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Suspect In Officer's Killing Confesses, Apologizes

John Lewis, 21, tells NBC 10 he confesses to the killing and apologizes to the victim's family.
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The suspect in a Philadelphia police officer's fatal shooting last week said Tuesday night after his capture earlier in the day that he is in fact responsible for the killing.

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Police allege it was 21-year-old John Lewis who was holding up a West Oak Lane Dunkin' Donuts and shot on-duty Officer Chuck Cassidy, 54, in the head last Wednesday as he walked into the robbery. Cassidy, a 25-year-old police veteran, husband and father of three, died at Albert Einstein Medical Center a day later.

Police, including Philadelphia detectives, had been interrogating Lewis for eight hours Tuesday in Miami after his morning capture there. Officials were looking to get a confession.

That's what they got, NBC 10's Harry Hairston reported.

As Lewis was brought down on an elevator Tuesday night and led through police headquarters in handcuffs, the 21-year-old said, "I apologize to his family. I never meant for nothin' to happen like this, you know? But I can't change, I can't change it."

"You confess to the killing?" Hairston asked.

"Yes," Lewis answered.

When someone else asked if he was the man in the black hooded sweatshirt," he said, "No more questions."

Police Find Officer's Slaying Suspect Clutching Bible

Authorities said Lewis was taken into custody without incident as he left the Miami Rescue Mission holding a Bible at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Before the arrest, Lewis had been praying with a group of about 100 people.

When officers flashed him a photo of his mug shot, he allegedly nodded and said, "Yeah, it's me."

One officer said he looked relieved, while another said he "definitely had a look of guilt, of shock to see us there."

A man who worked at the homeless recognized Lewis from the news and called police.

"I really didn't give it any other thought until this morning when I was listening and watching the news and I saw this picture and I said that looks like the guy I saw (on a poster Monday)," Arthur Chappel, a counselor at the Miami Rescue Mission, said.

Chappel said he then told another co-worker to call police.

"I knew that that person shouldn't be here. And that was my whole purpose, to protect the people that were already in the mission, and that was it. I just wanted to make sure justice was done," he said.

Chappel said if Lewis is the man who killed Cassidy then he is happy to have done the right thing.

"And if he is then we've caught someone who killed another human being and if I happen to have taken part in contributing to that, then it was meant to be," he said.

Timeline Of Lewis' Escape, Capture

The road to capture was a long one. Officers worked round the clock to find the man accused of shooting Cassidy in the head.

Sources said the big break came Saturday and court records said John Lewis' family told police he confessed to them he shot and killed Cassidy Wednesday.

Sources said Lewis was likely hiding out in his mother's house but when they went there he was already gone and believed to be on the road.

The police commissioner confirmed Lewis' cousin dropped him off at a Wilmington bus station Saturday where Lewis boarded the 420 bus to Washington D.C., according to sources. There he got on another bus that took him to Miami.

Police said Lewis' cousin, Hakeem Glover, was charged with aiding and abetting and obstruction for bringing Lewis to the Wilmington bus station, where he fled to Miami.

"It's a happy occasion to a very sad story," Miami Police Chief John Timoney said.

Miami police said police in Philadelphia notified them Lewis could be in the area Monday, after Philadelphia investigators recovered two guns from a home of one of Lewis' Hunting Park relatives. According to police, one gun is Cassidy's service gun; the other is believed to be the weapon that killed Cassidy.

Miami police blasted the airwaves with Lewis's description and said Lewis' own family told investigators he was hiding out in a homeless shelter. Miami police also said they received several 911 calls pointing them in the direction of Lewis.

Lewis will have a hearing in Miami before returning to Philadelphia on a commercial airliner, police said.

Timoney described the arrest as "a dodgy situation," with about 100 people in the chapel when police arrived. He said officers waited for shelter workers to escort Lewis, who was carrying a Bible, out of the chapel.

Philadelphia investigators were expected to arrive in Florida by noon. In the meantime, Miami police questioned Lewis.

During the news conference in Miami, Timoney voiced his concern with the increase in violence against police.

