PHILADELPHIA – Two men were convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday in the ambush death of a police officer after a bank robbery, even though neither defendant pulled the trigger.
Levon Warner, 41, and Eric Floyd, 35, each face the possibility of the death penalty after being convicted on all counts Wednesday in the May 3, 2008, shooting death of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. The man who shot Liczbinski died that day in a shootout with police.
Floyd watched the verdict from a closed-circuit TV in a courthouse holding cell, where he spent most of the two-month trial after being banished for punching his lawyer.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had his arm around Liczbinski's widow when the verdict was announced. But he also passed a box of tissues to Warner's sobbing relative across the aisle.
Jurors agreed that Warner and Floyd shared in the blame for the officer's death, which followed a daytime bank robbery inside a crowded supermarket. Both men took part in the robbery and were in the getaway car when Cain got out and shot Liczbinski, who had found himself cornered during a solo pursuit.
"All (three) knew if anyone got in their way, they would use the assault weapon to shoot them," District Attorney Seth Williams said after the verdict.
A defense attorney declined to comment, citing a gag order.
After the verdict, police escorted Liczbinski's family — his wife of 20 years, Michelle, plus sons Matt and Stephen and daughter Amber — from the courtroom and told reporters they did not wish to comment.
One spectator, Judy Cassidy, knows the family's pain. Her husband, police Sgt. Chuck Cassidy, was killed during a 2007 doughnut-store robbery.
"It doesn't make things any better. It doesn't change anything," Cassidy said of the verdict. "But this is something they (the Liczbinskis) deserve. And the fact it's behind them, I think, is a good thing."
Prosecutors said the three men couldn't shake Liczbinski, prompting Floyd to say they should "bang him." Warner handed Cain the rifle, and Cain shot the 39-year-old officer five times as he took cover behind his driver's side door, they said.
A woman gardening nearby heard his last words: "Tell my wife and my kids I love them."
Floyd took the stand briefly, testifying he was asleep at the time of the officer's killing. He denied any involvement in the crime spree.
Prosecutors say Floyd is the man seen on a supermarket security videotape — in dreadlocks and Muslim woman's attire — pushing a long cardboard box straddling a cart through the crowded produce aisle. The box contained the murder weapon.
The defense argued that Warner and Floyd did not share in the intent to kill Liczbinski. Their attorneys will push for life sentences when the penalty phase begins Monday.
In November, a jury took just a few hours to sentence Cassidy's killer, 23-year-old John Lewis, to death row.