Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall will be fired for violating departmental policy when he shot his service gun from 35 feet away at an unarmed, fleeing dirt biker, killing the man, Commissioner Richard Ross announced Thursday.
David Jones, 30, was killed June 8 by gunshots to the back and buttocks as he fled from Pownall, a 12-year veteran with the 15th District, after a traffic stop.
“He elected to take aim and fire two shots at Jones while he was running away,” Ross said at a news conference on Thursday. “All this occurred during rush hour.”
Pownall is going to be suspended with intent to dismiss, Ross said.
Ross said by firing twice, from 10 feet and then 35 feet away, as Jones ran away with nothing in his hands, Pownall violated departmental policy. While he said Pownall did believe Jones was armed, his loaded 9mm gun, which was unlicensed, was recovered in the driveway five feet from Pownall’s police car where they had pulled over.
“There was no imminent threat of death or serious physical injury,” Ross said.
Pownall was driving two people to the Special Victims Unit on June 8 when he allegedly saw Jones riding erratically on his dirt bike near Hunting Park Avenue in Northeast Philly and pulled him over.
After patting down Jones and feeling a gun in his waistband, which Jones began to reach for, Pownall attempted to fire his gun once while they struggled, but the gun did not go off. Jones then fled, apparently having dropped his gun, and Pownall fired twice, fatally striking Jones in the back and buttocks.
Ross noted that the first time Pownall pulled the trigger would be considered appropriate under departmental guidelines. “The first attempt was reasonable and within policy, because he was struggling with a male he knew was armed and was trying to pull a gun out.”
The second and third shots were not, he said.
“Jones never looked back at Pownall in the video and his hands were empty,” Ross said. “He posed no threat.”
Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office is investigating the shooting, which has been the subject of intense and frequent protests around Philly by Black Lives Matter-affiliated activists since June. Most recently, protesters gathered outside Pownall’s home in Bustleton and posted flyers with the words “wanted for murder” with Pownall’s picture.
That protest sparked a lawsuit by the local Fraternal Order of Police, whose president said the protesters acted like “rabid animals,” to keep the names of officers involved in fatal shootings private, as well as harsh condemnation from local Republican state Rep. Martina White.