"This year, for the first time in 18 or 19 years, there has been a huge increase in the killing of police officers throughout the United States," he said.

In Philadelphia, police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said he was pleased several law enforcement agencies, such as the Miami Police Department and the FBI, could work together to capture Lewis.

He also expressed relief that Lewis' arrest did not lead to more violence.

"That was my greatest fear -- someone else being hurt, either because of him, or by him," Johnson said at a news conference.

Police said the gun used in Cassidy's shooting was recovered, but it was not the gun reported missing by Lewis' mother, a corrections officer.

"Now that the killer is in custody, the wheels of justice will begin to turn, and we will use all of our resources to bring this defendant to justice," District Attorney Lynne Abraham said.

"If you shoot a Philadelphia police officer you can expect to be captured, tried and punished," Philadelphia Mayor John Street said.

Video: Former Philly Top Cop Discusses Arrest

Video: Suspect's Uncle Speaks Out On Arrest

Video: Suspect In Officer's Killing Arrested

Slideshow: Hunt For John Lewis

Surveillance: Video | Highlighted Video | Images

Download: Arrest Warrant

Donation Information: Charles "Chuck" Cassidy Family Memorial Trust Fund

Related: How The Reward Works

Slideshow: Timeline Of Recent Officers Shot

With the suspect in custody, police, family and close friends will turn their attention to saying goodbye to Cassidy.

"Right now, we're preparing for a funeral," Johnson said.

Former Philly Police Commissioner Speaks

Miami Police Chief John Timoney, former Philadelphia police commissioner, arrested Lewis Tuesday in Miami. He spoke with NBC 10's Vince DeMentri Tuesday evening. Timoney, who was Philadelphia Police Commissioner from 1998 to 2001, said he received calls from Philadelphia police and the FBI Monday regarding Lewis on Monday. Miami police were put on alert and the local media there was also notified to put the word out.

"All law enforcement in South Florida was on alert," Timoney said.

Video: Former Philly Top Cop Discusses Arrest

He said around 6:15 a.m. Tuesday police received at least two, possibly three, phone calls from different people stating that, "the guy we were looking for was at the rescue mission" on 20th Street and North Miami Avenue.

Timoney said half a dozen officers, including a K-9 officer, were sent over and they set up a close perimeter around the rescue mission.

"We got information that he was in a chapel with about 100 other people at some kind of a pray session," he said. "Rather than barge into that, we set up the perimeter and got the staff to talk to him to come out and speak to the police officers."

Lewis surrendered without incident.

Timoney said Lewis made statements to Miami police and they were turned over to Philadelphia police. He did not say what Lewis said in the statements.

Timoney said one of arresting officers said Lewis looked relieved when he was arrested.

"That's not uncommon in these situations where you have a manhunt going literally nationwide and you often see that when they get caught they do show signs of relief. Now I'm sure that'll change over the next day or two," Timoney said.

He said he could not confirm that a cousin of Lewis' tipped police off that he was headed to Miami.

"We're sharing our 911 information with Philly detectives because clearly as you're well aware Vince there is a large amount of reward money and in situations like this you hate to talk about that but that becomes a reality later on. And you wind up getting involved with lawsuits regarding who's entailed to the reward money," Timoney said,

Timoney said "great cops" work in Philadelphia and specifically the 35th District, which was the district Cassidy was a part of.

"Any time a police officer gets killed in the line of duty or gets shot it affects all of us," he said. "This case, it's Philadelphia, and I had the privilege of leading that department for four years. …It's personal. You don't like it to be but it is in fact personal. I'm just relieved that they've taken this guy off the streets and brought some kind of closure before the funeral tomorrow at the cathedral," Timoney said.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia will elect a new mayor. DeMentri said Timoney was "very popular" while he was here and asked if he would consider returning to the city.

"You know, I'm down in Miami and I've got a job here and my own mayor. But Michael Nutter is a good friend, great guy and he's going to do wonders for that city," Timoney said.

DeMentri asked if he'd come back to Philadelphia and he responded with a smile, "No comment."

