From [HERE] Philadelphia judge agreed Wednesday to reassign the case of a fired Philadelphia police officer charged this month in the on-duty shooting death of a fleeing suspect.
The district attorney's office had asked Judge Patrick Dugan to step aside from former Officer Ryan Pownall's criminal homicide case because Dugan is married to a Philadelphia police lieutenant and because controversy erupted when he oversaw the excessive-force case of another officer.
Prosecutors also asked Wednesday that a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to support the charge be waived, because a grand jury had also recommended a criminal charge.
A hearing on whether to waive that preliminary hearing has been set for next week. Pownall is being held without bond because the criminal homicide charge includes the possibility of first-degree murder, and defendants charged with first-degree murder are not eligible for release on bail in Pennsylvania.
District Attorney Larry Krasner charged Pownall with criminal homicide this month for the 2017 death of 30-year-old David Jones, who was shot in the back as he fled.
Thirty-year-old David Jones had a gun on him when he was frisked by Officer Ryan Pownall, leading to a struggle, but he had thrown it to the ground and was running away when the officer shot and killed him, prosecutors said. His hands were visible and he did not turn toward the officer as he fled.
"Jones was no danger to anyone in his flight," according to a grand jury that recommended charges be filed.
According to the grand jury report, Pownall was transporting several people [the DA said 3 people, a father and 2 children] to the Special Victims Unit including two children when he saw Jones riding a dirt bike on a city street without the permission of politicians on the 4100 block of Whitaker Avenue near the southern edge of the Feltonville neighborhood.
The cop told the man to stop after he stalled his bike on the sidewalk, police said. "Initially (the officer) was only going there to tell this guy to knock it off," Commissioner Ross said.
Jones' pulled into the parking lot of a night club. Pownall also pulled into the lot and got out of his vehicle to question the man. When he frisked Jones [for having a dirt bike? how about just give him a citation?], he felt a gun. A struggle ensued then Jones started running. Pownall tried to shoot Jones but that his gun jammed.
Surveillance footage showed Jones dropping his gun on the ground and running, and Pownall opening fire, shooting Jones twice in the back. Surveillance video shows the second round hit Jones from 10 feet away; the third hit him in the back from 35 feet away.
Pownall told another officer he saw Jones toss his gun, which came to rest about 25 feet from where the officer opened fire and in the opposite direction from where Jones was fleeing, the grand jury said.
The grand jury concluded "there is no indication how Pownall could have reasonably believed Jones was still armed or dangerous."
“As Jones ran, unarmed, Pownall fired at least three shots towards Jones and traffic, hitting Jones twice in the back. Jones was searched at the scene, no gun was recovered on his person,” said Krasner.
"He was shot twice in the back, while he was unarmed and running away. At no point did Jones turn toward Pownall or gesture in a threatening manner," the grand jury wrote.
Pownall's attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr., said he objects to waiving a preliminary hearing because he does not believe there is enough evidence for criminal charges.
“He was legally justified of his actions on the day of the shooting,” Perri said.
Pownall, who served in the department for 12 years, was fired last fall. Union officials have said they hope to get charges dropped and get Pownall's job back.
Krasner said previously he believed it was only the second time in nearly 20 years that a Philadelphia officer had been charged with a crime for an on-duty fatal shooting.
The shooting prompted protests, including a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside Pownall's home. John McNesby, president of the police union, later called the protesters “a pack of rabid animals.”
According to police records, Pownall was involved in a 2010 on-duty shooting in which a suspect was struck in the back.
Carnell Williams-Carney was paralyzed after Pownall and a second officer fired shots at him as he fled, hitting him once in the back. A federal jury ruled in a lawsuit that Pownall and the other officer were justified in opening fire.