PHILADELPHIA a Philadelphia judge agreed Wednesday to designate 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, former Officer Ryan Pownall the criminal murder case because Dugan is married to Philadelphia police lieutenant, and because controversy erupted when he oversaw the excessive force case of another officer.
The prosecutors also asked Wednesday that a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the charge, be dispensed with because a grand jury had also recommended a criminal prosecution.
A hearing on the question of whether to waive that preliminary hearing has been set for next week. Pownall is being held without bond, because the criminal murder charge includes the possibility of first-degree murder, and the defendants charged with the first degree murder is not eligible for release on bail in Pennsylvania.
District Attorney Larry Krasner will be charged Pownall with criminal homicide this month in 2017, the death of the 30-year-old David Jones, who was shot in the back while he fled.
Prosecutors say Jones had a gun on him when he was approached by Pownall for riding a dirt bike on a city street. Pownall felt the gun during an investigation of Jones, and a fight arose between the people.
Police officials have previously said that Pownall tried to shoot Jones during the fight, but that his gun jammed. Jones then fled, and threw his rifle away from Pownall and themselves.
The prosecutors said Pownall shot Jones, who was unarmed and on the run, in the back. The grand jury of the recommendation says that Jones was not a threat at the moment and that Pownall violated several policies, including that with his weapon in the direction of cars waiting at a traffic light.
Pownall’s lawyer, Fortunato Perri Jr., said he objects to waiving a preliminary hearing, because he does not believe that there is enough evidence for criminal prosecution.
“He was legally justified of his deeds on the day of the recording,” Perri said.
Pownall, who served in the department for 12 years, was fired last fall. Union officials have said they hope to get from falling and getting Pownall the job back.
Krasner said earlier that he believed that it was only the second time in nearly 20 years that a Philadelphia officer has been charged with a felony for an on-duty fatal shooting.
The shooting prompted protests, including a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside Pownall at home. The police union president John McNesby later called the protesters “a pack of rabid animals.”
According to the 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 shot him as he fled, hitting him once in the back. A federal jury has ruled in a lawsuit that Pownall and the other officer were justified in opening fire.
This story is corrected to show prosecutors asked to waive a preliminary hearing, not a hearing to determine whether charges should be waived.