Hundreds of worshipers congregated at Christ the King Church in Morrell Park on Saturday afternoon to pray for the recovery of severely wounded Police Officer Edward Davies, but the Rev. Michael Speziale called upon them to take their prayers a step further.
The parish priest asked that the gathering of police, church members and well-wishers also pray for the healing of a city beset by a culture of violence.
“If we want true healing and true peace, we have to pray for the other side as well,” Speziale said during the homily of a Roman Catholic Mass. “That’s what makes being a Christian so difficult and so unique.”
Davies, 41, is a Morrell Park resident and a member of Christ the King. His wife, Marissa, and other relatives sat in a front pew during the healing Mass, which was co-organized by the church and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 Auxiliary.
Davies remains in stable condition at Temple University Hospital recovering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen that he suffered in Feltonville on Aug. 13 while arresting an alleged heroin dealer with a history of violence against police. According to Lodge 5 President John McNesby, Davies had begun to emerge from sedation on Monday morning and was preparing for a fourth surgery. In a previous surgery, doctors removed one kidney.
“With every additional day, they say he’s improving,” McNesby told the Northeast Times. “[But] I’m sure he has a lot of medical procedures coming.”
Davies’ condition remained of utmost concern among police and the officer’s community throughout last week. More than 1,500 officers and police commanders took part in a two-day blood drive at Temple Hospital on Thursday and Friday, while countless more retired officers and citizens also donated blood, McNesby said.
“If the shoe was on the other foot and one of us was hurt, I think Officer Davies would do the same thing in a heartbeat,” said Officer Thomas Brown after giving blood last Friday.
“The donations won’t all benefit [Davies] directly, but they will help other people in his name,” McNesby said.
The FOP will host another blood drive on Aug. 28 and 29 at the Lodge 5 union hall at 11630 Caroline Road.
Last Friday, Davies’ family issued a public statement of gratitude. The officer is the father of a 2-year-old and three older children.
“We would like to express our thankfulness to all of those who are sending good wishes, prayers and support to Ed and to our family at this very trying time,” the statement read. “Ed is a wonderful father and husband and a dedicated police officer who loves his job. … We would like to thank the members of the larger community, the members of the Philadelphia Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police. We are especially thankful and cannot express enough the support we have received from Ed’s fellow officers in the 25th Police District; they are truly an extension of our family.”
Hundreds attended the Saturday Mass, which was dedicated in honor of Davies on two days’ notice. Police shootings have affected the Morrell Park community before. Sgt. Patrick McDonald, who was slain following a traffic stop in North Philadelphia in 2008, was a lifelong resident of the neighborhood. Four other officers have been killed in the line of duty and numerous others wounded by gunfire since then.
“Each and every time something like this happens, it affects our community,” said state Rep. Brendan Boyle before the Mass. “I think all police officers and everyone in Northeast Philadelphia feels it.”
“My heart goes out to them,” said Lou Goudge, a neighborhood woman and church member. “A police officer lives next door to me. I keep an eye on him.”
“We’re all brothers and sisters around here. We all look after one another,” added Goudge’s friend, Madeline Ciecka.
Jeremiah Daley, a former Philadelphia police inspector who now works in federal law enforcement, said that any news of a police-involved shooting sends shockwaves through the entire police department.
“Your heart stops and you feel this lump in your throat. You don’t know if it was somebody who you were close to over the years,” Daley said. “Then you start to realize [the officer’s family] is going to need some help and support.”
That includes spiritual support.
“It’s been said that prayer is the best medicine, which is true,” said Speziale, who is also a teacher at Archbishop Ryan High School. “And our presence, our being here, is the best present we can give to Ed and his family.”
Meanwhile, the man accused in Davies’ near-fatal shooting remains in jail awaiting a Sept. 4 preliminary hearing on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, drug and weapons violations and numerous other offenses. He is held without bail.
A police source initially identified him as Eric Samuel Torres-Solivan, and authorities have charged him as “Eric Torres.” Torres, 31, allegedly fled a traffic stop at Fifth Street and Allegheny Avenue shortly after noon on Aug. 13, crashed his car near Bristol Street and Rising Sun Avenue, then ran into a corner store at Fourth and West Annsbury streets, police said.
Officers from the 25th district, including Davies, chased Torres into the store and a violent struggle ensued. Torres allegedly pulled out a .45-caliber Glock and shot Davies once in the abdomen, below the protection of the officer’s ballistic vest. Other police arrested Torres at the scene and took the wounded Davies to the Temple emergency room.
In a subsequent search of the defendant’s residence at 401 W. Raymond St., police allegedly found a large amount of heroin packaged in small quantities for individual sale, as well as another handgun. Police allegedly found more packaged heroin inside the car that Torres crashed.
According to published reports, the gun that Torres allegedly used to shoot Davies was reported stolen in June 2012 from the Northeast home of a retired Philadelphia police officer. Also, Torres is a suspect in the shooting death of another man on the 2800 block of N. Lawrence St. on June 18.
Torres, a native of Puerto Rico, has a dozen prior arrests, including five for assaulting police, the most recent coming in November 2011, police said. ••
Photo editor Maria Pouchnikova contributed to this story.