Man With a Thousand Faces: What the Cops Will Do to Catch the Strangler

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 21 | Posted Jan. 12, 2011

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Enrique "Chino" Sanchez claims he was stopped and swabbed because of his resemblance to the Strangler.

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Almost three months into the hunt for the serial rapist and murderer dubbed the Kensington Strangler, the portrait of the primary suspect burns bright in the minds of the victims’ family, frightened residents and police.

Fliers with the predator’s portrait and tip line information circulate up and down Kensington Avenue, the main corridor that cuts through the section of the city where the bodies of three women were found in vacant lots, partially stripped, raped and strangled.

A police artist assembled the sketch based on eyewitness accounts from survivors who escaped after being similarly choked and surveillance camera footage taken near the crime scenes. It’s the face of a young, light-skinned African-American or Latino male with side burns, maybe a goatee, maybe a birthmark, with white ear bud wires dangling out of a dark hoodie.

There’s one problem with the sketch.

“Everybody out here fits that description,” says Enrique “Chino” Sanchez, a 23-year-old Kensington resident. Sanchez is of Puerto Rican descent and sports thin sideburns and a four-inch goatee.

Amid the mounting pressure to catch the Strangler—including from angry residents, some of who insist that he would have been caught by now had he struck a more affluent area of the city—stories of young men on the street who fit the description being stopped by police and forced to submit to random DNA swabs whirl through the neighborhood.

On Dec. 21, Sanchez was walking up Cumberland Avenue toward his parked car. He was on his way to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. But before he got to Kensington Avenue, Sanchez encountered a patrol car blocking the street.

Sanchez says an officer—hand on gun—approached him and said, “Put your hands on the wall.”

When Sanchez asked what was going on, he says, the cop told him not to worry, that he’d let him know “in a little bit.”

He obliged.

According to Sanchez, the officer then rummaged through his jean pockets, escalating a stop-and-frisk—a practice sanctioned by Nutter in 2008 but currently challenged in court—to a search-and-seizure, which requires a warrant. If the cop had a warrant, he didn’t flash it.

“I always get harassed,” says Sanchez. He later rattles off four previous encounters with police where he claims he was grabbed on the street, “gripped up” for no reason. Sanchez says he’s been roughed up, tightly cuffed, beat with a nightstick while falsely accused of robbery, domestic violence and graffiti. It was always a case of mistaken identity, says Sanchez.

“Some guys do bad and some guys don’t, you know? It’s just the way we dress that we kind of blend in with the other guys.”

The officer grabbed the back of Sanchez’s jacket and steered him toward the backseat of the patrol car. Sanchez says he sat, uncuffed, sneakers still on the pavement.

Next, Sanchez was told to pull his feet in the car. Thinking he was about to get arrested, he protested.

“I [said], ‘Put my feet in the car? … What did I do wrong? … Do you even care why I’m out here?’”

He says the cop shot back, “I don’t give a fuck.”

Sanchez did as he was told.

While sitting in the car Sanchez noticed a dark navy blue SUV reverse up “out of nowhere,” and “a detective came out.” Sanchez can’t be sure that the man he describes as a husky Caucasian was a detective. He didn’t get any of the officers’ names and the man wasn’t in uniform. “He was pretty dressed up,” says Sanchez, recalling the man’s fancy blue suit.

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Comments 1 - 21 of 21
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1. c r said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 10:56AM

“if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck...”

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2. Mike said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 01:32PM

“"If this was white America—upper-class white America—you’d have … some cracker-fabulous motherfucker down here protesting. But it’s OK to violate young Latino males in Kensington.”

Wow man. Way to take a good point, and make it sound ignorant by filling it with race-baiting and ethnic slurs.

This is why good people, smart people, never make it out of places like Kensington. Because they refuse to communicate above a 9th grade level, and the world will never take them seriously.

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3. Anonymous said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 03:53PM

“So....It sounds like you're not too concerned with the cops catching this dude but that some Latino who fits the descriptions rights are violated. Just amazing, nothing like helping the police. All these guys that fit the description should voluntarily have their DNA checked, or are they afraid of being guilty of something. Man up!!”

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4. Charles Denson said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 04:14PM

“Why would anybody be against this?! If the killer was in Ireland, do you think all the Irishmen would be crying foul if the cops were stopping them?
Save your neighborhood and stop hating on the cops and stop dressing like slobs who just got let out of prison and don't fit their clothes and maybe you won't be stopped alot.”

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5. Jeff said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 05:00PM

“I don't care what race he is and what he dresses like, the point is his rights were violated and the cop was a jerk. The "stop and frisk law" is a violation of our Constitutional 4th amendment rights and Nutter is a jerk for putting this in place. Learn your history people and remember exactly WHY the American Revolution was fought.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 07:53PM

“It would be prudent if this person shaved the goatee and got a haircut just to avoid resembling the suspect and getting tapped.

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7. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 06:55AM

“Wow....5 page article and no tipline#?”

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8. Ray said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 01:20PM

“The police will can never do the right thing when their methods are forever criticized. Sorry Chino, if you know that by dressing the way you do resmebles the sketch of the person of interest, then you should expect to be stopped by the police. Stop bitchin'!”

