Calls for weapons ban after officer's murder

May 8, 2008 7:55:54 PM PDT
City and state officials called Thursday for Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, delivering an impassioned plea the day before police were to bury an officer killed on duty by a high-powered rifle.

We will bring you special LIVE coverage of Sergeant Liczbinski's funeral on Friday. We invite you to join us on 6abc and 6abc.com as a city says goodbye.

Mayor Michael Nutter said last weekend's "assassination" of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, who was shot at least five times by a Chinese SKS rifle while responding to a bank robbery, was "truly shocking."

"We all know that he did not stand a chance," said Nutter, speaking at a City Hall news conference. "It's a high-powered rifle that no one should have their hands on."

The comments came about 12 hours after a third suspect, Eric Floyd, was captured in an abandoned rowhouse in southwest Philadelphia. Floyd, 33, was caught following a five-day manhunt after police said an FBI agent received a tip.

Brought to police headquarters in Liczbinski's handcuffs, Floyd was charged with murder, robbery, conspiracy and related offenses. His girlfriend, Tonya Stephens, 37, was found with him and charged with obstructing justice, hindering apprehension and conspiracy.

Another bank robbery suspect, Levon Warner, 38, was arrested Sunday and charged with murder, robbery and conspiracy.

Suspect Howard Cain, 33, was shot to death by police on Saturday during a post-robbery chase. An area mosque has refused a request to hold funeral services for Cain, a Muslim, because of his criminal conduct.

On Thursday, Nutter and Gov. Ed Rendell released a copy of a letter they sent to members of the state's congressional delegation asking for the federal ban on assault weapons to be reinstated. A ban enacted in 1994 was not renewed after lapsing in 2004.

"Passing this legislation will go a long way to protecting those who put their lives on the line every day for us," Rendell and Nutter wrote. "There is no excuse to do otherwise."

Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., who is co-sponsoring legislation to reinstate the ban, said police officers should not face the same types of weapons that U.S. soldiers come up against in Iraq.

"I would like to see that we not only renew but strengthen the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004," Sestak said Thursday.

Rendell also criticized state lawmakers for refusing to pass what he called sensible gun-control measures. He mentioned attending a police memorial ceremony on Monday in Harrisburg, where he said legislators honored officers' service with resolutions even as they refuse to make them safer by passing a law requiring that lost and stolen guns be reported.

"The hypocrisy is rampant," Rendell said.

Officials acknowledged the federal assault weapons ban would not have included the gun that killed Liczbinski, as it came to the U.S. in 1992.

But Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey bristled when told that some gun-rights organizations dispute whether the SKS rifle qualifies as an assault weapon.

The gun inflicts wounds so devastating that it should be considered one, Ramsey said angrily.

"Then add it to the frickin' list!" he said to sustained applause from officials and other police officers at the news conference.

The advocacy group CeaseFirePA has sent letters to Pennsylvania gun dealers asking them to voluntarily refrain from selling the SKS.

Also, the city last month passed several local gun-control ordinances - including a ban on assault rifles - despite a Pennsylvania law giving the state sole power to enact firearms regulations. The National Rifle Association has sued, and the case will be in court next week.

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said Thursday that the problem is lack of incarceration, not lack of legislation.

"The Philadelphia criminal justice system is a miserable failure and in complete shambles," LaPierre said. "We've got great laws on the books ... if only we would prosecute (criminals) and put them in jail and stop releasing them back to the streets."

Also Thursday, a Harrisburg-area teenager accused of providing a handgun used in the bank robbery was indicted on federal firearms charges. Authorities said Levi Swigart, 19, of Duncannon, traded a stolen gun to a drug trafficker for cocaine base on Jan. 26. Swigart was arrested Sunday by Duncannon police and charged with receiving stolen property and theft by unlawful taking.

The viewing for Liczbinski, 39, was to be held Thursday evening, followed by a funeral at the city's main cathedral on Friday.

Liczbinski was the third city officer slain on duty in two years. He left a wife and three children.

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Funeral Arrangements for Sgt. Liczbinski

Thursday's viewing begins at 6 p.m.
John F. Givnish Funeral Home, Inc.
Academy Road Philadelphia, Pa. 19154
(215) 281-0100

Second viewing on Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 12 p.m.
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Mass immediately following the viewing

Burial at Resurrection Cemetery
5201 Hulmeville Road
Bensalem, Pa.

You can make donations out to:
Stephen Liczbinski family memorial trust fund
Police & Fire Federal Credit Union
901 Arch Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19107


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