UPPER DARBY >> A 52-year-old Clifton Heights man allegedly trying to run over police in his car was shot and killed by five officers Tuesday on Garrett Road near Shadeland Avenue, police said.
Joseph Anthony Pacini, of the 200 block of Davis Avenue, was wanted on an arrest warrant for terroristic threats against a Haverford officer.
“The suspect was making threats on YouTube to kill police and FBI,” Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said. “Apparently, he has mental health issues because he’s been 302’d (committed for psychiatric diagnosis) before. Haverford (police) had a warrant and Clifton police had followed him from his residence.
“Clifton called for backup to make a felony car stop and Upper Darby police was requested to assist. Haverford also responded. They boxed him in at the driveway of the (Bank of America) and the Clifton chief of police (Tim Rockenbach) tried to open his door. That’s when (Pacini) threw his car in reverse and crashed into the chief’s cruiser. He narrowly missed the chief. He tried to run over several other officers. Several officers fired shots. Numerous shots were fired. He tried to use his car as a weapon. The police were in fear of their lives. What else could they do? He used his vehicle as a weapon. They did what they had to do.”
Tom Artyropoulos, of Broomall, manager of Marathon Pizza, 3027 Garrett Road, in the next block of the car stop, heard the shots and went outside.
“I saw the vehicle of the person who was shot,” Artyropoulos said. “The windows were shattered on the driver’s side. In the next second I saw the SWAT team surround the car and pull the guy out of the car and drag him down to the ground. Then everybody surrounded the vehicle.”
Pizza delivery driver George Wilkie, of Drexel Hill, was sitting in the window of Marathon when he heard the gunfire and went outside.
“The car was smoldering,” Wilkie said.
According to Chitwood, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division is handling the investigation, which began at 4:15 p.m. and caused traffic detours on Garrett and Shadeland for more than six hours.
The five officers who fired their service weapons — two from Upper Darby, two from Clifton Heights and one from Haverford — were questioned by investigators at the Clifton Heights Police Department.
“The SWAT team from Haverford was going to his house to serve the warrant, but he left before they got there,” Chitwood said. “That’s why Clifton was following him. There was no pursuit. Police made a car stop. Apparently, he had made threats on You Tube. I have not seen the video on YouTube. This was a joint effort between Clifton Heights and Haverford police. He was inside his car when he was shot.”
Chitwood said Pacini had posted his threats to police and FBI in a series YouTube videos. His last post was at 4:04 p.m. Tuesday, when he left a voice mail for a Haverford detective. In two previous videos, he detailed his love for pop singer Sara Bareilles and his belief that federal agents were trying to murder him.
In his first video, posted at 5:37 p.m. Dec. 29 described his infatuation with the singer.
“I am Sara Beth Bareilles’ twin flame soul mate,” he begins. “I am the male version of Miss Sara Beth Bareilles … I happen to love Sarah with all my heart and all my soul.”
His diatribe takes on religious overtones by describing his troubles as prophecy.
“The CIA and FBI has stepped up their efforts to kill me,” he said. “This is prophecy unfolding in real time.”
He also talks about sitting in a jail cell a decade ago and being committed to mental hospitals multiple times.
Pacini, in the rant, predicted he would be dead in the next 24 hours.
“I’m purely innocent, but no one believes me,” he said. “I’m gonna be dead or in prison within the next 12 hours, 24 hours tops.”
Pacini then plays a voice mail message from Haverford Police Detective Matthew Hufnall that refers to an incident at LA Fitness.
“You want to try to bring me down I will f— kill you and whole f —family,” Pacini threatened in the video, referring to any police officers that attempt to arrest him. “So go ahead and f— with me. Go ahead and try it.”
He appealed to Bareilles to save him, saying that he wouldn’t go back to prison.
“I don’t care about being dead, but I do care about being in prison,” he said. “F— that. Never again.”
In a subsequent video posted Tuesday afternoon, Pacini lays out the option police have in resolving the situation. He said he and police could sit down and negotiate, or they could go to war.
“There is no way that I am going to allow anyone to take my freedom away again,” Pacini said in the second video. “I will immediately take out whomever attempts this on the spot.”
He added that there could be an outcome where police kill Pacini.
“You win, I lose,” he said, describing the third option. “Just kill me. There is honor in death for me because I go up to my lord and savior Jesus Christ, which is something you know nothing about.”
In the third video, posted less than an hour before Pacini was killed, he leaves a voice mail for Hufnal telling him to view his previous two videos.
“I’m just going to the gym to work out and hopefully there will be no problems,” the video ends.
According to Chitwood, he talked to the two officers in his department who fired their service weapons. They will receive an evaluation to determine if counseling is needed before Chitwood decides when they would return to the job.
Pacini was pronounced dead at the scene and transported to the Medical Examiner’s office for cause and manner of death. His vehicle, a gray Nissan sedan was towed to a secure garage as part of the investigation.
Though Pacini boast of connections to organized crime and long prison terms in his video, his only significant arrest was in Philadelphia in April 2005 on charges of terroristic threats, possessing an instrument of crime, unlawful restraint, simple assault, false imprisonment and recklessly endangering another person. All of the charges were later withdrawn, according to court records.
He also pleaded guilty to a summary charge of disorderly conduct in 2009 in Philadelphia.