Philly Cops Named in Separate Shootings

Two Southwest Philly men were also charged over one of the shootings.

Desmond Abernathy (left) and Curt Joseph (middle) charged in Southwest Philly shooting; Aftermath of Overbrook shooting (right)

Desmond Abernathy (left) and Curt Joseph (middle) charged in Southwest Philly police shooting; Aftermath of Overbrook police shooting (right).

The Police Department on Saturday released the names of two officers who were involved in unrelated shootings earlier this week, and announced the arrests of two men in connection with one of those incidents.

A pair of 12th District cops who were on patrol in Southwest Philly about 11:15 p.m. Tuesday heard gunshots echoing from an alley on Grays Avenue near Lindbergh Boulevard. When they made their way down the alley, the cops spotted Desmond Abernathy standing on a deck and clutching a gun.

The cops told Abernathy, 50, to drop the gun. He ignored them and allegedly opened fire, the department said. The cops weren’t wounded. Officer Edward Wright, a seven-year veteran of the force, shot Abernathy in the right thigh. Abernathy bolted back into his house; the officers found him splayed out on the kitchen floor. Another man, Curt Joseph, 47, ran out of the property but didn’t make it too far.

Abernathy was treated at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and has since been charged with attempted criminal homicide, aggravated assault, weapons violations and related offenses. Joseph is charged with hindering apprehension, tampering with evidence and related offenses.

The second police-involved shooting could prove to be more problematic for the department. Undercover cops who were riding in an unmarked car through Overbrook shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday responded to a call about a Dodge Caravan that was circling around Overbrook Avenue near 63rd Street.

The plainclothes cops trailed the van for a while, and then called for uniformed officers in a marked cruiser to join the pursuit. When the marked cruiser pulled up behind the van, the undercover cops made a tactical move that the department’s use of force directive prohibits. The department said the undercover cops cut the van off, got out of their car and told the van’s driver, Richard Ferretti, to turn off the engine. Ferretti allegedly kept driving in the direction of the cops, and Officer Shannon Coolbaugh opened fire, hitting Ferretti, 52, in the chest.

The van slammed into a Honda, obliterating the back of the car. Ferretti, of Andreas, Schuylkill County, was pronounced dead at Penn Presbyterian a short while later. Neither Coolbaugh, a seven-year veteran, nor her partner were injured. Both shootings are being investigated by Internal Affairs. In the aftermath of the fatal shooting, Police Commissioner Richard Ross and other police officials expressed concern over the undercover cops’ tactics.  The department has long trained officers to avoid putting themselves in the path of an oncoming vehicle, or firing on a moving vehicle.

Last summer, then-Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey implemented a policy that called for the department to release the names of cops who were involved in shootings within 72 hours. State Rep. Martina White, with the backing of the Fraternal Order of Police, introduced a bill that passed through the House last fall to delay releasing cops’ names until Internal Affairs investigations are closed and the officers been charged with committing a crime.

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