Pennsylvania officers charged with killing girl may have acted against department policy

PHILADELPHIA — The three Sharon Hill police officers who fired at a car at a high school football game in August, killing 8-year-old Fanta Bility, apparently did so in violation of the department’s use-of-force policy, according to documents reviewed by The Philadelphia Inquirer. That policy, adopted in January 2016, bars officers from discharging their weapons “when it appears likely that an innocent person may be injured” and also prohibits them from firing at moving vehicles except in self defense or in defense of another. Such prohibitions are common among police departments — Philadelphia...

One family survived the Philly row house fire, but ‘lost everything’

PHILADELPHIA — It was 6:30 in the morning and Tyhara Woods was half asleep when she heard screams coming from the apartment above. Someone was shouting “Oh my God,” and there were blood-curdling wails. Woods, 18 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, got out of bed, put on her slippers, and walked toward her bedroom door. She smelled something burning. She flung open the door of the bedroom next to hers to find it filled with smoke and her three sons fast asleep. It would be about three excruciating minutes from when Woods got up until she and her longtime partner, Charles Scott, got themselves...

Mehmet Oz is spending millions on TV to boost his Senate campaign in Pennsylvania. He's not alone in an ultra-wealthy GOP field

PHILADELPHIA — If you live in Pennsylvania, there's a good chance you've been seeing Mehmet Oz on your television — and not like you used to. The celebrity surgeon and former talk show host known as "Dr. Oz" is pouring millions of dollars into campaign ads as he runs for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, buying up slots during "Jeopardy!," "Wheel of Fortune," morning news shows and Fox News staples as he tries to grab an early advantage in a sprawling GOP primary. Oz has already booked nearly $5 million of ad time from his Nov. 30 campaign launch through early February, drawing some c...

Thousands of gallons of toxic phenol reportedly spilled this week at a Philly chemical plant

PHILADELPHIA — A worker failed to shut off a valve Thursday at the AdvanSix plant in Philadelphia and up to 2,000 gallons of phenol spilled, with some possibly entering the sewer system, according to a police report. The incident occurred about 4:20 a.m. on the 2500 block of Bridge Street. The fire department responded, but did not call for an evacuation. No one was injured. Phenol can be toxic to humans. The company’s Frankford plant is one of the largest producers of the phenol in North America. The chemical is used in the manufacturing of nylon polymer for carpet fibers, plastics and films,...

Republican 'carpetbagger' candidates for US Senate take heat from primary competitors

Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate derided as "carpetbaggers" made it easy for their primary competitors in a forum Wednesday evening. They didn't show up. And the competitors made sure the crowd in Lawrence County, on the state's border with Ohio, heard about it. Jeff Bartos of Lower Merion opened with a knock on candidates known for swanky addresses in other states — Mehmet Oz of New Jersey, Carla Sands of California, and David McCormick of Connecticut — joking that "being a lifelong Pennsylvanian is a distinguishing characteristic in this campaign." Kathy Barnette, a conservative com...

'Flurona' is real, but don't panic — it's common to get two viruses at once

No, flurona is not some scary new variant of the coronavirus. And — do we really need to say this? — it is not an actual scientific term. But the phenomenon of "coinfection" with influenza and the coronavirus is real and, to those in the medical community, not the least bit surprising. A person can be infected with multiple viruses at the same time — or with a virus and some other type of pathogen, such as bacteria or parasites. "It's a natural occurrence," says Isabella Cattadori, an associate professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University. That's not to say it's a good idea. Nearly tw...

Medical helicopter carrying 2-month-old crashes west of Philadelphia, leaving 4 injured in a 'miracle' landing

PHILADELPHIA — A medical helicopter carrying a 2-month-old baby crashed Tuesday in a residential neighborhood in Drexel Hill, leaving the four passengers with non-life-threatening injuries thanks to the pilot’s “miracle” landing, officials said. A LifeNet medevac helicopter transporting the baby girl to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia went down at 12:55 p.m. Eastern time, according to local authorities and the Federal Aviation Administration. Flight transportation logs show the chopper — a Eurocopter EC135 — departed from Hagerstown, Maryland, at 10:29 a.m. It stopped at WellSpan Chamb...

