Ex-Philly Police Officer Faces Homicide Charges for Allegedly Shooting Man in Back

Ryan Pownall is accused of shooting David Jones in the back as he fled a June 2017 traffic stop

What to Know

  • Ryan Pownall is accused of shooting and killing David Jones during a June 2017 traffic stop.
  • Pownall fired on Jones as he ran away after throwing away his gun, investigators said.
  • The criminal homicide charges faced by Pownall are a rarity for law enforcement in Philly.

A former Philadelphia police officer facing a homicide charged for allegedly shooting a man in the back as he ran away from the officer last year is being held without bail.

Ryan Pownall is accused of killing dirt bike driver David Jones after pulling him over on June 8, 2017 along Whitaker Avenue in the city's Juniata section.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced charges against Pownall on Tuesday after a grand jury report, the culminations of a yearlong investigation. Pownall is charged with criminal homicide, reckless endangerment and possession of a weapon of crime.

Krasner said his office had done a separate investigation to that done by the grand jury, resulting in the charges Tuesday.

Pownall was fired from the police department following an internal review. He turned himself over to authorities on Tuesday.

In the moments before the June 2017 shooting, Pownall was transporting three people to the department's Special Victim's Unit for an interview. Krasner said the officer pulled across traffic and into a parking lot after seeing Jones.

Family Photo
David Jones

Pownall, a 12-year veteran of the police force at the time, patted down Jones and felt a gun in his waistband, police said.

A witness in back of Pownall's police vehicle watched Pownall pull his service weapon and warn Jones not to touch the gun, police said. The two men then briefly scuffled as Jones turned his back on Pownall and fled, investigators said.

Pownall attempted to fire his service firearm, but it jammed, Krasner said. Jones, who was also armed, threw away his gun and ran in the opposite direction of the weapon, according to authorities.

Surveillance video obtained by NBC10 appears to show Jones running away when he was shot.

"Video recovered from the scene shows that Jones was unarmed and he never turned toward Pownall or gestured in a threatening manner during his (running away)," Krasner said. "As Jones ran, unarmed, Pownall fired at least three shots toward Jones and traffic, hitting Jones twice in the back."

The entire deadly interaction lasted less than 30 seconds.

"Jones' death was not necessary to secure the apprehension of Jones," Krasner said.

Last September, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the officer used poor judgment.

"Jones was running away from Pownall with nothing in his hands," Ross said.

Pownall broke department policy by making a traffic stop with witnesses in his vehicle, Ross said. Pownall also failed to notify police radio of the traffic stop or call for backup.

Pownall's attorney, Philadelphia-based attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr. said Jones didn't have a license for his gun.

Activists are protesting the deadly police shooting of a man riding a dirt bike in Philadelphia back on June 8. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is handing the investigation of the death of David Jones.

Several activist groups held several demonstrations about the shooting, demanding answers in the case.

After a Black Lives Matter protest outside Pownall's home, the city police union president called the protesters a "pack of rabid animals."

Ross said some of the protests outside the officer's home were "out of bounds."

"Today is the day that the family of David Jones has been waiting for," said Isaac Gardner, one of the most visible protesters after Jones' shooting, said on behalf of his family. He added that they were excited for the charges, which they had not believed would happen.

According to police records, it was the second time Pownall was involved in an on-duty shooting where a suspect was struck in the back.

Carnell Williams-Carney was paralyzed in 2010 after Pownall and a second officer fired shots at him as he fled, hitting him once in the back. A federal jury ruled in a civil lawsuit that Pownall and the other officer were justified in opening fire.

Pownall was arraigned Tuesday afternoon and dneied bail, according to court records. A prelimary hearing was set for Sept. 19.

The Fraternal Order of Police called for the charges to be dropped and for Pownall to be reinstated on the force. They also called for Pownall to be allowed bail.

"FOP Lodge 5 and fellow officers stand in solidarity with Officer Pownall and his family," FOP President John McNesby said. "We promise a vigorous defense and expect Officer Pownall to be cleared of all charges and get his job back protecting the community."

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