Philadelphia cop is charged with first-degree MURDER over fatal 2017 shooting of unarmed black man following high-speed car chase
Former police officer Eric Ruch Jr. has been charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and possession of an instrument of crime
Officer Ruch Jr. shot and killed Dennis Plowden Jr. in December 2017
Ruch and his partner began following Plowden while he was driving a white Hyundai because they believed the car was linked to an active homicide case, they claimed
Plowden crashed his car at 77 mph before he stumbled out and fell to the ground and Ruch shot him as he lay on the ground
The married father-of-five was reportedly holding his empty left hand in front of his face when Eric Ruch Jr fired the fatal shot, just 6 to 8 minutes after arriving on the scene
Plowden was unarmed and on the ground at the time he was shot by Ruch Jr.
The other four officers at the scene did not discharge their weapons
Ruch Jr. was fired 10 months after the shooting
Plowden’s widow is suing him, three other officers, and the city of Philadelphia
Ruch was arrested Friday morning and is being held without bail
He faces a maximum sentence of life without parole on the charge of first-degree murder
A former Philadelphia police officer has been charged with first-degree murder after he fatally shot an unarmed black man following a high-speed police chase.
Officer Eric Ruch Jr., 33, shot and killed 25-year-old Dennis Plowden Jr., on December 27, 2017.
The reports say officer Ruch and his partner began pursuing Plowden in the white Hyundai, allegedly believing it was linked to an active homicide case.
Plowden crashed his car at high speed and then rolled out of the vehicle.
Authorities claim Plowden crashed his car at 77 mph before he stumbled out and fell to the ground.
He was reportedly holding his empty left hand in front of his face when Ruch fired the fatal shot. It was confirmed that the victim was unarmed and on the ground at the time he was shot by Eric Ruch Jr.
Four other officers who were on the scene and had taken cover did not fire their weapons, according to a grand jury, who handed down their decision on Friday.
On Friday, the grand jury said Ruch shot Plowden in the head without justification as Plowden looked ‘dazed and lost on the sidewalk.’
‘Ruch intentionally fired on Dennis Plowden less than 20 seconds after the Hyundai he had been driving crashed at nearly 80 miles an hour, Mr. Plowden had fallen to the ground, and yet was still attempting to obey commands,’ the grand jury wrote.
Ruch, who was fired about 10 months after the shooting, turned himself in Friday to face charges of first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime.
Prosecutors expected Ruch to be held without bail.
The police union said its lawyers will defend the former officer.
‘We will represent former police officer Eric Ruch Jr. against these serious charges. Our attorneys will review the allegations and appropriately defend this officer,’ said John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5.
‘Officer Ruch Jr. is entitled to due process, and we believe the judicial system will protect his rights to a fair trial.’
Paul Hetznecker, who represents Plowden’s wife, Tania Bond, called the charges ‘long overdue’ and ‘an important step in the struggle for racial and social justice in this city.’
Bond is suing Ruch, three other police officers and the city.
It remained unclear why police sought to stop Plowden’s car in the first place. According to the grand jury, Ruch and his partner began following Plowden and asked police dispatch to check the registration of his car.
Ruch’s partner told investigators after the shooting that they had stopped Plowden’s Hyundai because of a patrol alert that connected it to a homicide.
This claim was contradicted but other officers who said they were unaware of the patrol alert – which had not been broadcast over police radio. Besides, all the information sought by Ruch from police dispatch was already contained in the alert.
‘There’s no information on the police radio before the incident that indicates that anyone knew for sure that this vehicle may have been involved in a homicide,’ Assistant District Attorney Vincent Corrigan said at a news conference Friday. That homicide investigation remains open, he said, but the Hyundai is no longer an ‘avenue of inquiry.’
The grand jury said three of the four officers present for the shooting testified they did not see Plowden raise his left hand, while the fourth said he didn’t recall what Plowden was doing with it.
Other eyewitnesses said Plowden was on his back and struggling to sit up when he was shot, with one saying Plowden was gesturing with his left hand in front of his face.
The lawsuit filed by Plowden’s wife, Tania Bond, said he was propping himself up with his right arm while holding out his left hand in a vain attempt to prevent Ruch from shooting him.
A medical examiner’s report states that the bullet tore through the fingers of Plowden´s left hand before hitting him in the head, indicating the hand was raised, according to the grand jury.
Officers also said they saw Plowden’s right hand in his pocket, with one saying ‘it looked like he had a gun in there,’ the grand jury said. The other eyewitnesses did not mention Plowden’s right hand.
Ruch fired the fatal shot just 6 to 8 seconds after getting to the crash scene, the grand jury said.
Internal and criminal investigations began in 2017 following the incident. Ruch was subsequently fired from the Philadelphia Police Department in October 2018. The investigations process was stalled due to one of Ruch’s colleagues offering contradictory testimonies of the shooting.
Ruch was arrested Friday morning and is being held without bail. He faces a maximum sentence of life without parole due to his charge of first-degree murder.
Plowden’s family are happy that Ruch has been charged with first-degree murder over the shooting. They are hoping he will now be convicted.
Plowden was taking classes to get his high school diploma at the time he was shot and killed by a cop. He left behind two children and three stepchildren, including an infant son who is now three years old.
Hetznecker, the lawyer for Plowden’s wife, said that police had no probable cause to stop the car, and that officers’ statements were an attempt to justify the fatal shooting.
‘I’m glad to see the grand jurors saw through that,’ he said.
‘I am happy that Ruch was charged with the murder of Dennis,’ Plowden´s wife, Tania Bond, said Friday in a phone interview.
‘But this is only the beginning. There are so many more milestones before we reach the end.’
She said she wants to know ‘whether Ruch has any remorse and anything to say to us. I just want to know, has Ruch ever thought about my family?’