Police: Pizza deliveryman shot by officers may have thought he was being robbed

Watch the report from Action News' Chad Pradelli.
April 25, 2014 7:17:40 AM PDT
An internal investigation is underway into the shooting of a pizza deliveryman at the hands of Philadelphia police officers in Southwest Philadelphia. Authorities say the man wounded may have been the victim of a misunderstanding.

20-year old Phil Holland delivered pizzas for Slices and More in Upper Darby. He was on his last run last night and had just delivered a burger and a soft drink when he was confronted by two men with guns at 51st and Willows streets.

The men were actually plain clothes police officers, who were in the neighborhood investigating a report of gunfire in the area. They were part of a detail cracking down on a spate of gun violence in the area.

The police claim they identified themselves as cops but, Holland jumped in his car and started driving off.

"They asked the male to stop. The male, in a quick fashion, got in his car and backed up at a high rate of speed towards the officers," said Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross.

Police believe Holland may have thought he was being robbed, a well-documented danger for deliverypersons.

"We don't want to jump to any conclusions. There is a significant amount of detail and information we need to get. What happened and why did it happen? What else was going on?" said Mayor Michael Nutter.

The police claim Holland tried to run down the officers, who both opened fire at the car.

Holland was rushed to the hospital with gunshot wounds to the head, neck and leg. He has already undergone multiple surgeries.

There's word from police sources that he will likely survive, although he may have been blinded by the bullet to his head.

Meanwhile the officers involved in the shooting are now on administrative leave.

Tony Spirokostas, Holland's boss at 'Slices and More', says he's not the type to get into a confrontation with police. "In the short time I've known him that he's been here he's never had an issue - always on time, very prompt. You know, very respectful to everybody."

Holland delivered pizzas two nights a week to supplement his full time job at an airport restaurant. He was trying to save money to go to college.

Neighbors say he was kind and helpful.

Neighbor Dorothy Taylor tells us, "I'm shocked! I'm shocked anything happened to him. He's such a nice guy."

Holland lived with his girlfriend in Upper Darby. Neighbors say he often sat on the porch and was quick with a friendly greeting.

"Every time you walked past his house he always says hi. He tries to help out everybody," said neighbor Christine Harris.

Holland, who police say was not armed and has no criminal record, is still being treated for his injuries at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Deputy Commissioner Ross says the officers may have feared for their lives, but they clearly violated department policy by firing at a moving car, which could endanger innocent bystanders.

Police are investigating the incident.

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