PHILADELPHIA - Attorney Shaka Johnson had no idea the man accused of shooting six police officers in North Philadelphia was a former client of his until he got a phone call late Wednesday night.
Johnson answered the phone around 8:30 p.m. and found it was 36-year-old Maurice Hill on the other end of the line. Hill was calling from inside a home on the 3700 block of North 15th Street where he was engaged in a standoff with police after shooting six officers.
Johnson says Hill’s first words on the phone were, “I need help.”
“They’re going to kill me. They’re going to kill me,” Hill said to Johnson over the phone.
Johnson said Hill’s main concern was his own safety, but his concern later shifted to his family, including his newborn daughter.
Johnson, a former SWAT officer himself, eventually made his way to the scene where he spoke with police. In an 'unorthodox' move, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross gave Johnson permission to speak with Hill from the scene.
“I’ll give you until 11:45 p.m.” Ross said, according to Johnson. At that time, Johnson had 30 minutes to convince his client to surrender peacefully.
After initially refusing to speak with police earlier in the afternoon, Johnson says Hill had multiple conversations with everyone including Commissioner Ross and District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Commissioner Ross confirmed Monday morning that when Hill surrendered, he still had a weapon on his person.
“Mr. Hill and I talked about this. They don’t typically, in scenarios like this take black defendants into custody. This is what he and I talked about on the phone,” Johnson explained. “I said, ‘my man this is looking pretty grave for you. The world is watching. That may be one of the things giving police some pause because the world is watching. Use this time wisely.’”
Johnson says he has known Hill for more than five years and has represented him in a number of previous cases that were mostly drug-related.