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Police fund-raiser for fired officer draws protest

Andrew Maykuth, Staff Writer

Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2017, 6:47 PM

Asa Khalif, right, a national organizer for Black Lives Matter, uses his bullhorn to address the line of Philadelphia Bicycle Police Officers blocking the entrance to the FOP Headquarters on Sunday October 1, 2017.

About a dozen protesters confronted law enforcement Sunday at a police union fund-raiser for a Philadelphia police officer who was suspended for the fatal shooting of a man running away from a traffic stop.

Facing a heavy police presence outside the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5’s office on Caroline Road in Northeast Philadelphia, the protesters led by Black Lives Matter showered police with profanity and called for the prosecution of Officer Ryan Pownall, who was suspended last month with the intent to dismiss for the June 8 shooting of David Jones.

“It’s a disgrace you’re having a party for a murderer,” Asa Khalif, a Black Lives Matter national coordinator, shouted at the police through a bullhorn, sometimes within inches of the faces of the stoic officers, who did not respond.

Many of the protesters shot video of the demonstration and provided commentary live online to social-media audiences.

Scores of police officers, including about 20 bike cops, set up barricades about a quarter-mile from the union hall, restricting vehicle access to the ticketed event.

Pownall shot Jones, who had been riding a dirt bike and illegally carrying a gun, after Pownall pulled him over in North Philadelphia.

The FOP said the fund-raiser was intended to help Pownall meet living expenses while he is suspended. The event appeared to be well-attended, and the FOP parking lot was full.

FOP president John McNesby declined to comment Sunday.

The shooting has become a lightning rod for anger from civil rights activists, as well as the police themselves, who objected to the release of Pownall’s name by the police administration. The protesters conducted a profanity-laced action outside Pownall’s Bustleton home house in August. A Philadelphia judge on Friday denied an attempt by the police union to block the policy that allows officials to release the names of officers involved in shootings.

Pownall’s shooting of Jones generated immediate controversy. Pownall was driving people to the Special Victims Unit in North Philadelphia to be interviewed in an unrelated matter when he encountered Jones on a dirt bike — which cannot be driven legally on city streets, and which police later said Jones was driving recklessly.

During the traffic stop, police said, Pownall felt a gun in Jones’ waistband. Jones could not legally own the weapon due to previous criminal convictions. Police have said Jones then reached for the weapon while scuffling with Pownall but took off after breaking free. The incident was captured by a security camera.

Commissioner Richard Ross, in suspending Pownall on Sept. 7, said the officer’s first attempt to shoot at Jones was justifiable under department policy because it took place immediately after the struggle over the weapon and with reasonable belief that Pownall’s life was in danger.

But Pownall continued to fire when Jones had his back turned to the officer and was 10 to 35 feet away. Although Pownall clearly thought he was in danger, Ross said, he had an obligation to reassess the chaotic situation on a busy street as Jones, 30, who had dropped his gun, began to run.

“There were serious policy violations that were committed — ones that were on video,” Ross said in September.

Andrew Maykuth, Staff Writer

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