PHILADELPHIA. Less than two weeks after the deadly shooting of 21-year-old William Panas by an off-duty cop during a street brawl, District Attorney Lynne Abraham and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey launched a grand jury investigation Thursday.
The shooting has divided many in the Port Richmond neighborhood, resulting in some death threats against Sgt. Frank Tepper, the 16-year veteran involved. Police say Tepper tried to break up the melee and was assaulted, leading him to fire his personal gun, while some eyewitnesses accuse Tepper of being drunk and shooting Panas in cold blood.
Abraham said she hopes a grand jury can sort through the emotion and witnesses to find the truth.
“The truth is paramount,” she said. “We need to know who was there and who saw what.”
Panas’ father, William Panas Sr., had mixed thoughts about the grand jury.
“It does give me comfort that maybe they realize police are not doing their job properly and cannot handle this, but I also got in my mind the grand jury released those cops who beat the guys on video,” Panas, 49, said. “My only goal right now is to see this guy behind bars.”
It is unclear how long the investigation will take, but Abraham said it will likely conclude under incoming District Attorney Seth Williams.