Philly Cops Face Criminal Charges For Performing An Illegal Pedestrian Stop
from the BAD-APPLES-REMOVED-DAILY dept
Weird stuff is happening in Philadelphia. Things have changed drastically since Larry Krasner became District Attorney. Anyone who enters this office and immediately earns the undying hatred of the local police union is probably someone actually serious about accountability.
Right after taking office, DA Krasner secured 33 resignations from prosecutors and staff who weren’t willing to get on board with his reform efforts. He went after the bail system, pointing out it did little else but ensure the poorest Philadelphians spent the most time in jail while still presumably innocent. Then he pissed off the police union by daring to tell incoming police cadets force deployment — especially deadly force — is a power to be used only when necessary and handled with the utmost of respect.
Accountability INTENSIFIES. A bogus pedestrian stop performed by two cops has led to [rubs eyes in disbelief] the arrest of the two cops who performed the stop. (h/t Max Marin)
The statement [PDF] issued by the DA’s office says two Philly PD officers, Matthew Walsh and Marvin Jones, stopped a citizen for “apparently using narcotics.” This citizen filed a complaint, resulting in an Internal Affairs investigation.
The narrative delivered by the two cops on their report was undone completely by video obtained by Internal Affairs.
Based on video surveillance recovered during the course of the IAD investigation, Police Officer Walsh and Police Officer Jones could not have seen the citizen “apparently using narcotics.” In addition, the citizen was fully compliant at the time of the stop. Moreover, the search of the citizen (which resulted in the removal of a prescription pharmaceutical from the citizen’s pants pocket) was not noted on the “Vehicle/Pedestrian Investigation Report” prepared and submitted by the officers.
Normally this sort of behavior would result in a halfhearted investigation and officers being cleared of any wrongdoing. In extreme cases, someone might be suspended with pay. Lies and illegal stops rarely result in anything more than stern words and civil rights lawsuits. They almost never result in the arrest of the officers involved.
But not here. Officers Walsh and Jones have both been arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, false imprisonment, tampering with records, obstructing administration of law, and official oppression. Rather than force the citizen to fight this abuse in court, the DA’s office has taken steps that will result in far more deterrence of future unconstitutional policing by making it clear abusive actions will be punished severely.
Unbelievably, there’s more. Another near-impossibility was achieved only a few weeks earlier.
Today, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is charging former 15th District Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall with Criminal Homicide (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2501), Possession of an Instrument of Crime (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 907), and Recklessly Endangering Another Person (18 Pa.C.S.A § 2705). Pownall voluntarily turned himself in today.
The Investigating Grand Jury (IGJ), whose members completed a review of the evidence and events leading up to the shooting death of David Jones, recommended that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) issue charges against Pownall.
Officer Pownall shot David Jones in the back three times while he was running away from the officer. Jones was carrying a gun, which Pownall found during his search of Jones, but following a brief altercation, Jones tossed his weapon away and ran from Officer Pownall. Perhaps Pownall could have justified his actions (or attempted to) if he felt Jones was still carrying his gun, but his own statements to responding officers made it clear he’d seen Jones throw his weapon away before running. Video recovered from the scene showed Jones was unarmed, never turned towards Officer Pownall or acted in a threatening manner at any point during his brief flight.
As the grand jury sees it, this killing was completely unnecessary.
The IGJ (Investigative Grand Jury) found that by firing his gun in the direction of traffic, Pownall recklessly endangered other people in his vicinity, that at the time of his flight, Jones was not a danger to anyone and that Jones’s death was not necessary to secure his apprehension.
True, it doesn’t take much to secure a conviction from a grand jury. But when the target is a cop, prosecutors — despite playing on a completely-skewed playing field — rarely seem to be able to talk grand jurors into returning charges. Officer Pownall is innocent until proven guilty, but he’ll get to see firsthand what that presumption actually means once a trial’s underway.
This has been a big month for police accountability. Hopefully, this trend continues… and expands much further than one DA’s office in Pennsylvania.