Questions abound in off-duty officer shooting

PORT RICHMOND - November 22, 2009

Action News has learned that the man who fired the fatal shot was an off-duty Philadelphia police officer Frank Tepper. The victim is identified as 21-year-old Bill Panas.

The shooting happened along the 2700 block of North Elkhart Street late Saturday night.

What exactly led to the shooting remains unclear, however there are differing accounts of what happened.

Action News has spoken to friends of Panas who were with him at the time.

According to the friends, they along with Panas were walking outside Officer Tepper's home on Elkhart Street and came upon a fight already in progress.

The friends then say that one of them was sucker punched and they then, too, joined in the brawl.

This is when the friends say Officer Tepper came out of his house with a gun.

"He came out with a gun, everybody ran except my son, my son said 'you ain't going to shoot me.' He said 'Oh, no?' Boom," Bill Panas' father, also named Bill, said.

Troy Tortis, one of the friends, told Action News that Tepper began "pointing the gun at everybody."

"He put it to my chest and my face, he put it to another kid's face," Tortis said.

Moments later Panas was shot.

The friends say Officer Tepper never announced he was a cop or displayed his badge.

Meanwhile, a police spokesperson says Tepper claims he was trying to break up the fight. The spokesperson says after being assaulted, he discharged his weapon in self defense.

Tepper has since been placed on administrative duty.

Internal Affairs and the District Attorney are investigating.

Panas was transported to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11:33 p.m.

"My son's dead. I'm never going to be able to hug my son again, but he can hold his son," Bill Sr. said.

A vigil was held at the shooting scene early Sunday evening.

A heavy police presence kept guard of the officer's home.

Several residents in the neighborhood say Officer Tepper has a history of displaying his gun while off-duty.

Action News obtained a home video from 1996 recorded by a neighbor of Tepper's. In it, neighbors say Tepper can be seen shooting a possumn twice, as cars pass by and people watch from the sidewalk.

Resident Chris Kilian said her son allegedly encountered Tepper while playing basketball at the park across the street. According to Kilian, years ago, Tepper came out of his home brandishing a gun.

"At 10:30 at night, he came out waving his gun, because he had to get up for work and they were making too much noise," Kilian said.

Kilian says she reported the incident to police, but nothing ever came of it.

As for the victim, Kilian said he was "a good kid," adding what happened was "a shame."

Police were unavailable for comment Sunday night.

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