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Midstate DA mulls options after resentencing order in 1994 cop killing

Written by The Associated Press | Jul 16, 2018 4:35 AM
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Inside a courtroom at the Cumberland County courthouse. (Photo by WITF's Tim Lambert).

(Carlisle) -- A Cumberland County prosecutor says he will review options after an appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing for a man convicted of killing a police officer almost a quarter-century ago.

A three-judge 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel last week ordered resentencing of Seifullah Abdul-Salaam, who is now 47. He was convicted of shooting 30-year-old New Cumberland officer Willis Cole three times during an August 1994 robbery at a coin shop.

The appeals court ruled the defendant had ineffective counsel during his 1995 Cumberland County murder trial because his attorney didn't call witnesses about abuse he suffered growing up.

District Attorney Skip Ebert said that although the gravity of an officer's murder is self-evident to anyone in law enforcement, he needs time to review options -- which include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court -- and consult victims, including Cole's family.

"I'm going to look at it very carefully," Ebert said Thursday.

Authorities said Abdul-Salaam and an accomplice walked into D&S Coins on Aug. 19, 1994 and robbed owner Dale Rishal. Responding officers arrested the accomplice, but Abdul-Salaam had escaped.

Authorities said Cole was in the process of handcuffing the accomplice when Abdul-Salaam emerged from an alley and fired in an effort to spring his would-be getaway driver. Both robbers were recaptured within an hour, but Cole -- a husband and father -- died from his wounds.

Rishel, who was cutting tape from his ankles when he heard the fatal gunbattle outside his store, said after the appeals court ruling that he thinks "the original sentence should stand, big-time."

"That was actually cold-blooded murder what he did to Willis Cole." Rishel said.

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