Tense standoff ends safely

No injuries reported after day-long standoff on Willington Street.

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A 17-hour standoff between police and an armed Temple student who officials described as “suicidal” ended early Monday morning with the suspect being detained in safe condition, police at the scene said.

The student, a 26-year-old male, was talked out of the basement of his North Willington Street row house around 2 a.m. after a day-long standoff that began at 9:20 a.m. on Sunday morning, Oct. 13.

Sgt. Frank McFillin of the Philadelphia Police Department said the student was taken to the Episcopal Campus of Temple University Hospital for evaluation. Episcopal is the behavioral sciences wing of TUH.

As of yesterday, Oct. 14, Acting Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said no charges had been brought against the student, though he said Central Detectives and the District Attorney’s office were investigating. The media relations office for the Philadelphia Police Department was closed yesterday due to the Columbus Day holiday.

The incident began when officers responded to calls from concerned family members that their son was in need of help. Officers responded to the house, 1852 N. Willington St., and found the student inside with a gun, Philadelphia Police Department Homeland Security Chief Joe Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the student was alone in his apartment throughout the incident and told police they had to leave when he was first confronted.

Philadelphia police SWAT units were quickly brought in along with Temple Police and Philadelphia firefighters to clear the scene and cordon off the area around the 1800 block of North Willington Street.

Due to the armed standoff, police shut down access to the 1800 block of North Willington Street and the 1600 block of Berks Street. While police told students living on those blocks to remain in their homes on the second floor, several were allowed to leave to get food and return with a police escort. Throughout the warm afternoon, students on the block stood on their stoops and porches watching the incident unfold with SWAT units entering and leaving the house.

Multiple sources at the scene said the student is diagnosed with an undisclosed mental illness and was behaving with suicidal tendencies. The student fired multiple shots throughout the day, several police sources said, though no injuries to officers or the student were reported.

Despite several false reports by various news outlets claiming that the student had committed suicide, police at the scene said they were in constant communication with him throughout the day via cell phone.

“When they are talking to us we know they are in good health,” Sullivan said.

By 2:30 p.m., Sgt. McFillin said that while negotiations remained ongoing, officers had lost hope for a quick ending to the standoff. Students locked down in their homes on the 1800 block of North Willington Street said they heard police officers negotiating with the student through megaphones. Police brought the student cigarettes and water late in the evening, students and officers said.

Replacement crews of firefighters and SWAT officers began arriving around 4 p.m. to relieve colleagues who had been working since morning. The replacements themselves began to dwindle around midnight, when police said it seemed likely that the standoff would last through the night.

Two hours later, police successfully negotiated an end to the standoff with no harm to the student or officers, McFillin said.

McFillin said the student was briefly able to speak with his parents, who had waited inside the police barricade for hours, before being taken away to TUH.

A few minutes later, the streets were cleared for students and residents to return, and all signs of the day’s commotion were gone. Several inquisitive students peered out of doors and windows to watch the last of the cop cars drive away.

The university sent out two email alerts to students throughout the day, the first at 10 a.m. and the latter at 7 p.m. Students displaced from their homes had to scramble to find alternatives, and many reported through social media that they were forced to stay at friend’s houses.

A third alert was sent out at 6:01 a.m. Monday morning, four hours after the incident ended.

John Moritz can be reached at john.moritz@temple.edu or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU.

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