Unarmed special needs man shot by Philly cop

A man whose family says has special needs was shot on a Kensington street Monday night by a plainclothes Philadelphia police detective who believed the victim to be armed.

The victim, 28-year-old Joel Johnson, reportedly approached the detective’s vechicle while panhandling on the 3400 block of G Street just before 9 p.m. The detective, who has not been named, shot at Johnson as he asked for change. Police said the officer thought he saw a gun in Johnson’s hand, according to CBS Philly, and fired off three rounds. Johnson was struck once, in the torso. Police later confirmed that Johnson did not have a firearm. 

“It’s not automatically an issue of whether there’s a weapon or not,” Philly Police Commissioner Richard Ross told ABC. “I know for some people they think that’s the way it should be. Obviously, it’s the first thing we look for. But I’m always going to be very candid with you when I know there’s not one. So I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we haven’t found one, we don’t expect to find one.”

Police Capt. Sekou Kinebrew told local media the officer thought he was going to be robbed.

Johnson was listed in critical but stable condition at Temple University hospital as of Tuesday. Now, his family want answers.

“My little brother came up to the police car, asking for change, for a quarter… and the officer was on his phone and he said he reacted, he got nervous, pulled out his weapon and just started shooting through the window,” the victim’s brother, Hector Tirado, told CBS.

Supporters of Johnson left a cross-shaped sign at the scene of the shooting. It read, “Beautiful human… sorry some didn’t understand your struggle and mistaken your pain of being homeless as a threat. P.S. It’s not a crime to be homeless. The system has failed him…” 

The detective who shot Johnson has been on the force for seven years, and was on-duty and waiting at a red light when the shooting occurred. Investigators plan to review surveillance video of the shooting. The detective has been put on desk duty as the investigation continues.



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