Editor's Note: Andrew Thomas died before any charges were brought against him for the death of Officer Bradley Fox. His death was ruled a suicide by the Montgomery County Coroner.
All information contained herein is the personal opinion of the writer. All rights reserved.
On Thursday, September 13th, 2012, K-9 Officer and Marine veteran Bradley Fox of the Plymouth Township Police Department was shot and killed in the line of duty. Fox was mercilessly killed by a multi-time convicted Felon named Andrew Charles Thomas, who was fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident in the Conshohocken section of Plymouth Township.
Andrew Thomas has a lengthy criminal history, dating back to the early 90's in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. Thomas was previously convicted of, among other things, Forgery and Public Assistance Act Violations, and served a sentence of six to twenty-three months in jail for these convictions.
On or about July 1st, 2005, according to court records, Thomas was arraigned before then MDJ John Kowal at District Court 38-1-25 on the counts of Forgery (F2), two counts Theft by Deception (M2), Receiving Stolen Property (M2), and Possessing an Instrument of Crime (M1) and released on $3,000 unsecured bail, despite previous felony convictions for similar charges in Philadelphia. On July 11th, 2005, Thomas was a no-show for a Preliminary Hearing.
Due to Thomas failing to appear, the court requested a Bench Warrant to be issued (which is standard protocol), and the case was "held over for court" and forwarded to the Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County.
According to court records, Thomas listed his address as 105 Grasmere Rd, Bala Cynwood PA. County property records indicate the property has been owned by Richard and Jeanette Thomas since 1969. It is probably a safe bet to assume that they are directly related to Andrew Thomas in some form or another.
From July 11th, 2005 thru May 21st 2012, Andrew C Thomas considered as a "Fugitive from Justice".
This brings to light a few different questions; where was Thomas at during this extended time frame? Was he on the run, maybe out of state in hiding? Was he hiding out at a friends, or perhaps a relatives house? Maybe hiding out on his own? Or, was he going about his normal routine, lucky to be simply looked over on the active warrant list? Perhaps since his crimes were considered "white collar" rather than violent, his case wasn't given the priority it should have been? Was their due diligence in finding Andrew Thomas and bringing him forthwith to answer for his crimes?
Then, miraculously on May 21st, 2012, Thomas was arrested and brought before the Common Pleas Court in Montgomery County to answer for charges that were nearly seven years old.
The result? Surely he was incarcerated or required to post monetary bond.
Thomas was again release on unsecured $3,000 bail, despite spending nearly seven years on the run from police prosecution. He then decided, a day later, to plead guilty to Felony Theft by Deception and sentenced to two years probation and sentenced to pay fines and costs, all within an approximate 48 to 72 hour time frame.
Yes, you read that correctly. Two years probation, no jail time. I have personally witnessed traffic offenders be sentenced to harsher sentences than that (some rightfully so, though).
In the opinion of this writer, clearly, this 2005 incident was not a simple "lapse in judgment" (which could have warranted a probation-only sentence) given that Thomas was a previously convicted Felon who served prison time for nearly the same set of crimes in Philadelphia. And, that's not to mention that the most recent version of Pennsylvania's Sentence Guidelines (6th edition) calls for a recommended prison sentence of at least twelve months (this is based upon a "scoring" system that considers the current offense as well as previous convictions).
Could the absolute tragedy of Officer Fox being killed in the line of duty been avoided had Andrew Thomas been incarcerated rather than simply allowed to walk out the door of 2 E Airy Steet, free as a bird? The simplest answer to that question would be yes; Andrew Thomas would never have been involved in the hit-and-run accident that led to the fatal encounter with police on September 13th, 2012 because he would have been sitting in an 8'x10' cell somewhere, serving prison time.
The question at hand; has our Criminal Justice System failed us, or has our society itself caused it to fail? Have we become so financially burdened with criminal activity and the costs associated with enforcing and prosecuting that we have no choice but to be relaxed in our sentencing of offenders, thereby compromising the true purpose of our system? Does being a "repeat offender" really matter anymore? Or, is it some other form of influence or mitigating circumstances that is occurring?
We owe it to the honor true heroes such as Plymouth PD Officer Bradley Fox and the countless other men and women in blue who have given their life in the service to the citizens they protect, as well as their brother and sister officers who are still carrying the burden of patrolling society, to find an answer to these questions and to fix whatever problem(s) there may be. Never again should a police officer be murdered by a convicted felon who should have been behind bars instead of on the street, comitting more crimes.