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Grandmother of unarmed man shot by Philadelphia police: 'They didn't have to do a kill shot'

Julie Shaw, Staff writer

Updated: Friday, December 29, 2017, 4:58 PM

Dennis Plowden Jr. (left), with his mother, Chinita McCoy, in a 2016 family photo. Plowden was shot by police Dec. 27, 2017, at Nedro Avenue and Opal Street in East Germantown, and died the next morning.

Family members of Dennis Plowden Jr. say they are angry that he was fatally shot by police this week as he was on his way to visit his mother in East Germantown, taking her Christmas gifts.

“He was unarmed,” his grandmother Stacy McCoy said Friday in the living room of her West Oak Lane home. “They shot him like a godd—ed dog.”

Plowden, 25, was shot by a plainclothes police officer on the sidewalk on Opal Street near Nedro Avenue on Wednesday night. He was pronounced dead at Einstein Medical Center the next morning.

On Saturday night, police identified the officer who fired the shot as Eric Ruch, a nine-year veteran assigned to the 35th District.

Police said that about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, plainclothes officers in two unmarked vehicles stopped Plowden, who was driving a white Hyundai sedan with a Pennsylvania license plate that was being sought in connection with a Kensington homicide this month. At least one of the unmarked vehicles had its police lights activated, police said.

But after Plowden stopped his car at 16th Street and Nedro, he rammed the Hyundai into one officer who was getting out of his unmarked vehicle and struck the car itself, then drove away and crashed into two parked cars three blocks west on the 1900 block of Nedro, police said. Police said a 27-year-old woman was in the front passenger seat of the Hyundai at the time.

Plowden’s parents and grandmother said they don’t know who she was and said they don’t know who owns the Hyundai.

The two officers in the undamaged vehicle pursued the Hyundai and came upon the crash scene. Both got out and repeatedly ordered Plowden, who had gotten out of the Hyundai, to show his hands, police spokesman Capt. Sekou Kinebrew has said. Plowden had at least one hand in his jacket pocket while sitting on the sidewalk and did not heed the officers’ commands, he said. That’s when one of the officers shot Plowden in the head, Kinebrew said.

Investigators process the scene at Nedro Avenue and Opal Street on Wednesday Dec. 27, 2017, in the East Germantown section of Philadelphia, after police shot a man.

McCoy said she doesn’t know what happened, but believes police could have resolved things in a different manner. “They could have stun-gunned him. They didn’t have to do a kill shot,” she said. “They murdered my grandson like all the other black kids out here.”

“I want justice for my grandson,” she said. “They [the officers] need to be charged with something. … They didn’t have to shoot my grandson in the head. … They just killed another little black kid, unarmed. That’s the way I see it. It’s horrible.”

McCoy said this is her second grandson to be slain over the last two years. On Aug. 1, 2016, Plowden’s brother, Darryl, 20, was shot and killed in an unsolved homicide, she said. Police said Darryl Plowden was shot on the 5700 block of Keystone Street in Wissinoming.

Dennis Plowden Jr. had previously lived with her, McCoy said. Most recently, she said, he was living with his wife, their 6-month-old son, and his two stepdaughters in the Oxford Circle area. Plowden was attending night school to get his high school diploma while taking care of his kids, including an 8-year-old daughter who lives with her mother, McCoy said.

Court records show Plowden was facing a Jan. 10 trial on DUI charges stemming from an incident this year. He had previously been convicted of drug-related charges stemming from 2011 and 2013 offenses, and of a charge of receiving stolen property from a 2010 offense. Court records show he had spent about one to two years behind bars.

During the interview at her home, McCoy put a reporter in touch by phone with Plowden’s mother and father.

His mother, Chinita McCoy, said that on Wednesday night her son was on his way to her East Germantown house, a few blocks from where he was shot, bringing her boots and shoes. They were Christmas gifts, the grandmother said.

Plowden’s father, Dennis, said in a separate interview that his son was driving the Hyundai, which was not his car, because his car was in the shop.

At a news conference Thursday, First Deputy Police Commissioner Myron Patterson said homicide detectives have determined that Plowden was not connected to the Dec. 21 shooting on the 1800 block of East Atlantic Street in Kensington that killed another man. They declined to say why the car was sought in connection with the homicide, which remains under investigation.

No weapon was found on or near Plowden after he was shot or in the Hyundai, police said.

After learning about the shooting that night, family members met at Einstein. It was at the hospital when they saw TV news reports of the shooting that they learned that an officer had shot Plowden, the grandmother said.

Stacy McCoy also said medical staff told the family that Plowden was shot three times — once in the forehead and twice in his fingers. Kinebrew maintained Friday that Plowden was shot once. An examination of the officer’s gun indicates one shot was fired, he said. He said it was possible the bullet passed through Plowden’s fingers.

The Police Department’s officer-involved-shooting investigation unit and Internal Affairs, as well as the District Attorney’s Office, are investigating the shooting.

“We promise a very thorough investigation,” Kinebrew said. “The most serious action a police officer can take is lethal force. … We don’t take this lightly.”

Hans Menos, executive director of the city’s Police Advisory Commission, a civilian oversight agency, extended his agency’s condolences Friday to Plowden’s family. “We want the family to know that we will do everything to ensure that the investigation is transparent, objective, and thorough,” Menos said in a statement.

“Whenever there is a loss of life, it is tragic,” the statement said. “However, the loss of yet another young, black, and unarmed man is something that many in the city of Philadelphia and around the country understand to be especially problematic, and for marginalized black and brown communities, especially painful. We want to work towards fully understanding, acknowledging, and easing that pain.”

Julie Shaw, Staff writer

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