Investigation into officer shooting continues

PHILADELPHIA - November 23, 2009

Authorities say Officer Frank Tepper shot and killed 21-year-old Bill Panas Saturday night. Tepper was apparently trying to break up a fight outside his Port Richmond home.

Bill Panas' parents want answers, say the shooting was not warranted.

Standing outside Tepper's house on Monday, where police were standing guard, Panas' father said his son was not the one causing trouble.

"This gentleman did not come out to break up a fight. He was the center of the fight, him and his family. My son tried to be the nice guy and break the fight up," said Bill Panas, Sr. "He came out and literally blew my son's heart out of his chest for no reason."

A friend of Panas, Robin McClarin, told Action News he himself was one of the brawlers. He continued, saying the shooting of Panas was not justified.

He said Tepper put the gun up to Panas' chest.

"He said 'I'll shoot you' then shot the kid," McClarin said. When asked what Panas said, McClarin said "What are you giong to shoot me for? You're not going to shoot me."

Tepper is calling the shooting self defense, and has maintained that stance since Saturday night.

Now, the moments before the deadly exchange are the subject of an internal police investigation.

"He has to be justified. I mean whatever the situation is, it has to be one where you feel that your life, or the life of another, is in direct jeopardy and you need deadly force to resolve the situation," said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

Witnesses say Tepper came out of his Ekhart Street home in Port Richmond to break up a fight, waving his own personal gun, even pointing it at some. Those witnesses say Tepper never once identified himself as an officer.

Neighbors of the officer say Tepper has shown his temper before.

They showed Action News a video from 1996, in which, witnesses say, Tepper fired several shots into a possum, as stunned onlookers watched from the sidewalk.

However, Commissioner Ramsey said previous incidents don't play any role into this investigation.

"We have to look at this incident. What you did yesterday, last week, two months ago is not relevant to what happened at that particular moment in time," he said.

While he is unwilling to rule out possible charges, Ramsey warns there are two sides to every story.

"That's why we have investigations. We have to put together the facts and make decision based on facts, not on emotion. So that's what we're going to try to do."

Tepper, a 16 year veteran of the force, is on desk duty as this investigation continues. He is on duty in the Civil Affairs Department, and sources tell Action News that department has been getting death threats.

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