Top Brass Concerned After Philadelphia Officers Fired 109 Shots at Cobbs Creek Stabbing Spree Suspect

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the officers may have fallen into "contagious shooting"

Philadelphia police officers fired 109 shots at a Cobbs Creek father who went on a stabbing spree in his neighborhood Wednesday night.

The sheer number of rounds that whizzed down a residential street concerns the department's top brass, Commissioner Richard Ross said Friday.

A number of bullets sprayed two homes at the intersection of Cobbs Creek Parkway and Webster Street. They also took down 32-year-old Christopher Sowell.

Two bullet homes in the side of a home in Philadelphia's Cobbs Creek neighborhood following a police involved shooting. Nine officers opened fire on Christopher Sowell after they say he went on a stabbing spree. Officials say 109 rounds were fired in all. A number landing in this rowhome.

Police said Sowell snapped Wednesday evening, choked his daughter, stabbed his young son and a friend and then assaulted a woman and slit the throat of a elderly neighbor after barging into her home. All victims remain hospitalized, Ross said. The three stabbing victims remain in critical condition.

Nine officers opened fire on Sowell, whose daughter believed he under the influence of drugs, after he walked out of the neighbor's home and failed to listen to their commands, according to investigators. The medical examiner has not yet said how many times Sowell was hit.

The standard service weapon for Philadelphia officers is a Glock handgun. Depending on the caliber of the bullet, the gun can fire up to 17 rounds before needing a new magazine.

Investigators said police thought Sowell was pulling a gun from his pocket when they opened fire. The initial dispatch information they received reported that the children had been shot, not stabbed, Ross said.

"They had every reason to believe that he was armed with a gun because even the officers who broadcasted that they were headed to the hospital with the victims, they believed the children were shot," Ross said.

A weapon was not found on or around Sowell's body, but a cell phone was.

Danny Sowell, a man alleging to be Christopher Sowell's brother in a Facebook post, admonished police for killing him and the media for describing the man in a negative light.

"My brother is not no killer, he not no menace...he a teddy bear. He'd do anything for you," Danny Sowell wrote in a post. "He just got on some bad s--t, man."

Philadelphia police said Christopher Sowell stabbed children and a neighbor before being shot and killed by officers.

No one else on the block was injured by gunfire, but another resident being hurt by friendly fire is central to Ross' worry.

He said officers could have fallen victim to "contagious shooting" -- where they followed each other in discharging their weapons.

"Other officers hear that gun fire and they believe they are under fire. And they return fire. And in this case firing multiple times," Ross said.

Ross said there may be a training issue that needs to be addressed.

The officers who opened fire have not yet spoken to Internal Affairs investigators about what transpired. The department carries out an investigation every time an officer uses their service weapon.

The officers involved were identified as: Anthony Britton, a 17 year veteran; Jeremy Olesik, a 9 year veteran; Michael Kane, Jr., a 9 year veteran; Thomas Thompson, a 1 year veteran; Walton Scott, a 2 year veteran; Ronald Green, a 19 year veteran; Adrian Hustler, a 9 year veteran; Richard Edwards, a 8 year veteran; and Timothy Moebius, a 3 year veteran.

The department is currently undertaking reality-based training where officers are put in a number of real-world scenarios to see how they react. Ross said 1,000 officers have gone through the program and it specifically focuses on "contagious shooting."

"They have to maintain their ability to hold their gunfire while the officer next to them is firing simultaneously," Ross said.

A dual investigation into the stabbing and the police-involved shooting are ongoing.

Contact Us