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9. Mike said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 02:40PM

“I can pretty much guarantee that if the people saying "who cares, swab everyone" lived in a neighborhood like ours (kensington) they'd change their tune real quick. The police feel they can and literally do anything they want. I'm a white law abiding male, and if the police did this to me I would be filing legal actions in a heartbeat, I was sitting by my work waiting for my girlfriend to pick me up and was questioned by police. For waiting to get a ride, they didn't believe me and even went as far as making me go get my boss to prove I worked there. Why? No clue, they never said why they wanted to know what I was doing. You CANNOT stop and frisk anyone for no reason at all and the taking of DNA by threats of forced confinement is completely ILLEGAL. The police are doing a great injustice to actually trying to catch him, if and when they do, if it is because of a stop and frisk the man will walk free out of court. Will you be happy then? Do it the right way and put him away.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 09:29PM

“The cops were wrong for breaking the law while investigating this case! The law is the law and no one is above the law! It is easy for certain people on this post to make rude comments regarding Manuel Chino Sanchez and his hip hop culture dress appearence and image. He was not breaking the law and in fact was assisting the cops at a press conference! It is easy for those posting negative comments when thier civil rights were not violated. This kind of stuff happens every day in Philly which truly hurts the good hard working honest men & women in blue reputations.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 09:50PM

“Sounds like there are a few racisr on this post that have a problem with the hip hop culture of young black & hispanic males. Why dont you certain posters just put on your white sheets or your uncle tom smiling faces and say yes sir master, you right master, the police can break the law any way they want master as long as aint towards fellow well to do white folk master. Sh"""""""t F"""""""" that dumb racial stuff. Dont talk crap if you guys werent there. Certain cops do this dumb stuff everyday in da hood to residenta of color for no good reason other than cause they have a badge and a negative attitude in life. Im glad that a young spanish brother is standing up and telling the truth against a few bad cops.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Jan 13, 2011 at 10:18PM

“Hey Look it's a bird, it's a plane... it's a person so wronged... suck it up Buttercup. Your'e not the only one who's been through stuff like this....try having people try killing you or setting you up in crimes that you haven't commited or getting involved with underground drug organization and having to play along just to keep yourself alive and the police think you're one of the bad people.”

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13. Jase said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 04:27PM

“Lets say a cop who goes to stop chino takes a "nice" approach, and asks chino politely for a swab. Chino would have still complained.

Lets say chino pulled out a gun on the "nice" cop and shot him. Now the cop is at fault for letting his guard down.

Everyone is a dam judge, however nobody will ever know theyre role until they step in the shoes and paths of those who try to uphold the law.”

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14. Ray said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 05:24PM

“@Anonymous: Racist? Are you kidding me? Chino in this picture is dressed in a way that anywhere outside the city would get him noticed and not in a good way. That's not racist saying so, that's called not being a dumbass. And it makes me wonder if Chino wants to keep looking the same way as the suspect so he will get stopped and then he can complain. Wise up. The cops are doing what they have to do and we should be glad they are, otherwise they would be accused of not doing enough.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 08:26PM

“Been a cop and know a little about police procedures & protocall & if Chino committed a crime fine police should be carefull,. but if Chino is walking down the street not committing a crime then there should be rule of engagement for police & citizens.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 08:29PM

“Chino doesnt live outside of the city and was walking in hi neighborhood where it is very common for young Latino males in dressing like that. I myself dont dress or look like that but I try not to be opinionated regarding others and thier cultures.”

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17. Anonymous said... on Jan 14, 2011 at 10:25PM

“Bucceroni is a "local legend"??


That "local" is only a legend in his own mind.

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18. Louis said... on Jan 15, 2011 at 09:44AM

“Bucceroni, whether you like him or not? Has at least been active over the years doing something in the neighnorhoods. I have spoken with a few people since the article posted on the streets whom said good things although a few said he was a pain in the butt?????? I dont know if that was good or bad????? but at least the guy is out there doing something, which is more than the average person can say that lives in Kensington.”

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19. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2011 at 08:26AM

“The knuckledraggers need to follow the law and obtain a warrant, period. This power will be abused, as always, by the single digit IQ, badge wearing apeman. Cops are just criminals with badges, drunk on power. The media needs to stop apologizing for them.”

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20. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2011 at 10:42AM

“It's terrible that this happened, but seriously, Buccerroni, this is no time to make racial slurs and race bait. Citizens of all races should stand up against this clear abuse of power and work to see to it that the cops involved never work the streets again and work to make sure that less affluent citizens, who are frequently targeted this way know their rights. Seriously, the thing to do is to say, "Am I under arrest?" if the cop says, "No." you ask him, "Am I free to go?" If he says no to that, then you should involve your lawyer.

The cops wonder why cops get shot in Philly and no one says anything, this is exactly why. When you violate someone's civil rights, when you use your badge to intimidate people in these neighborhoods, they aren't going to be too sympathetic when your friends get shot. The Philadelphia police department has a serious problem with abusing citizens and until they learn not to take such a heavy handed approach, don't snitch is just gonna continue.”

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21. tom said... on May 29, 2012 at 04:25PM

“if you post things to scare readers look me up without any cops around,let me know,ill meet,all you scums who write things like that need to be spit on,and whatever else.your ignorant mom told you to say those talk race shit,when your the fool,who the hell are you anyway besides a scum,the stranglers a fag who kills sissys,then you cheer him on,i love to blind side you----ended life.he should of got the comment about unfairness to blacks and latins,go to hell,id never hang or like your scumness.he killed with no warning,FEMALES,be a queer and do it up front to me,,ill use my wrists,like he did.your expressions are worthless,degrading comes from fagness in your soul,and i hope god takes itall your cops a busing comes from people like you who start it,i hope when you,your relative---.nobody snitches so i could laugh and crack one.good thing for you there are cops.”


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