Officer John Pawlowski, gunned down by suspected ‘jailhouse Islam’ convert

After a man promised to murder a cop in cold blood and then shot him several times, authorities have revealed he is a suspected “jailhouse Islam” convert.

Rasheed Scrugs, 33, also known as Rasheed Abdulghaffer, shot Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski, 25, with a .357 Magnum he hid in his black, three-quarter length jacket Feb. 13.

“Pawlowski didn’t stand a chance,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told Fox 29 News.

Detectives have been questioning Scrugs’ prison friends to find out what motivation he had to kill the five-year veteran police officer. Scrugs reportedly planned to shoot at authorities when they responded to a report of a fight between him and a cab driver at 8:20 p.m.

“This individual was very violent and was bent on killing someone,” Ramsey said.

Witness Manuel Dias, who works at a nearby newsstand, told detectives Scrugs said, “If you call the cop, I’ll kill you and kill the cop.”

The suspect then fired several shots at Pawlowski, hitting him above his bullet-proof vest. The officer fell to the ground, firing one shot before collapsing.

“As soon as the cop asked him to take his hand out of his pocket to give him something else, he just pulled the gun and shot the cop for no specific reason,” Dias said.

Pawlowski’s partner and another officer fired back and wounded Scrugs.

Rasheed Scrugs (photo: Fox 29 News)

The suspect refuses to cooperate with detectives. According to the report, he told hospital workers he was high on drugs. Authorities say Scruggs had 19 packets of crack and 19 extra bullets in his pockets.

“I can’t believe I shot a cop,” he allegedly told the staff.

“Well, he’s a cold blooded killer is what he is, and he knew exactly what it is he wanted to do,” Ramsey told Fox 29 News.

Ramsey said the killer is believed to have converted in prison to radical Islam, or “jailhouse Islam.”

Scrugs has been arrested nine times for robbery, car theft, weapons offenses and drugs, according to court records. In 1997, he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to serve 10 years in prison. However, he was released in 2002, but when he violated parole in 2004, he returned to prison for another year.

Just hours before the shooting, FBI agents briefed Ramsey about radical Islam and its growing threat to law enforcement.

“This is a radical form where certainly committing crime and killing police officers and so forth is part of it,” Ramsey said.

The FBI and local Philadelphia authorities are also investigating another case in which an officer was murdered by three bank robbers dressed in female Muslim garb – also suspected to be “jailhouse Islam” converts.

Sgt. Steve Liczbinski

Howard Cain and Levon Warner fired at Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, a 12-year veteran and father of three, with an SKS rifle, striking him several times May 3, 2008. Cain was killed by a K-9 officer while Warner was arrested and charged with murder, robbery, conspiracy and related offenses. Police arrested a third suspect, Eric Floyd, and found $38,000 in cash along with burqas in their vehicle.

“Since Steve Liczbinski got killed, this issue has really been something that has struck home here in Philadelphia,” Ramsey told Fox 29.

On Sept. 19, 2006, Donald Van Duyn, deputy assistant director for the FBI counterterrorism division, testified before Congress about U.S. prisons presenting opportunities for the proselytizing of Sunni and Shia forms of radical Islam.

“Prison radicalization primarily occurs through anti-U.S. sermons provided by contract, volunteer, or staff imams, radicalized inmates who gain religious influence, and extremist media,” he said. “Ideologies that radicalized inmates appear most often to embrace include or are influenced by the Salafi form of Sunni Islam (including revisionist versions commonly known as ‘prison Islam’) and an extremist view of Shia Islam similar to that of the government of Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah.”

He said radicalized inmates may feel discriminated against in the U.S. or feel that the nation oppresses Muslims in other parts of the world.

“The feeling of perceived oppression, combined with their limited knowledge of Islam, especially for the converts, makes this a vulnerable population for extremists looking to radicalize and recruit,” he said.

Howard Cain, Levon Warner and Eric Floyd

While Van Duyn said many prison converts don’t present a threat to national security, some “use the call of Global Jihad as a source of inspiration to recruit others for the purpose of conducting terrorist attacks in the United States.”

A comprehensive assessment based on a survey of nearly 3,000 state and local correctional facilities identified the following trends:

  • Most cases of prison radicalization and recruitment appear to be originated by domestic extremists with few or no foreign connections.
  • Some radicalized Islamic inmates are current or former members of street or prison gangs, indicating an emerging “crossover” trend from gang member to Islamist extremist.
  • Radicalization activity levels appear to be higher in high population areas on the West Coast and in the northeastern United States.

While authorities continue to investigate Scrugs’ suspected affiliation with “jailhouse Islam,” officer Pawlowski, the fifth Philadelphia cop gunned down in the line of duty since 2006, leaves behind a wife who is five-months pregnant.


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