August 22, 2018
A candlelight vigil is planned for Wednesday night in memory of 36-year-old Jeffrey Dennis, who was shot Monday by a Philadelphia police officer in the 15th District after Dennis allegedly struck another officer and unmarked police cruisers with his car, marking the violent end to a narcotics investigation.
A 6 p.m. vigil, followed by protests from activists and friends of Dennis, will be held at the corner of Hegerman Street and Princeton Avenue in Tacony, Asa Khalif, head of the Coalition for Black Lives in Philadelphia, told PhillyVoice.
"I believe we must send a strong message tonight that we cannot allow police, in particular 15th District police, to continue to murder black and brown people," Khalif said.
Attorney for Dennis’ estate, Lee Merritt, confirmed to PhillyVoice that a local restaurant in the neighborhood captured video of the incident, and law enforcement is reviewing the footage.
The family hopes to eventually see the video and intends on conducting an independent autopsy on Dennis, as well as a probe into the unnamed officer’s background, Merritt said.
“Our investigation is just starting," Merritt said.
On Monday, Dennis was shot in the head and left arm while behind the wheel of a Toyota Camry on the 7100 block of Hegerman Street. He was pronounced dead at the scene around 4 p.m.
The officer was a 53-year-old, 10-year veteran. His name has not been released publicly. Philadelphia police have launched an ongoing investigation into the incident and released the following account of what happened:
On Monday at approximately 4:10pm, an on-duty officer in civilian attire, and working along with other members of the Narcotics Field Unit, were conducting a surveillance on the 7100 block of Cottage Street. The officers were preparing to execute a search warrant at that property for narcotics evidence. While conducting the surveillance, the officers observed a 2010 Toyota Camry, bearing a NJ license plate, that was being operated by Dennis traveling in the area. The vehicle was identified by the NFU officers as being associated with the prior narcotics activity at the Cottage Street address.
Six officers in three unmarked police cars used their vehicles to block the Toyota Camry’s path of travel on the 7100 block of Hegerman Street. All six officers exited their vehicles and approached Dennis’ vehicle. Dennis failed to comply with commands by the officers to shut the engine off, and began striking the unmarked police vehicles which were in front and behind his Toyota Camry. One officer utilized a “haligan” tool, and shattered the driver’s door window. Dennis continued to maneuver his vehicle away from the officers. One officer was struck by the Toyota Camry.
An officer, who was positioned next to the driver’s door of the Toyota Camry, discharged three rounds, striking Dennis in the head and left arm. Medical personnel arrived at the scene, and pronounced him dead at 4:18 p.m.
Three officers were transported to Jefferson-Torresdale Hospital for treatment of their injuries. The officer struck by the Camry sustained injuries to his legs, and was admitted in good condition. The two other officers were treated for minor injuries and released.
The unnamed officer who shot Dennis has been assigned to desk duty while the shooting is investigated by Internal Affairs.
Khalif, a noted critic of the 15th District police, held a Facebook Live on Tuesday afternoon, where he questioned the police's description of the incident and cited the fatal shootings of Brandon Tate-Brown and David Jones by police in the district.
"We want to know what happened to that brother, and I don’t believe the cops," Khalif said in the video. "I don’t believe that man tried to run you over. I don’t believe you and we’re going to continue to ask questions, believe that."
"They need to be prosecuted," Khalif added. "You hear that Larry Krasner? They need to be prosecuted and not take a year to do it."
Based on the police’s report of the incident, Merritt said he has lingering questions.
“I have a difficult time finding an explanation for a use of force,” Merritt said. “The two officers closest to Dennis chose not to fire their weapons, but the officer farther away chose to fire his. Those two officers did not see a threat.”
“Right now we are simply encouraging law enforcement to have an open and thorough and transparent investigation into the shooting,” he added.
Contacted Wednesday morning, Philadelphia police public affairs declined to discuss the incident further but added more information would be made available within 72 hours.
This story was last updated on Wednesday at 12:02 p.m.