PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - A former Philadelphia police officer who was charged with murder in a shooting that left a 30-year-old man dead has been granted bail and had his charges reduced by a judge.
A judge granted bail for former officer Ryan Pownall and downgraded a first-degree murder charge to a third-degree murder charge in the 2017 shooting death of David Jones. Bail was set at $500,000.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has previously announced Pownall would face first-degree murder charges, stemming from a grand jury investigation of the shooting.
Authorities say Pownall fatally shot Jones on June 8, 2018 while he was on duty and had stopped Jones for riding a dirt bike on Whitaker Avenue in North Philadelphia.
At the time of the shooting, Pownall was transporting a father and his two children to the police department's Special Victim's Unit for an interview about a crime committed against one of the children. Instead of following police protocol and continuing to SVU, Pownall cut across oncoming traffic and approached Jones.
Pownall frisked Jones and felt a firearm, which led to a physical altercation. Pownall then attempted to shoot Jones, but his gun jammed. Jones threw his gun away from the confrontation, according to what Pownall told his fellow officer immediately following the shooting.
ones broke free and ran away from Pownall before being fatally shot in the back. The moment was captured on surveillance video.
Authorities recovered Jones' firearm about 25 feet away from the altercation.
Pownall, a 12-year veteran of the force, was suspended and subsequently fired in the wake of the shooting.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross has previously indicated that Pownall violated protocol when he initially stopped Jones with a victim and witnesses in the back of his patrol car. Ross says he also failed to notify police radio of the traffic stop and did not call for backup.
“In order to fire at a fleeing suspect, there must be an imminent threat of death of serious physical injury to the officer or another person,” Ross said, adding that because Jones never looked back and his hands were empty, he “posed no imminent or immediate threat to Pownall.”
In addition to criminal homicide, Pownall has also been charged with reckless endangerment.
The district attorney's officer released the following statement after Thursday's ruling:
Earlier today, Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert Coleman granted the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office's petition to file bills of information without a preliminary hearing in the case of former Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall and proceed straight to trial on murder and other charges.
This is a major victory for justice because we are proceeding to trial. Nearly 20 years ago, judges twice tossed murder charges against the last on-duty officer who was charged with homicide. Judge Coleman’s ruling today means that history will not repeat itself and a jury will hear all the evidence in the case.
We are still reviewing the rest of Judge Coleman’s rulings. We respect the integrity and independence of the judiciary and have no further comment at this time.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby released the following statement after the ruling:
We are happy with today’s ruling to drop the charges to 3rd degree murder. This will allow officer Pownall to post bail and actively participate in his defense.
Officer Pownall looks forward to returning to his family. And again, we believe Officer Pownall will be cleared of all charges after a fair-minded jury hears all the facts of the case.