The latest shooting of an unarmed black man by a Philly police officer occurred on the eve of 2018, on a dark North Philly corner.
When reform candidate DA Larry Krasner was sworn into office days later, some of the activists who supported his candidacy already had demands as he left his inauguration: for justice in the case of that individual, Dennis Plowden, 25, who was fatally shot by police after a traffic stop on Dec. 27.
“It is going to be a test for any DA, but particularly for him, because he ran on reform,” said Asa Khalif, a Philly organizer with Black Lives Matter. “We are going to hold Larry Krasner as we hold any politician to promises. … He will be held accountable on this."
While only preliminary information has been released about Plowden’s shooting by police Officer Eric Ruch, a 9-year veteran with the 35th District, police acknowledged that Plowden was unarmed at the time and no gun was found in his vicinity after the shooting.
First Deputy Police Commissioner Myron Patterson told media Plowden was pulled over because he was operating a white 2013 Hyundai that was suspected to contain “armed and dangerous” suspects linked to a Dec. 21 murder in Kensington.
But, as Patterson acknowledged, Plowden was not linked with the homicide in question and was not armed.
The department says an unmarked police vehicle activated its lights and pulled Plowden over near 16th Street and Nedro Avenue at approximately 8:38 p.m. after recognizing the car.
He allegedly stopped the car then accelerated, striking the police car’s passenger door and the officer inside, before speeding away on Nedro, striking two parked unattended vehicles before exiting and trying to run. Police gave “numerous commands for the male to show his hands,” the report stated.
According to Patterson, Plowden made a “furtive movement” as he was on the sidewalk, described in a police report as placing “his hand in his jacket pocket,” and he was shot once in the head by Ruch, killing him. No gun was found on Plowden’s person, in the car or on the street nearby.
Plowden, the father of a 6-month-old and 8-year-old, was at the time driving with a 27-year-old female, who has been identified as a platonic friend, and family members have said he was on his way to his mother’s house with Christmas gifts at the time he was stopped.
He reportedly has in the past faced criminal charges for receiving stolen property in 2010, drug-related offenses in 2011 and 2013, and a DUI charge in 2017, for which he was scheduled ot face trial on Jan. 10.
The case is under internal review, and a spokesman for Krasner said the DA’s office will not move forward until that review is complete.
“There is an ongoing investigation into this incident," said spokesman Ben Waxman. “We are unable to comment at this time, except to say that the DA will make a determination when the investigation is completed and he has all the facts.”
Khalif said he believes police are “100 percent” responsible for Plowden’s death.
“If the investigation is done thoroughly and accurately, the officer will be found guilty,” he said. “It’s a common issue with police, we’ve been here before. … Brandon Tate-Brown, David Jones, the list goes on and on. Same script, different cast.”