Officer investigated after theft from Philly bar

July 29, 2010 8:40:29 PM PDT
Action News has obtained surveillance video that apparently shows a Philadelphia police officer stealing money from a bar's safe.

The video was shot inside Pat's Cafe in the Frankford section in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning.

The video is at the center of the investigation into whether an officer stole hundreds of dollars in cash.

The case unfolded after 4:00 a.m. Tuesday morning when two officers were responding to a report of a burglar alarm at auto shop located behind the café. The alarm turned out to be unfounded.

At 4:25 a.m., surveillance video shows the two Philadelphia police officers peering through the windows of Pat's Café. Then, they go in through a cellar door which was apparently unlocked. They appear to have gotten into the bar through a trap door in the floor. A third officer can be seen joining them later.

The three officers are then seen in the video staying in the bar for about 30 to 40 minutes, drinking what Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey insists were non-alcoholic beverages.

Ramsey said the officers were inside looking for a possible prowler. FOP President John McNesby said the officers were looking for the owner's phone number to contact him about the possible prowler.

Then, while two of the officers have their backs turned, a third officer goes into a safe and pulls out what appears to be wads of cash, stuffing it on his person. About $825 were taken, investigators said.

That officer, only identified as a 25 year veteran of the force, is now the target of a robbery probe.

While all three officers remain on desk duty, Commissioner Ramsey says if the evidence remains the same, the other two will return to duty Friday.

"When you look at the tape, it's not until the other officers walk away that the going into the safe takes place," said Ramsey. "At no time does it look like there is any conspiracy going on between the three officers."

The police department's internal affairs division and District Attorney Seth Wiliams' office are continuing the investigation.

Police have asked the bar's employees and patrons not to talk to the news media.

Action News has learned, however, the person responsible for locking the doors and the safe which appeared unlocked in the surveillance video is the bartender who is new to the job. While she has a reputation for usually locking up, she tells investigators it just so happens, she forgot to do so this time.

On Wednesday night, the Action Cam was there as investigators removed the safe at the center of this investigation from the bar.

Pat's Café has a long history as a popular neighborhood bar and tragically, the place where Officer Gary Skerski was gunned down and murdered after responding to a robbery in progress on May 8, 2006. They still have a sign outside the bar that reads: "Farewell to our hero, Officer Skerski."

Pat's Café was open for business as usual on Thursday, though employees and patrons were told, by police, not to talk to reporters.


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