Family of Tacony man fatally shot by undercover cop files wrongful death lawsuit

Steve Tawa
February 27, 2019 - 2:27 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The family of a man shot and killed in his car by an undercover Philadelphia police officer in the summer of 2018 has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officer. 

As 36-year-old Jeffrey Dennis was driving his car up a side street in Tacony, he found himself suddenly surrounded by armed officers from the Narcotics Field Unit. They were about to raid his nearby home when they spotted his car, and — with two unmarked vehicles — boxed in his Toyota Camry, blocking his path.

Surveillance video shows six officers, in civilian clothes, surrounding him. Police say they were yelling to shut off the engine. Attorney Dan Purtell said one of the lead officers doesn't appear to sense danger.

"He's holstering his weapon, objectively demonstrating that this situation has been effectively diffused," he said, "while at the same time, Officer (Richard) Nicoletti is escalating the situation."

As Dennis jockeyed back and forth, Nicoletti, closest to the driver's door, fired three times. The entire exchange was less than a minute.

Purtell said they are "aggressively pursuing justice through the civil system."

"Categorically, they were in violation of (police) policy, both with the stop and the discharge of weapons," he added. "We still think that they murdered Jeffrey Dennis, frankly."

RELATED: Police commissioner meets with family of man killed in Tacony police-involved shooting

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General investigated the police-involved shooting, because Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner previously represented the victim in a drug case, when Krasner was a defense lawyer. 

Dennis was a father of three. Tiffany Fortune, the mother of their 7-year-old daughter, teared up when talking about how it happened.

"The fact that one day, my child will be able to Google how her father was killed, and be able to see and witness it, and no justice is being served, is insane," she said.

After interviewing witnesses, examining video footage, and analyzing all available evidence, Attorney General Josh Shapiro decided no criminal charges would be filed against Nicoletti.

While the internal review of the incident by the police department has wrapped up, a spokesman said "formal discipline and disposition has not yet been reached."