Thousands of Native children were adopted in the 1960s as a government plan of forced assimilation. This woman was one of them

PHILADELPHIA — While visiting the Tekakwitha Nursing Home to sing for residents, 13-year-old Denise Owen was led away from the rest of her boarding school group by a nun. A special surprise awaited her. There, in another room in the Sisseton, South Dakota, facility, was her newborn sister, Rose Anne. Denise got only a glimpse of the infant, lying in a bassinet in a long-sleeve shirt and a diaper, before another nun ordered her to leave. Denise was not supposed to see her sibling, soon to be adopted. It would be 50 years before they saw each other again. Rose Anne, who would be raised by a Glen...

Philly's 47-year-old head shop, Wonderland, to close. 'I made a nice living for a lot of years,' owner says

Michael Katz, the longtime owner of the Wonderland head shop off Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square, is hanging up the hookah. He's discounting smoking-related merchandise 50% to 75% on most items and plans to close for good in early February after nearly 50 years in business. "I had a good run," Katz said on Saturday of the store that opened in 1975. Partly it's retirement, Katz said. He's 74. But Wonderland also didn't recover from the pandemic and the 2020 demonstrations in Philadelphia triggered by the killing of George Floyd. Crowds broke one of Wonderland's front windows and looted the st...

Fairmount rowhouse apartment where 12 people died in a fire did not have an extinguisher, records show

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia apartment where 12 people died in a Wednesday morning fire was not equipped with a fire extinguisher, according to inspection records obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The three-story rowhouse, which was split into two apartments and operated by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, had one extinguisher in a shared entryway on the first floor. But there were none in the four-bedroom upper apartment where 14 people shared a lease — and where heavy flames ultimately killed a dozen members of the same family. Neither the city’s building codes nor PHA policy requ...

We asked Pa. GOP Senate candidates if they would have backed the state's 2020 election results. They wouldn't say

PHILADELPHIA — A year ago, as some Republicans in Congress moved to disenfranchise Pennsylvania's voters and throw out the state's presidential votes, Sen. Pat Toomey opposed the move, defying the president he had previously supported. "I rise to defend the right of my citizens, my constituents, to vote in the presidential election," Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, said on the Senate floor hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. "Even if Congress did have the constitutional responsibility to judge the worthiness of a state's election process, which it does not, rejecting Pe...

The global legacy of the Jan. 6 insurrection: Foreign friends and adversaries believe US power is in decline

The global impact of the Jan. 6 insurrection is still growing one year after the attack. Most Americans don’t realize the shock felt by our foreign friends, and the glee of our adversaries, at watching mobs of MAGA vandals storm the Capitol of the world’s greatest democracy. Even when European and Asian allies disagreed with American policies, they still looked to the United States as the leader of the community of democratic nations. Especially given the growing strength of China and the muscle-flexing of Russia. The coup attempt on Jan. 6, along with its continuing reverberations, has shaken...

Hate crimes are soaring -- and white supremacists have a new recruitment tool

PHILADELPHIA — They arrived in yellow rental trucks, unfurled their flags, and readied shields and smoke bombs. The hour was late, and the symbolism was unsettling: As the clock inched close to midnight on July 3, about 200 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front marched through downtown Philadelphia, past Independence Hall and other historic landmarks, while chanting, “Take America back!” If the demonstration was meant to be a show of strength for the organization, it ended meekly. After scuffling with a handful of counterprotesters, the Patriot Front members retreated into their...

Crunch time for workplace vaccine mandates: U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in

In the midst of the latest surge in omicron COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Friday on whether the Biden administration can force private-sector firms to vaccinate or test tens of millions of employees. The court is expected to make a decision swiftly that could freeze the vax-or-test mandates on businesses with more than 100 workers — and the threat of fines — or let the Biden plan be implemented, legal experts say. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, which regulates workplace safety, has said it could begin fining businesses that fail to comp...

A man who served 37 years may be freed after informant said cops provided sex for false testimony

PHILADELPHIA — For 37 years, the key witness who had accused Willie Stokes of murder maintained that his testimony against Stokes was a lie, fabricated by homicide detectives who bribed him with access to sex and drugs. The witness, Franklin Lee, testified against Stokes at his 1984 preliminary hearing for the murder of Leslie Campbell in North Philadelphia. But at Stokes’ trial, he surprised the prosecutor by recanting. Stokes was convicted anyway, and sentenced to life without parole. What Stokes would not discover for decades was that the Philadelphia district attorney’s office had then pro...