The Philadelphia Police Department on Monday identified the officer who fatally shot an armed man last week, striking him in the back as he ran from a traffic stop.
Officer Ryan Pownall, a 12-year veteran assigned to the 15th District, shot David Jones in the back and buttocks as he ran south on Whitaker Avenue from Hunting Park Avenue just after 6:40 p.m. Thursday. Jones, 30, who worked as a long-haul trucker, was taken to Temple University Hospital and pronounced dead at 6:59 p.m.
In 2010, Pownall shot another fleeing suspect in the back. In that case, Carnell Williams-Carney had a gun and ran from officers. Briefly out of Pownall’s view, Williams-Carney ditched the gun as he ran behind a house.
Williams-Carney, who is now paraplegic because the bullet struck his spine, filed a civil suit. A federal jury in 2013 found that the city and police did not violate Williams-Carney’s civil rights.
Pownall could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Police union president John McNesby on Monday said Pownall faced “a split-second decision when he had to take action” in the encounter with Jones.
“Very easily, we could have had another funeral for an officer on our hands,” he said.
McNesby said he had spoken with Pownall several times in recent days. The officer has been taken off street duty pending the results of an internal investigation
“His spirits are high. His training kicked in, and hopefully this will be resolved quickly,” McNesby said.
McNesby said he was not aware of the prior incident and could not comment on it.
Last Thursday night, Pownall, while transporting several witnesses in an unrelated matter to the Special Victims Unit at 300 E. Hunting Park Ave., was stopped at a red light at Whitaker and Hunting Park when he spotted a red dirt bike being operated in a reckless manner, police said.
The dirt bike stalled on the sidewalk next to Casa de Espana restaurant in the 4200 block of Whitaker. Pownall pulled over near the dirt bike, exited his patrol vehicle and attempted to question Jones.
Police said Jones turned the right side of his body away from Pownall and grabbed the front of his waistband. Pownall reached out to pat down Jones and felt a handgun in his waistband, police said.
The officer drew his own weapon and repeatedly ordered Jones not to touch his gun, police said.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross said a witness in the back of the patrol car also pleaded with Jones not to grab his gun.
A struggle ensued and Jones pulled out his gun, police said.
Pownall squeezed the trigger on his service weapon but it jammed, police said. He cleared the jam and fired at Jones, who by then was running away.
TV news images from the scene showed a pistol on the ground just feet from the dirt bike, away from where Jones had run to when he was shot.
Ross said he viewed surveillance video of part of the encounter and the footage of the man getting shot while running away “gives me pause.”
The 9mm pistol was loaded with 15 rounds, police said.
Jones had gotten married a few months ago and recently bought a house in Juniata Park with his wife, his family said.
Jones had been arrested three times in his early 20s for drug-related offenses and pleaded guilty in those cases. Court records show that in 2010, Jones was sentenced to two to six years in prison in one of the cases.
It was the city’s fourth officer-involved shooting in 2017, according to department statistics, and third fatal shooting. In 2016, Philadelphia officers shot 14 people, five fatally.
Williams-Carney filed his federal lawsuit in 2012 after prosecutors dropped their criminal case against him.
His complaint states that he was walking alone near what is now Aria Health-Frankford Campus when he was stopped by Pownall and another officer who had pulled up to him in a patrol car. There was a dispute as to why they stopped him: The officers either believed Williams-Carney had a gun or the stop was drug-related.
Williams-Carney did not dispute that he ran or that he had a gun. According to his complaint, Pownall fired seven rounds as he ran after Williams-Carney. According to the complaint, Williams-Carney tossed his gun “in underbrush behind the house before he was shot in the back.”
In a 2013 response filed in court, Deputy City Solicitor Amanda C. Shoffel wrote that Pownall was justified in using deadly force. “The undisputed facts establish that PO Pownall believed Mr. Williams-Carney, who had been running from police, was about to use a handgun to evade arrests. By not showing his hands when repeatedly commanded by PO Pownall, and reaching for the firearm and removing it from his waistband, it was reasonable for PO Pownall to believe he was in imminent danger for his life and shoot Williams-Carney. That split second of waiting could have proven fatal to PO Pownall had Mr. Williams-Carney fired the gun at him rather than throwing it away,” Shoffel wrote.
The lawyers who represented Williams-Carney could not be reached for comment Monday night.