An armed man pulled over after riding a dirt bike in North Philadelphia was shot and killed by a police officer during a confrontation Thursday evening, officials said, with surveillance video showing the officer shot the man while he was running away.
"It was a very violent encounter," Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.
The explosive scene evolved around 6:40 p.m. on the 4100 block of Whitaker Avenue near the southern edge of the Feltonville neighborhood when an officer transporting people to the Special Victims Unit saw the dirt bike rider driving erratically and 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," Ross said.
The officer got out of his vehicle to question the man.
Initial reports explained that the dirt bike rider got off his bike and started to walk away from the officer, but information from a preliminary investigation released Friday afternoon said the man turned to his side and began holding the front of his waistband.
That's when the 15th District officer performed a frisk and noticed a handgun in the rider's waistband, police said. The officer then drew his weapon and ordered the man several times not to touch his gun, investigators said.
"(The officer) looks in his face and says 'Bro don't do it, bro don't do it,'" Ross said.
A struggle ensued, then the dirt bike rider pulled away from the officer and pulled out his gun, pulled the trigger, but never fired it, police said. The officer's gun initially jammed, investigators said.
"The individual then starts to run and the officer then discharges," Ross said. "He is running ahead of the officer when he discharges from behind, so that's a piece we want to look at very closely."
Bullets struck the man in the back and buttocks, police said. He died a short time later at Temple University Hospital.
A black handgun — later identified by police as a fully-loaded 9mm — could be seen several feet from the dirt bike as a reporter arrived to the scene. The dirt bike lay on its side, surrounded by officers and detectives.
Family members of the victim also arrived within minutes and started yelling at officers. Ross was at the scene as well. The man's distraught grandmother called him a "good boy" who didn't bother anyone.
Surveillance video from a nearby restaurant appears to show the suspect running away from the officer.
"I did watch the video and clearly one of the shots was taken while the male was running away, there's no doubt about that," Ross said.
Ross said the video gives investigators "pause."
"The one video video vantage point is actually showing or depicting the officer firing as the guy is running away," Ross said. "I can't get into what the officer may have been seeing or believing at that particular time. Clearly he knows he was in a struggle with a violent guy prior to that."
Ross said he wants to make sure that the officer was following department protocol, which states you should only shoot a fleeing suspect if they area a suspect in a "forcible felony," but there are exceptions and you shouldn't always shoot.
Ross said that a witness being transported by the officer at the time also said "don't do it" before watching the suspect grab a gun. The witness' story corroborates the officer's, Ross said.
Ross asked anyone who may have witnessed the incident to come forward and share information with authorities.
Police did not immediately identify the officer or suspect.
The officer was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation. Ross said they would review if the officer followed department protocol.