After answering to Internal Affairs on Thursday for his role in the shooting death of a 30-year-old dirt bike rider in North Philadelphia earlier this summer, Officer Ryan Pownall was officially suspended by the Philadelphia Police Department for 30 days with intent to dismiss.
“Sadly, two parallel lanes of poor judgment crossed paths on that evening,” Commissioner Richard Ross said in a news conference this morning. “We ask police officers to deal with dangerous situations that most people can neither appreciate nor understand. This does not relieve us of our responsibility to adhere to our policy and training.”
Police say Pownall fatally shot David Jones on the 4100 block of Whitaker Avenue following a struggle on June 8. Pownall was working in the area transporting witnesses for the Special Victims Unit when he allegedly observed Jones recklessly driving a red dirt bike through the neighborhood. After Jones’ dirt bike stalled near the sidewalk adjacent to a nightclub, Pownall exited his patrol vehicle and attempted to question the Germantown man.
During the traffic stop, police say Pownall frisked Jones and discovered a handgun tucked inside his waistband. Jones did not have a license to carry. PPD says Jones reached for the firearm despite being told not to and a struggle between the men ensued. Pownall, a 12-year force veteran, drew his service weapon and attempted to fire it at Jones but the mechanism jammed.
Police say Jones took off on foot down Whitaker Ave. and Pownall fired three shots at him from 10 and 35 feet after clearing the blockage. Jones was struck in the back and buttocks. He was transported to Temple University Hospital, where he later was pronounced dead.
Authorities say a fully loaded 9-mm handgun was recovered from the scene. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s criminal investigation into the incident remains ongoing.
PPD protocol forbids officers from shooting fleeing suspects who “presents no immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to themselves or another person.” Ross said Pownall violated department policy by stopping his vehicle while transporting witnesses, failing to report the traffic stop with dispatch and ultimately firing on Jones while he was unarmed and “posed no imminent threat.”
“We as officers have an obligation to reassess the situation,” Ross said. “Just because you had the opportunity and the right to fire during an encounter doesn’t mean you have that same right throughout that encounter.”
Jones’ death sparked a small demonstration in front of the home of Pownall, which resulted in no arrests. Ross said some of the activists’ actions during the protest “crossed the line.”
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