By Nov. 10, Bucks County, Pa., Judge David Heckler had endured enough of William Foster, a junkie, career thief, and scofflaw, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. He had failed to show that day for a series of probation violations that almost certainly would have landed him back in jail. Have him arrested, Heckler told probation officer Ventura Vazquez-Acosta. The arrest never happened. Seven days passed with no action taken. “According to Officer Vazquez-Acosta, a variety of issues including a holiday, training and miscellaneous duties prevented him from coordinating the arrest of William Foster over the next week,” says an official report on the case.
By then, Philadelphia Police Sgt. Timothy Simpson was dead. On Nov. 17, police say, Foster, 41, was drunk and had just scored some heroin. Police were chasing him when his speeding car broadsided Simpson’s cruiser, killing the 20-year veteran. Foster was wanted on a New Jersey fugitive warrant for jumping parole, as well as on multiple warrants in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia police have angrily questioned why Foster was free. He was arrested at least three times in recent months and released each time. “People have a right to expect a lot of the system,” Heckler said. “We’ve identified ways in which our system has failed, and I’m troubled by that. But to say that it was somehow foreseeable that an officer was going to get killed is too big a reach in this case.”