Victim says wounded officer is a hero

June 24, 2008 9:00:27 PM PDT
Officer Mark Uffleman chased down and arrested the suspect who shot him during an armed robbery Thursday night. The victim of that robbery credits the 29-year veteran with saving his life. The South Philadelphia neighborhood has attracted some unwanted attention over the few weeks. On June 15th aspiring teacher Beau Zabel was shot during a robbery at 8th and Fitzwater. Last night Officer Mark Uffleman and his partner were just three blocks away on special undercover patrol trying to track down the suspect. That's when they came upon Bryan Halligan who tells Action News he was on his way home from religious services when two armed men demanded his money and threatened to kill him.

The victim, Bryan Halligan tells us, "The suspects, when I walked passed them they pulled their guns out, actually one to my neck and one to my lower back."

"We go to approach them, identified ourselves and they took off running. We chased them and kind of cornered them and that's when it all broke loose," said Officer Mark Uffleman.

Halligan says he jumped in the cop car but tried to warn the police officers. "I was trying to let the officers know they already had the guns pulled... and not sooner I said there were weapons than there was a whole bunch of gunfire."

Uffleman told reporters, "I felt one hit my arm. The guy turned and kept running. I was able to gather myself up and chase him."

Police say 42-year-old Rakin Thabit shot Uffleman in the arm. But despite his gunshot wound the 52-year-old officer, who is an avid runner, caught up with Thabit and arrested him. Uffleman's partner, Dave McAndrews arrested the other suspect 22-year-old Johnathan Massa.

McAndrews said the incident, "could have had a much different outcome. The guy who was robbed had a gun pointed to his head and chest. I bet he is glad he came out of this OK as well."

Halligan agrees, telling Action News, "He saved my life - literally."

Uffleman's father was a police officer who was shot and killed during a carjacking in 1978. Uffleman still wears his badge.

Police are trying to determine if the two men arrested in this incident are connected to the murder of Beu Zabel.