federal authorities as well as Miami police for making an all-out effort to apprehend the suspected killer of a law enforcement officer. He also thanked the media for publicizing the suspect's image.

"When a law enforcement officer is killed, it's the entire law enforcement community that suffers because of that," he said.

Lewis will face an extradition hearing in Miami before authorities can return him to Philadelphia.

Homicide Sgt. William Britt, who is among five detectives en route to Miami this afternoon, said Lewis likely would return to Philadelphia tomorrow at the earliest if he does not try to fight his extradition.

Cassidy's family, preparing for his funeral at noon tomorrow, expressed gratitude through a spokesman.

"We are extremely appreciative of the hard work of the Philadelphia Police Department during the past week and are grateful as well for the efforts of the police officers in Miami," the family said in a prepared statement.

For elated Philadelphia police officers, who had worked around the clock searching for the suspect since Cassidy's shooting Wednesday morning, the news of the arrest came on the day that that Cassidy's funderal visitation services are scheduled.

"This is the happiest sad day that I've had in a long time," said Sgt. Tim Cooney, a member of the task force created to catch Cassidy's killer.

"We worked long and hard on this," Cooney said, saying that the homicide task force had worked closely wtih officers in 35th District, where Cassidy worked, and North Division Detectives.

Homicide Detective Greg Singleton, another member of the task force, said exhausted investigators could finally take a break.

"I felt relieved that this guy was caught and we can finally put this thing to rest," said the detective.

The arrest caps an intensive manhunt that involved hundreds of Philadelphia police officers and federal law enforcment agencies.

Investigators were disappointed yesterday to learn that Lewis, an Olney High School dropout who had worked at other Dunkin' Donuts outlets, had managed to escape the city while police were hot on his trail. Today they charged his cousin, Glover, with helping the suspect to escape.

Police said they learned of Lewis' bus trip yesterday when they raid Glover's house on the 3800 block of North Franklin Street, where they recovered two guns - one of them the slain officer's 9 mm Glock semiautomatic.

Glover was initially uncooperative, authorities said. During questioning, he ultimately disclosed that he had taken Lewis to the bus station in Wilmington and that he had a ticket to Miami. But by that time, the bus had already arrived in Miami at 10:45 p.m. Sunday.

Police were uncertain Lewis was in Miami or had disembarked at any of the numerous stops between Wilmington and Florida.

"We had FBI agents and law enforcement all over the place," said Philadelphia Homicide Capt. Michael Costello. "And we had them everywhere in between here and Miami."

Costello said others may be charged in connection with Lewis' run for freedom.

Before police were tipped off to Lewis' identity on Saturday, the suspect appeared to be conducting himself normally and in the open.

Rather than conceal himself in the days following Cassidy's killing, Lewis actually strolled into the Criminal Justice Center on Friday to attend a pre-arranged court hearing related to his arrest on June 14 for drug possession, a court official said today.

While the city was on the lookout for a suspect with spider web tattoo on his hand -- police later dismissed that description after they identified Lewis -- the suspect walked past dozens of law enforcement officers who were attending various hearings at the Center City complex.

After he was ordered to reappear in court in January and left the courthouse, Lewis literally slipped unscathed through the hall of justice.

Authorities confirmed yesterday through a bus driver that Lewis had taken a bus to Miami. Police said they had learned that a relative had purchased a bus ticket for the 30-hour ride to Miami over the weekend for Lewis.

Two handguns that police said were linked to the slaying were recovered yesterday afternoon from the house of Lewis' cousin, Glover. While one was the officer's 9mm Glock semiautomatic, stolen when he was gunned down, the second was not the firearm reported missing by Lewis' mother, Lynn Dyches, a corrections officer in the Philadelphia Prison System. Police initially suspected that the mother's gun may have been used in the slaying.

Cassidy, a 25-year police veteran, was shot Wednesday after walking into a Dunkin' Donuts in West Oak Lane as it was being robbed. He died the next day.

An arrest warrant was issued early Sunday. "Lewis expressed a desire not to be captured," according to a federal affidavit filed in support of the arrest warrant.

Police as well as Lewis' relatives had put out a public appeal for him to surrender, and police said they had pressured Lewis' known associates to turn him in.

The warrant, which suggested that Lewis might intend to flee to Maryland, said that two witnesses identified the suspect. It also said that Lewis' family indicated he was "responsible" for Cassidy's killing.

Authorities had offered a reward, which grew in the last few days to $153,000, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Cassidy's killer.

Dozens of law enforcement officers last night raided a neighborhood close to the Dunkin' Donuts where Cassidy was shot. They searched an apartment complex at 70th Avenue and North Broad Street.

An informal memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and tributes continued to pile up outside the doughnut shop at 6620 N. Broad St.

The Dunkin' Donuts owner mounted a plaque at the memorial, noting that the shop would remain closed until after Cassidy's funeral tomorrow out of respect to the officer who regularly stopped in at the shop as part of his security rounds.

Suspect in Philly cop killing caught

Suspect in Philly cop killing caught

51 minutes ago

PHILADELPHIA - A suspect in the slaying of a police officer during a robbery at a doughnut shop was apprehended early Tuesday at a shelter in Florida, police said.

Investigators began looking in Florida after receiving reports that John Lewis, 21, had boarded a bus for Miami during the weekend.

Officer Chuck Cassidy, 54, died Thursday, a day after a gunman shot him in the head when Cassidy interrupted an armed robbery at a Dunkin' Donuts.

Witnesses have said a gunman went into the shop and demanded money just before the policeman opened the door. The man then spun around and shot Cassidy before the officer could react, they said.

Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson has said one of two weapons officers recovered Monday at a Philadelphia home may be the weapon used to kill Cassidy.

A private viewing for Cassidy was scheduled Tuesday, with a public viewing and funeral service scheduled downtown on Wednesday.

Cassidy was the third Philadelphia police officer to be shot in four days. The other two officers survived.