Multiple police officers have been wounded in Philadelphia after a gunman opened fire during a tense standoff that continued late into the evening.
At least one gunman opened fire on police Wednesday as they were serving a drug warrant in the city’s Nicetown neighborhood, wounding six officers.
The shooting began around 4.30pm as officers went to the north Philadelphia neighborhood of brick and stone row houses in an operation “that went awry almost immediately”, police commissioner Richard Ross said.
Ross said many officers “had to escape through windows and doors to get (away) from a barrage of bullets”.
What was described as a “potential hostage situation” later unfolded when two other officers were trapped inside the house for about five hours after the shooting broke out. Police confirmed the officers had been “safely evacuated” by a Swat team well after dark.
Police Sgt Eric Gripp said shortly after 9.30pm that the suspect was “still armed and inside” the house.
None of the officers’ injuries was considered life-threatening. Gripp tweeted late Wednesday evening that all officers had been released from local hospitals but that one officer was being admitted for injuries “sustained in a vehicle crash related to the incident”.
“I was just coming off the train and I was walking upstairs and there were people running back downstairs who said that there was someone up there shooting cops,” said Abdul Rahman Muhammad, 21, an off-duty medic. “There was just a lot of screaming and chaos.”
Shots were still being fired hours later, and officers returned fire. Police were imploring the gunman to surrender, calling him on the phone several times and using a loudspeaker to communicate, Ross said.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today,” the commissioner said, adding: “We’re doing everything within our power to get him to come out … He has the highest assurance he’s not going to be harmed when he comes out.”
Nearby Temple University locked down part of its campus, and several children and staff were trapped for some time in a nearby daycare. Police tried to push crowds of onlookers and residents back from the scene. In police radio broadcasts, officers could be heard calling for backup as reports of officers getting shot poured in.
Dozens of officers on foot lined the streets. Others were in cars and some on horses.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said its agents responded to the scene to assist Philadelphia police.
Donald Trump and attorney general William Barr were briefed on the shooting, officials said.
Philadelphia’s mayor Jim Kenney said he was thankful that the officers’ injuries weren’t life-threatening.
“I’m a little angry about someone having all that weaponry and all that firepower, but we’ll get to that another day,” Kenney said.