Cassidy's Family Reaction

Cassidy's family released a statement following the arrest:

"We are extremely appreciative of the hard work of the Philadelphia Police Department during the past week and are grateful as well for the efforts of the police officers in Miami. We thank both Police Departments for their continued support."

A memorial fund was set up and Philadelphia Mayor John Street urged people to continue to donate.

Donation Information: Charles "Chuck" Cassidy Family Memorial Trust Fund

In Florida, Timoney expressed his condolences to Philadelphia police.

"We all hurt from them," he said. "But somehow in our business, we manage to move on.

"They'll get past this," he added. "They won't forget it, though."

People tear up when they stop at the shooting scene in West Oak Lane, and look at the memorial dedicated to Officer Cassidy. There is relief in the community, however, that the accused killer has been arrested.

"I was very happy but I may sound kind of callous or cruel but I was hoping he would go down just the way Officer Cassidy did. That is just a little too peaceful for me. But I'm just glad for the family," Kathy McGroty, of Northeast Philadelphia, said.

Cassidy Funeral Information

A public viewing for Officer Cassidy will begin at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Center City.

The viewing will be followed by a funeral mass, starting at noon.

Lewis Lost Father 'To Murder,' Uncle Says

At John Lewis' grandmother's house, a sign in the door reads, "No press, no comments and we love you John." Lewis' uncle, speaking on behalf of his family, said they feel for Cassidy's family.

"I've spoken with my family extensively and we genuinely want the Cassidy family to know that we as a family also grieve with them. We sincerely offer our deepest sympathy to the family in this time of loss," Stephan Mambazo, a Lewis family spokesman, said.

"There's never a justification for an officer losing his life, especially in the line of duty. We know that officers sacrifice a great deal when they put that badge on. And we do not want anyone to believe that our family minimizes the loss," Mambazo said.

Mambazo spoke with NBC 10's Vince DeMentri later Tuesday evening.

Video: Suspect's Uncle Speaks Out On Arrest

"Well, it’s a great tragedy and it's going to affect all the families involved forever; my family, of course, the officer's family, as well, as many citizens in that community," Mambazo said.

Mambazo said he last spoke with Lewis six or seven months ago.

"(At that time) he was excited about becoming a new dad. He was expecting his first child. (He was) very goal-oriented wanting to, you know, be a good father," he said.

DeMentri asked Mambazo if anyone in the Lewis' family told him that Lewis admitted to killing Cassidy.

"I've been in consistent contact with my mother and my sister and other members of my family but no one has stated that he admitted to doing it," Mambazo said.

He said Lewis had plans to get a job and have a stable life for himself and his child.

"As a child, he was always very playful, loving, gentle boy. John himself lost his father, as I did, to murder. So we have tried to be as close as we could but circumstances didn't always allow that. But he's always been a good kid," Mambazo said.

"Again this is not to minimize the tragedy because it is a tragedy on all dynamics, on all fronts, especially with a police officer. But one of things that we need to consider is whether it was John. Again, John has not been convicted of anything. He has just been charged," he said.

"But the person who shot Officer Cassidy, and he shot Officer Cassidy very bluntly and very clearly, we need to remember that for an African-American male in Philadelphia there was already a fear in him. And that fear factor is, it's 'me or him' when they are going head-to-head with a Philadelphia cop," he said.

"These are the realities of growing up black in Philadelphia. Sadly, this person put himself in harm's way. He was wrong, there is no justification but when he saw that officer, I believe, this person thought it was his life or the officer's life and in a split reaction pulled the trigger, made a mistake and there is no return. This is not a justification, it's just merely a reason," Mambazo said.

Close Encounter

Last Friday, before homicide investigators named Lewis a suspect, they said he appeared in court on minor drug charges.

Hours after the shooting, police released surveillance images from the store's camera, but it was dark and the shooter's face was unrecognizable. He was not named a suspect until after he appeared in court.

Investigators identified Lewis as the main suspect on Saturday and knew the window of opportunity to capture him in the city would be very small.

They later found out that he was already making his move to get out of the Philadelphia when they released his name to the public.

Police scoured homes of family members, but their next big tip didn't come until they learned he was headed to Florida.

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