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October 05, 2018

Family of David Jones reaches $1 million settlement with city of Philadelphia

Lawsuits Police Shootings
 Philadelphia Police Car Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice Staff

A Philadelphia Police Department cruiser.

The family of a man who was fatally shot in the back by a Philadelphia police officer has reached a $1 million settlement with the city of Philadelphia, officials announced Friday morning.

David Jones, a black man who was stopped in North Philadelphia in June 2017, was killed by a 12-year-veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, who shot him after he fled on foot.

Former Philadelphia Police Officer Brian Pownall was transporting individuals to the Special Victims Unit in an unrelated case when he initially stopped Jones for driving his dirt bike in a reckless manner. Pownall found a firearm in Jones' waistband during a stop-and-frisk. The two briefly struggled until Jones dropped the weapon and fled on foot.

Pownall fired at least three shots at Jones as he ran away with his hands held up.

The incident sparked months of protests against police brutality and calls for accountability. Philadelphia police faced added scrutiny because of Pownall's questionable past. The officer shot another black man in the back in 2010 while he was on duty. That man, Carnell Williams-Carney, remains paralyzed.

Pownall was dismissed from the Philadelphia Police Department in September 2017. He was charged earlier this month with criminal homicide, reckless endangerment and related offenses. The shooting-related charges against an on-duty police officer in Philadelphia were the first in two decades.

The $1 million settlement announced Friday does not include and admission of liability on behalf of the city.

“The shooting death of David Jones was a tragic incident, and I hope this resolution will begin to assist his family in moving forward after what they have been through," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "My administration remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring all people in our city receive fair and equal treatment at the hands of law enforcement officials.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the department is committed to upholding civil rights and has adopted nearly all of the community policing recommendations outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015.

“The number one priority of PPD is the preservation of life," Ross said. "The use of deadly force by police officers in Philadelphia should be a last resort. The PPD’s policy is that officers will use deadly force only where there is an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to themselves or another person."

Ross' statement did not specifically mention the Jones case, though at the time of Pownall's dismissal Ross said the officer violated department policy and failed to properly assess the situation.

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, has called the charges against Pownall an "absurd disgrace" and labeled the case meritless.

The Jones family was represented attorneys John M. Dodig, Robert J. Levant and Philip Steinberg. They issued the following statement on the family's behalf.

"The death of Mr. Jones was a tragic and senseless loss of life," said the attorneys. "David Jones was loved by countless family members and friends and will always be remembered as a hard-working citizen who was dedicated to his family and friends. The death of David Jones was completely preventable and his family hopes that lessons are learned from this tragedy."