Man Who Witnessed Deadly Police Shooting of Dirt Bike Rider Speaks Out

"'Daddy did they have to kill that man?' What am I supposed to do with that?"

A man who witnessed a deadly police shooting is speaking out for the first time. 

Terrence, who did not want to reveal his last name, told NBC10 he was in the backseat of a police vehicle driven by Officer Ryan Pownall back on June 8. Terrence said his 9-year-old son had been abducted that night but managed to escape. Officer Pownall picked up Terrence, his son and Terrence's 11-year-old daughter to take them to the Special Victims Unit.

Family Photo
David Jones

As Officer Pownall, a 12-year veteran assigned to the 15th District, continued driving the family, he spotted David Jones, 30, riding a red dirt bike in a "reckless manner," investigators said. Dirt bikes are illegal in the city. Pownall then saw the dirt bike stall on the sidewalk next to a nightclub on the 4200 block of Whitaker Avenue, according to police.

Investigators say Pownall stopped his vehicle and tried to question Jones.

"Initially (the officer) was only going there to tell this guy to knock it off," Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.

Initial police reports explained that Jones got off his bike and started to walk away from the officer, but information from a preliminary investigation stated that he allegedly turned away from the officer and began holding the front of his waistband.

Terrence also told NBC10 Pownall tried to pat Jones down.

"Pull up, skrrt! 'I'm taking your s***!' That's what he said," Terrence said. "So Mr. Jones is still sitting on the bike."

Police say Pownall patted Jones down and felt a firearm in his waistband. Officer Pownall then took out his gun and repeatedly told Jones not to touch the weapon, police said. Jones then allegedly pulled a gun from his waistband.

"(The officer) looks in his face and says 'Bro don't do it, bro don't do it,'" Ross said.

Terrence said a struggled ensued between the two men and Jones then broke free of the officer and ran. 

"I could hear him, 'He had a f-ing gun! He had a f-ing gun!' I said, 'The gun is right here,'" Terrence said.

Officer Pownall tried to use his taser on Jones at first and then took out his gun, according to Terrence. Police say Pownall then squeezed the trigger but it jammed. Pownall then cleared the stoppage and opened fire as Jones ran away south on Whitaker Avenue, according to investigators.

Jones was shot in the back and buttocks. He was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"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."

Several people who knew Jones arrived within minutes and started yelling at officers. Ross was at the scene as well. One woman described Jones as a "good boy" who didn't bother anyone.

Pownall was not injured during the incident.

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. Investigators say the gun belonged to Jones and was loaded with 15 9mm cartridges in the magazine.

The dirt bike lay on its side, surrounded by officers and detectives.

Terrence told NBC10 both of his children witnessed the shooting.

"My daughter was sitting there in a police SUV," he said.

NBC10 obtained surveillance video from a nearby restaurant that appeared to show Jones 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 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 are a suspect in a "forcible felony," but there are exceptions and you shouldn't always shoot.

Ross asked anyone who may have witnessed the incident to come forward and share information with authorities.

Pownall was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation. Ross said they are reviewing if the officer followed department protocol.

Jones' death led to protests in Philadelphia as the investigation continues. Community activists say Jones should never have been stopped in the first place especially when children were inside the police vehicle.

"Well I think that the officer didn't act reasonable," Chris Norris, a community activist, told NBC10. "That the officer exhibited bad judgment. That the officer didn't have probably cause to stop Mr. Jones."

Terrence said he wants the entire story out there. He's also had trouble explaining what happened to his children.

"'Daddy did they have to kill that man?' What am I supposed to do with that?" Terrence asked. "What am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to do?"

Contact Us