Richard Ferretti, 52, was unarmed when he was shot by poice near Overbrook. Philly DA Larry Krasner now says the shooting was justified because he was accelerating toward a cop. (Courtesy of the Ferretti family)

A Philadelphia police officer acted legally in May 2016 when he fatally shot a 52-year-old unarmed man driving a car near Overbrook, the Philly DA's office announced Wednesday, because the man was accelerating toward the officer.

It's the first public announcement by new DA Larry Krasner of a finding in a police-involved shooting since he took office.

On Wednesday Krasner said officer Shannon Coolbaugh was "legally justified" in firing four times, striking Ferretti three times, because he had refused multiple orders to show his hands and was accelerating his car toward the officer.

That flies in the face of the Ferretti family's claims that he was merely circling the block in Overbrook looking for parking at the time of his death. A year after the shooting, they claimed they had never been told why Coolbaugh had to fire in a lawsuit against the police department for Ferretti's death.

 

After prosecutors "examined videos of the incident, interviewed multiple witnesses, and reviewed the investigative reports of relevant city agencies," they found it supported the officer, Krasner's office said.

Coolbaugh and several other officers responded to the 6300 block of Overbrook Avenue near St. Joseph's University around 1 a.m. for reports of a suspicious vehicle.

"The driver of the vehicle ignored multiple instructions to show their hands and then accelerated towards Officer Coolbaugh," a press release from the DA's office said. "The officer fired his service weapon four times at the suspect, striking him three times on the left side of his body."

But the Ferretti family's attorney Kenneth M. Rothweiler said he was "shocked" by the DA's announcement, and said he doesn't believe his client would threaten a police officer.

"For them to take two years and decide that my unarmed client that was just looking for a parking space deserves three bullets in him, to me, is just incomprehensible," Rothweiler said. He cited media reports that a witness heard Ferretti say "I'm stopping, I'm stopping," just before gunshots rang out.

"The story that my client was trying to run down the police officer makes no sense," Rothweiler said. "My guy was just looking for a parking spot. He wasn't a fugitive, didn't have any guns in the car, he's just a normal, nice guy."

Rothweiler added that the shooting still violates Philadelphia police use of force guidelines, which state "Police officers shall not discharge their firearms at a vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle (e.g., officers or civilians are being fired upon by the occupants of the vehicle). ... A moving vehicle alone shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies an officer’s use of deadly force."

Internal Affairs is still investigating the shooting, and will soon interview Coolbaugh, who remains assigned to administrative duty while the investigation is pending.

"We as a department still have to review whether there were any departmental violations," Capt. Sekou Kinebrew said Wednesday at an unrelated police press conference.

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