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Following the Gun: Every Stop Is Life Or Death For LEOs

Following the Gun: Every Stop Is Life Or Death For LEOs

The casket of Phoenix Police Officer Sgt. Sean Drenth, who died in the line of duty, is brought in for his funeral Monday, Oct. 25, 2010, in Phoenix. [AP Photo]

Washington Post via YellowBrix

November 22, 2010

After the required three-day waiting period for the background check, Mack took the pistols home. Within days, he met up with a friend who introduced him to Stephen Lashley, 30, who was visiting from Philadelphia. Lashley had a drug-trafficking conviction in New York and a theft conviction in Bucks County, Pa.

After hearing about Mack’s guns, Lashley asked to see them and offered to buy the Taurus. He paid Mack $400 and threw in two vials of marijuana, according to court records.

Lashley returned to Philadelphia, where he lived in the basement of his mother’s rowhouse. He soon gave the gun to a man known to him only as “Max,” according to an investigative report by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Max earlier had mentioned to Lashley that he wanted a .45-caliber handgun. At this point, ownership of the weapon becomes murky, although it turned up repeatedly in the swirl of Philadelphia street violence.

On Sept. 9, 2007, the Taurus figured in a nonfatal shootout at a Sunoco gas station between two men in southwest Philadelphia. Both were injured and went to a hospital. Police responding to reports of gunfire found spent cartridges from .45-caliber and .22-caliber pistols, but no guns. The .45-caliber cartridges were later linked to the Taurus.

A year later, on Sept. 22, 2008, more spent cartridges from the Taurus were recovered in Old City Philadelphia, just east of downtown. Once again, police could not find the gun.

The next day, the gun figured in a third shooting in Philadelphia. This time, more than spent cartridges would be left behind at the scene.

Pursuit and showdown

Officer McDonald, 30, was pulling the 8 a.m.-to-4 p.m. shift instead of his usual night stint.

A former co-captain of the football team at Archbishop Ryan High School, he played running back on the Philadelphia Blue Flame, the police and fire departments’ team in the National Public Safety Football League. He wore 34, the same number as the late Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears.

McDonald was the youngest of three children, and his Irish Catholic parents named him Patrick because he was born on St. Patrick’s Day. He grew up in a modest three-bedroom rowhouse in northeast Philadelphia, a home he later bought from his parents and turned into a bachelor pad complete with a wet bar in the dining room and an expensively equipped gym in the basement. But his pride and joy was his job.

“Nothing made him prouder than putting on that . . . uniform and walking out that door,” his father said. “He was born to be a police officer.”

About 1:30 p.m. Sept. 23, McDonald spotted a 1997 burgundy Buick with a broken taillight. He ordered the driver, Shermell Howard, 27, to pull over, according to a police report. In the car with her was Daniel Giddings, also 27, a 240-pound felon whose physique one official would describe as “prison buff.” The Taurus was tucked into his waistband.

Giddings had been released from prison 36 days earlier after serving eight years of a 12-year sentence for aggravated assault. A judge had ordered him to report to a halfway house, but Giddings soon absconded in violation of his parole. When several police officers, acting on a tip that Giddings was at a house in the area, tried to arrest him, he fought with them and escaped. Now, he was wanted for aggravated assault on the officers as well as the parole violation.

As McDonald walked up to the vehicle, Giddings jumped out and ran. McDonald chased him three blocks through the North Philadelphia neighborhood known as Strawberry Mansion, a place of boarded-up buildings and painted brick rowhouses with metal bars on the doors and windows.

“White T-shirt, brown jacket,” McDonald breathlessly told a police dispatcher as he called in the incident on his police radio at 1:46 p.m. and gave his location. “Twenty-four hundred Colorado. Just got on a red bike.”

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