The father of a 30-year-old man who was shot and killed by police in North Philadelphia last week said Saturday he is dismayed that his son, David Jones, was shot in the back as he ran from an officer.
“It’s just kind of empty right now because I didn’t think my son would get shot in the back,” Thomas Jones, 47, of Olney, said. “I thought there was a procedure where you would tase a person first, or shoot a person in the leg. I didn’t think you would shoot to kill if a person is running away. If someone is running away from you, why shoot him in the back like an animal?”
Police, who have yet to confirm the slain man’s identity or to name the officer who shot him Thursday night, said the man had a gun in his waistband and had disobeyed an officer’s orders not to pull it out.
Jones’ father and other relatives questioned whether he had a gun. They said Jones, who drove long-haul trucks, carrying vegetables, fruits, and frozen food, did not have a violent criminal past.
“He never was violent,” said his father, adding that his son never mentioned having a gun.
The father, also a truck driver, said his son married a few months ago and was living on Worrell Street in Juniata Park in a house he recently bought with his wife. “She’s taking it hard,” he said.
David Jones, who graduated from Frankford High School, spent his childhood living part of the time with his mother in East Germantown and part of the time with his father in Frankford, the father said. The parents had been separated for years.
Family members said a Muslim funeral for Jones was to be held Sunday morning in West Philadelphia.
On Thursday night, the father said, his son was riding his red dirt bike on his way to sell it to someone when he was shot by the police officer.
Police have said that about 6:40 p.m. that evening, a 15th District officer was driving two witnesses to the headquarters of the Special Victims Unit in an unrelated matter when he saw a man on a red dirt bike ride past in a “reckless manner” at Whitaker and Hunting Park Avenues. The bike stalled on the sidewalk near the Casa de Espana restaurant on the 4200 block of Whitaker, and the officer pulled up to question the rider, police said.
“Initially, he was only going there to tell this guy just to knock it off,” Police Commissioner Richard Ross has said. But the rider, who got off the dirt bike, “turns to kind of walk away and he’s ignoring the police officer, which is obviously somewhat suspicious.”
The officer grabbed the man by the waist, felt the outline of a gun, and told the man not to pull the weapon out, according to police. Ross said a witness in the back of the police car also told the man not to pull his weapon.
Police said a struggle ensued between the officer and the man, and the man pulled a gun from his waist. The officer pulled out his own gun, and fired at the man as he ran south on Whitaker, police said. Ross said Thursday night that part of the encounter was caught on surveillance video, showing the man running away when he was struck by one of the bullets.
The video footage “gives me pause,” the police commissioner said.
The man did not shoot at the officer, but police said a 9 mm firearm that he had was loaded with 15 cartridges.
Jones, who was hit in his back and buttocks, was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:59 p.m. Thursday. The gun and dirt bike were taken as evidence.
According to court records, Jones had been arrested three times in his early 20s on drug-possession charges and had pleaded guilty in those cases. In the most recent case, a May 2008 arrest, he was sentenced in 2010 to two to six years in prison.
His father said Jones had been working for the last five years for New Jersey-based Roadtex Transportation Corp., and would be away for work for weeks. A representative for the company could not be reached Saturday.
Gloria Beckwith, 65, of Logan, David Jones’ paternal stepgrandmother, said she also was surprised that police said Jones had a gun.
“This is just really confusing,” she said. “David is not a bad child. He is not. He went to school for long-distance truck driving. He was married four months. I just don’t understand what went wrong. He’s a good person.”
“I have never known him to carry a gun,” she said. “I sure haven’t. That seems so hard to believe.”
She said his past arrests involved “trying to sell a little weed.”
Outside the house at Boyer and Price Streets in East Germantown, where Jones lived with his mother’s side of the family, candles were lit in his memory on the sidewalk Saturday, with the words RIP DJ written in candle wax.
His maternal stepgrandfather described Jones as “an outgoing person.”
“He was getting ready to leave that night” after selling his dirt bike to drive a truck to California for his job, said the stepgrandfather, who didn’t want to give his name, saying, “I don’t want to get involved with none of this.”
The man also didn’t want to talk about the shooting. “I want it to be investigated,” he said.
Under departmental policy, the officer was placed on administrative duty pending the results of an internal investigation.
Under a Philadelphia Police Department policy implemented a couple of years ago, the department is expected to release the name of an officer in a police-involved shooting within 72 hours of the shooting unless there is a threat against the officer or family members.