Political News

Commissioner: Officer who shot man in the back will be fired

Posted September 7

— A white officer who fatally shot a black man in the back during a traffic stop will be fired, Philadelphia's police commissioner said Thursday.

Commissioner Richard Ross said Officer Ryan Pownall has been suspended and will lose his job next month because the 12-year police veteran used poor judgment when he fired on David Jones on June 8.

"There were serious policy violations that were committed — ones that were on video," Ross said during a news conference. "It's not even a question of what someone's perception was versus another's. I saw it. The shooting investigators saw it. And that's where it starts and stops."

Surveillance video shows Jones running away as he's shot. He was stopped for riding a dirt bike on city streets and police say he reached for a weapon during a scuffle.

Ross said Pownall's first attempt to shoot at Jones was justified under department policy, because it happened right after the struggle with a weapon.

Pownall's gun jammed, and as he fixed it, Jones dropped his gun and fled. He was at least 10 feet away and had his back turned to Pownall when he was shot, Ross said.

The shooting led to protests, including a Black Lives Matter protest outside Pownall's home, and activists calling for Pownall's firing and arrest.

The city's police union president John McNesby came under fire for labeling the protesters outside the officer's home a "pack of rabid animals" in remarks last week at a rally in support of police officers.

Mayor Jim Kenney said this week rhetoric doesn't help.

"Referring to black people as animals has a long, painful history in this country. Fighting divisive words with divisive words gets us nowhere," he told Philadelphia Magazine.

McNesby responded he never referred to black people in his remarks, and had no idea if protesters were black, white or Asian.

Ross said some of the protests outside the officer's home were "out of bounds."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (http://bit.ly/2xav601) Pownall was involved in another shooting in 2010. In that case, Pownall and other officers fired at Carnell Williams-Carney, who also ran from police after being stopped with an illegal gun. Williams-Carney was struck in the back by a bullet that Pownall later said he fired.

Williams-Carney was paralyzed from his injuries. Pownall and the other officers remained on the job. In a federal civil suit filed by Williams-Carney, a jury ruled in 2013 that the officers were justified in opening fire.

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