Tomorrow, the city of Philadelphia is burying a police officer killed in the line of duty.
Last Tuesday, Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald was shot to death after a routine traffic stop in a bad neighborhood. The city is furious, and rightfully so—the killer, Daniel Giddings, had an extensive and violent criminal history. He was convicted of robbery and aggravated assault in 2000 for carjacking and kneecapping the victim in the process. Yet Giddings was paroled from a maximum-security prison to a halfway house on August 18, 2008, which he promptly fled.
On August 27, Philadelphia police pulled Giddings over for a traffic violation in a car that was later discovered to be stolen. He fled on foot and ducked into a house. Giddings struggled with police, injured two cops, and escaped. A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Gidddings’ mother said the criminal vowed he was never going back to prison.
So when the car Giddings was riding in was pulled over for a broken tail light on September 23, he bolted again. Officer Patrick McDonald radioed for backup and pursued him on foot. The officer caught up with the criminal, and Philadelphia Homicide Capt. James Clark described what happened next:
“Mr. Giddings pulled out a .45-caliber semiautomatic, shooting the officer, striking him several times,” Clark said. “The officer went down, and then he stood over him and executed him, shooting him several more times.”
Giddings seized a bicycle and rode up the street, where he was confronted by three motorcycle cops. Giddings threw the bike at one cop, and started shooting at another, Officer Richard Bowes. Bowes returned fire. When it was over, Bowes was wounded and Giddings was dead.
Violent behavior started young
Daniel Giddings’ first conviction was for beating and robbing a mentally disabled man in 1991. Giddings, at the time, was 10 years old.
Articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer recount Giddings’ continuing life of violence:
- Gidding spent his youth in and out of juvenile institutions. He was charged several times with assaulting staff, sending some of them to the hospital.
- He told the court in 2000 that he sold drugs on the corner, raised pit bulls for fighting, and gambled.
- While in prison for the robbery and assault charges, Giddings was charged with disciplinary problems 27 times and spent 537 days in solitary confinement. He had been moved from medium-security prisons to a maximum-security prison.
- Giddings was found guilty of 13 misconduct charges between 2001 and 2006, including stealing from cellmates, assault, passing sharpened metal objects to another inmate and other offenses.
- Before going to prison at age 17, he fathered three children.
- Psychiatric evaluations described him as highly self-centered and manipulative. He was not, however, impulsive. His violence was planned and deliberate.
Shaping up to get out
So how did this guy get out? Twice, Giddings cleaned up his act long enough for authorities to think he had changed.
The first time came in 2000, during his trial for carjacking and kneecapping the victim. Giddings faced a potential sentence of 22½ years to 45 years in prison. During the sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Coolican told Common Pleas Court Judge Lynn B. Hamilton there was no reason to believe it would ever be safe to release Giddings.
“From what I have seen in the four years of prosecuting violent crime, I have never seen an individual who presents a higher risk of re-offending,” Coolican said.
Although the judge was alarmed at Gidding’s criminal history, she was impressed by his grades in finishing his high school diploma while in custody. She gave Giddings the minimum mandatory sentence—six to 12 years.
For the first six years in prison, Giddings racked up all those disciplinary charges. But after 2006, he entered drug and alcohol counseling, participated in group counseling, took courses in anger management, citizenship, violence prevention, victim awareness and parenting.
The Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. “You have to look at his overall situation,” she said. “The fact that he was misconduct-free for the last couple of years was good, and he had completed a lot of programs.”
War on judges
The mayor of Philadelphia is outraged that Giddings was paroled. The governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, has ordered a review of the parole board’s decision. And the city’s Fraternal Order of Police has declared war on “L” judges, as in liberal, lenient or light-sentence.
The FOP is demanding a comprehensive review of sentencing practices of Philadelphia judges. But although the cops are justifiably angry, they’re fighting the wrong battle. What is really needed is a comprehensive education program for the judges and parole board members to teach them about psychopaths.
The behaviors exhibited by Daniel Giddings are the behaviors of a psychopath.
Psychopaths do not change.
It’s that simple.
For more information on this case, see the following articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Patrick McDonald shot to death; 2nd cop wounded; gunman slain
Phila. Officer’s killer “just evil,” commander says
From age 10, a life of violence
Rendell wants review of Giddings’ parole
Are you an “L” judge? The FOP wants war