Was a Crowd of People Filmed Taunting Philadelphia Police During a Standoff?

Claim

A small crowd of people near the site of a police standoff in Philadelphia were taunting officers and throwing objects at them.

Rating

True

Reporting

A Philadelphia television reporter’s remarks became part of a story in and of itself during a police standoff.

During a live report on the standoff on 14 August 2019, journalist Alexandria Hoff was covering the standoff. During her time on the scene, Hoff said:

I did want to mention something disappointing that I saw today. I did see a crowd taunting police in the middle of all of this. But what I’ll say is the most frightening thing I think we experienced is that earlier in the day, the gunfire seemed to rattle people as they heard it. But as they continued on it became something that they and we all became accustomed to. That is not something you want for any city.

Hoff’s remark came at the end of her story, which ended with the arrest of 36-year-old Maurice Hill, who had shot and injured six officers during the standoff.

After the broadcast, Hoff said on her Twitter account:

I mentioned this at 10 and since I was harassed during that live shot, I’ll mention it here too. A major moment of disappointment this evening was watching a crowd of people taunt police officers, laughing and yelling at them in the midst of the gunfire.

Two hours later, Hoff posted a follow-up comment:

I should add — 98% of people here on scene were respectful and concerned. That moment was just such a startling thing to see in the middle of something so chaotic.

But the remarks became part of separate stories in other news organizations focusing on the encounter between local onlookers and police. Hoff’s own station used her tweets as the primary source for a sidebar on the crowd and embedded her original story, even though that report had no footage or quotes from witnesses indicating any type of disturbance.

Some social media users used a separate piece of footage to defend Hoff’s description of the crowd:

The Philadelphia Police Department confirmed that the video was taken during the standoff, but they declined to comment further. We also attempted to contact Hoff seeking comment about the footage and her observations being cited in stories related to the standoff, but we did not receive a response.

The video does show confrontational moments between officers and members of the crowd: at least one officer is shoved by a woman; an object is seen landing near the officers after being thrown in from outside of the frame; and one man is seen gesturing and apparently yelling at a crowd of officers, but there is no indication that they attempt to take him into custody; another man is seen being held back by another onlooker. But the vast majority of crowd members are not approaching the officers, and many are filming their own videos on their phones.

The incident prompted Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney to call for stricter gun regulations and criticize lawmakers who he said were being influenced by the National Rifle Association not to pursue the issue, saying:

If the state and federal government don’t want to stand up to the NRA and some other folks, then let us police ourselves. But they preempt us on all kinds of gun control legislation.

Our officers deserve to be protected and they don’t deserve to be shot at by a guy for hours with an unlimited supply of weapons and an unlimited supply of bullets. So it’s disgusting and we have to do something about it.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney William McSwain, who represents the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued his own statement accusing Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner of undermining the police and failing to enforce existing gun laws.

“It is now time for the District Attorney and his enablers to stop making excuses for criminals,” McSwain’s statement read. “It is time for accountability. It is time to support law enforcement and to put the good people of this City first.”

Maurice Hill’s attorney, Shaka Johnson, has not confirmed that the suspect fired on the officers. But Johnson did tell a local news station that he expected Hill to be arraigned on charges that include aggravated assault and attempted murder. The injured officers have already been treated and released from a local hospital.