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September 28, 2016

Abington police chief: Media failed to report race of man who urged police to shoot him

But the department's press release on the incident lacks that detail

Police Race
09282016_Bill_Kelly_APD Source/

Abington police Chief William J. Kelly told a local radio station on Wednesday morning that local media intentionally failed to mention the race of a suicidal suspect who had an encounter with his officers on Sunday night. But the press release issued by the department (see below) and still linked on the department's home page contained no reference to the man being black.

Updated: Sept. 29, 2016, 6:30 p.m.

Abington Police Chief William Kelly took to a local talk radio station on Wednesday morning to criticize media organizations for not reporting the race of a 32-year-old black man who allegedly pulled out a revolver and urged police to shoot him late Sunday night.

Kelly praised his officers for successfully subduing the man, described as suicidal, without any major injuries. During a physical struggle, police secured the weapon, which discharged without striking anyone.

But in an interview Wednesday with Dom Giordano of Talk Radio 1210 WPHT, Kelly claimed that Philly-area media outlets "deleted" the race of the individual when reporting on the incident.

BRIAN HICKEY: Abington chief's race-based whining overshadows good police work

"We thought that that was an important part of the story considering everything that's been going on," Kelly told Giordano. "Yet, every one of the news outlets that we'd seen had deleted the race of the individual when they were telling the story."

Kelly also told Giordano that Abington police identified the subject's race "in every case."

It was unclear whether Kelly provided the race of the man in interviews with media outlets, but a press release that remains linked on the department's website does not include the suicidal man's race or age. 


The department's press release about Sunday's incident includes no reference to the suicidal man's race.

On Thursday, Kelly told PhillyVoice that he provided the race of the individual to media outlets that came to the scene. He said he realized afterward that the race of the individual had been omitted from the posted press release.

Kelly said he was not looking for "kudos" when he spoke with Giordano, but hoping to add perspective to the national conversation surrounding police-involved shootings. He said he was disappointed that media interest in the Abington story dissipated so quickly.

"What I'm trying to do is say there's a big issue out there in society that is consuming the media," Kelly said. "Here's a chance to provide a case that somewhat balances it out and the news media has no interest in really covering this." 

Police-involved killings of black men consistently have made national headlines since unarmed Michael Brown was fatally shot two summers ago by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. Demonstrators have marched throughout Philadelphia on numerous occasions to call for improved police treatment of minorities.

In the Abington incident on Sunday, police stopped a man matching the description of a suicidal subject around 11:55 p.m. on the 2700 block of Limekiln Pike in the Glenside section of the township. 

Police said the Upper Dublin man pulled a gun from his jacket pocket as they spoke with him, prompting a physical struggle for the weapon. Kelly told CBS Philly that the gun fired five times, but no one was injured. Eventually, police subdued the man and took him into custody, where he was held for a mental health evaluation.

Kelly praised his officer for their courage during his interview with Giordano.

"They thought it was a risk worth taking," Kelly said. "They did it and it worked out just fine. I can tell you, from talking to the officers, there was a point there where it was a really hairy situation. Somebody could have gotten hurt, obviously."

Listen to Kelly's entire interview with Giordano below.