Philly police officer who killed 12-year-old boy to be fired

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw speaks to reporters during a press conference last month.
Jack Tomczuk

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Tuesday she intends to suspend and fire the officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Thomas “TJ” Siderio Jr. last week in South Philadelphia.

The officer, who authorities have not identified, violated the department’s policies and used excessive force, Outlaw said. Thomas was shot in the back after allegedly firing one bullet into an unmarked police car.

“This incident does not reflect who we are as the Philadelphia Police Department,” Outlaw said Tuesday, flanked by top PPD officials. “It is not aligned with our values of honor, integrity and service.”

She said the officer will be suspended for 30 days and then dismissed as soon as a month from this Friday, due to notification requirements in the PPD’s collective bargaining agreement.

Police officials have withheld the name of the officer, and Outlaw said the information would not be released until there is no longer a “credible threat” to their safety.

Outlaw, during Tuesday’s news conference, declined to discuss specifics of the investigation into the police killing — not commenting on such issues as whether Thomas was holding a gun when he was shot or if the shooting was captured on surveillance video.

“We’re not trying to hide anything, but there’s ongoing investigations,” she said. “We don’t want to taint any witness testimony.”

Any criminal charges against the officer would come from District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office, and he said in a statement Tuesday that his team’s findings will be released when appropriate.

“The death of a child is always a tragedy, and in this instance, a factually complex and deeply troubling one based on preliminary investigative information,” Krasner said.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents city officers, did not comment on the case Tuesday.

Four plainclothes officers in an undercover car spotted Thomas and a 17-year-old boy on bicycles at around 7:20 p.m. March 1 on the corner of 18th and Barbara streets.

Thomas “TJ” Siderio Jr. is shown in a photo released by police when he was reported missing in 2020.

Police have said the officers were conducting a firearm investigation and wanted to talk with the older boy, who was later questioned and released.

A shot, believed to be discharged by Thomas, was fired into the car, leaving a hole in the window and landing in a headrest, authorities said.

Outlaw said the preliminary investigation indicated the plainclothes officers activated the red-and-blue emergency lights on their vehicle before any shots were fired.

One of the four officers was injured when he was hit in the face by glass shards. He was briefly hospitalized.

Two officers got out of the vehicle, and each fired a shot at Thomas, who still had a gun in his hand when he started to run away from police down Barbara Street, Outlaw said.

At that point, the officer set to be suspended allegedly chased him down and fired two shots, one of which hit the boy in the upper right part of his back and exited through his chest.

Police recovered a loaded 9mm handgun with a laser sight that had been reported stolen, according to authorities.

“It’s tragic that we have trigger pullers as young as 12,” Outlaw said. “It’s tragic that we had one of our own, again, go against everything we say we are.”

“I rarely lose sleep over work stuff,” she added. “I’ve lost sleep over this.”

Thomas’s funeral service is scheduled for Thursday morning at South Philadelphia’s Lighthouse Baptist Church. A 7th grader at Sharswood Elementary School, family members remember him as “a lively, funny child who was always laughing and smiling,” his obituary says.

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