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June 09, 2017

Commissioner Ross: Philly officer fatally shot man as he ran away

An internal investigation is being conducted into the incident

A Philadelphia police officer was placed on administrative leave Friday, a day after he struggled with an armed motorbike rider and then appeared to shoot the man twice as he ran away, killing him.

Speaking to reporters after the incident, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said surveillance video seems to show the man running away when he was fired at around 6:40 p.m. Thursday on Whitaker Avenue near Hunting Park Avenue in Feltonville.

The man, who was pronounced dead a short time later at Temple University Hospital, was shot in the back and the buttocks.

Ross said the video "gives me pause."

"Clearly one of the shots was taken while the male was running away, there's no doubt about that," Ross said in an NBC10 report. "The one video vantage point is actually showing or depicting the officer firing as the guy is running away. I can't get into what the officer may have been seeing or believing at that particular time. Clearly, he knows he was in a struggle with a violent guy prior to that."

According to a statement released by the police department, the officer had been transporting two witnesses in a separate case to the nearby headquarters of the Special Victims Unit when he spotted someone recklessly driving a dirt bike. Although NBC10 cited witness reports saying the officer pulled the man over, police said the bike stopped on the sidewalk adjacent to a nightclub on the 4200 block of Whitaker Avenue.

Police said the officer pulled up next to the bike, exited the patrol car and tried to question the man.

"Initially (the officer) was only going there to tell this guy to knock it off," Ross said.

The man began holding the front of his waistband, Police said, after which the officer frisked the man and felt a firearm there. The officer then withdrew his firearm and ordered the man to not reach for his weapon.

"(The officer) looks in his face and says 'Bro don't do it, bro don't do it,'" Ross said.

A struggle ensued, in which the man pulled out his gun, but didn't fire, and pulled away from the officer. The officer initially pulled the trigger of his gun, but it jammed, police said.

After the officer cleared the stoppage, he fired at the man, who had already started running south on Whitaker Avenue.

Ross said the two witnesses in the police car heard the officer order the man not to draw his gun and saw him do it anyway, according to Police said the man's gun was loaded.

The officer was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, under department policy.

Ross said he wants to make sure the cop followed department protocol, which states an officer should only shoot a fleeing suspect if they are a suspect in a "forcible felony," Ross said.

Department statistics show that Thursday's incident was the city's fourth police-involved shooting this year, and the second time in the last month.

In 2016, police shot 14 people, five of them fatally.

Anyone with information on Thursday's shooting can call police at (215) 683-1866 or -1867.