Former Philly police officer Ryan Pownall charged in shooting death of David Jones

D.A. Larry Krasner believes this is the first time in 20 years that an officer has been charged in a deadly shooting.

Steve Tawa
September 04, 2018 - 12:09 pm
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner

Steve Tawa/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is now charging a former police officer in the shooting death of a man during a traffic stop last year. 

Ryan Pownall voluntarily turned himself in on Tuesday to face charges that include criminal homicide. He was arraigned and then held without bail. 

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced in Center City on Tuesday morning that the charges are the result of his office's seperate investigation to preserve the secrecy of an investigating grand jury presentment on the case. The grand jury recommended three charges against the former officer: criminal homicide, possession of an instrument of crime, and recklessly endangering another person. 

It all stems from a June 2017 police stop of 30-year-old David Jones, who was riding a dirt bike in the Juniata section of the city. According to the grand jury report, as detailed in a press release from the DA's office, Pownall, who was on duty at the time and transporting three people to the police department’s Special Victims Unit, eschewed police protocol and pulled into a parking lot to exit the patrol car and approach Jones.

Pownall frisked Jones and felt a firearm, which led to a struggle. Jones broke free and ran away, and Pownall attempted to shoot him. Jones threw his gun away from the confrontation, according to what Pownall told fellow officers immediately after the shooting. 

Video recovered from the scene shows Jones unarmed and with his back to Pownall. As Jones ran, Pownall fired at least three shots toward Jones and traffic, hitting Jones twice in the back.

Krasner said Jones' gun was found 25 feet in the opposite direction of his flight, where Pownall stood as he fired. 

The grand jury found that there was no reason Pownell should have reasonably believed that Jones was still armed and dangerous or a threat. 

"The duty of the District Attorney's Office is to represent the commonwealth — every person in the commonwealth — and do justice, which includes speaking the truth, applying justice equally, and exercising power with restraint. The commonwealth includes the family of David Jones. It includes Officer Pownall. We are applying justice evenhandedly today and will do so moving forward," Krasner said.

Krasner says, if memory serves, it's the first time in 20 years that a Philadelphia officer has been charged in a deadly shooting.

Philadelphia police union officials say the indictment of Pownall is "an absurd disgrace." 

Alongside Pownall's family during a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby rejected any charges brought against the former Philly cop.  

"Today's meritless indictment clearly illustrates a district attorney who has an anti-law enforcement agenda," he said.

Defense attorney Fred Perri, who represents Pownall, said evidence will show he was justified in the shooting of Jones.

"He encountered someone who was armed with an unlawful pistol, pulled that pistol from his waist, a struggle ensued. Officer Pownall was justified in his actions that night, and he will exonerated of all charges," he added. "Facts and circumstances of this case clearly indicate that there's no evidence of first-degree murder."

Perri said Pownall is in good spirits and denies any wrongdoing.

"I don't believe any officer leaves for the day to take a life," added McNesby. "It's just not what we are about."

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KYW Newsradio's Kristen Johanson contributed to this report.