Officers, mourners remember fallen officer

May 4, 2008 8:49:24 PM PDT
It was an emotional evening in the Port Richmond section Sunday. The memorial to Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski continues to grow. Sunday night, citizens gathered at the intersection of Schiller and Almond Streets where the sergeant died to honor a man they called a hero who lost his life in the line of duty. In turn, the police saluted the citizens of Port Richmond who tried to save a police officer's life.

Police officers stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Port Richmond. Officers cried. Citizens wiped away tears. Many of the police officers worked with Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski. Others witnessed his murder at this very intersection.

Eric Krajewski witnessed the fatal shooting, and tells Action News, "We found him there laying on the ground. Shot and bleeding."

"His gun was still in his holster. He didn't even have a chance to defend himself," said David Hagenbrick, another witness to the murder.

Keith Petaccio described the harrowing moments leading up to Liczbinski's death. "We were just applying pressure, and wiping his face down and just telling him, 'you're gonna make it. Come on, an ambulance is coming.' Then his last words were, 'Tell my wife and kids that I love them.'"

The officers saluted the Good Samaritans for doing all they could to try to save the sergeant's life.

Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski was known as a dedicated police officer. He spent most of his 12 years on the police force in the fourth district. Since November, he worked in the 24th. Both buildings are now draped in black bunting. The 39-year-old father of three - two boys and one girl - was also known as a true family man.

Cathy Hammerstein, a relative of the sergeant, tells us, "He was just a good guy. He loved his wife. He loved his kids. He loved his job."

After praying at the memorial, Mayor Michael Nutter accepted a black mourning ribbon from a child. He encouraged those gathered to continue their public support for the officer's family.

Nutter told the crowd, "I just left the family. I spent some time with them. They need you... They need all of us."

Police officers on hand said the vigil gives them the courage and the hope they will need to carry on this week as they bury their friend and bring his killers to justice.

Inspector Joseph Marker said of the memorial, "This means a lot to us. This will keep us going. This is our drive that we need."