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Former Philadelphia Officer Charged with First-Degree Murder for 2017 Shooting of Unarmed Black Man

A former Philadelphia officer has been charged with murder almost three years after he killed an unarmed Black man after a car chase in 2017. Former officer Eric Ruch Jr., 33, who was fired months after the December 2017 incident, turned himself in on Oct. 9 the same day Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced at a news conference that Ruch was being charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and possession of an instrument of crime for fatally shooting 25-year-old Dennis Plowden.

The encounter started when Plowden borrowed a vehicle to bring Christmas gifts to his mother according to his family. Ruch was in an undercover police car when he saw Plowden driving in a 2013 Hyundai. At the time of the incident, it was reported Plowden was pulled over because the car was connected to a homicide However, Assistant District Attorney Vincent Corrigan said at the press conference that the was report unfounded.

“They called the number into police radio to stop a ‘mover,’ which is police slang for any moving vehicle. 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,” Corrigan said according to NBC 10. “It’s my understanding since [then], that this is not an avenue of inquiry. The homicide in question is still an open case.”

Ruch called for backup while he followed the car as several police cars joined the pursuit, which quickly evolved into a high-speed car chase that ended less than three minutes later when Plowden hit a pole. Plowden got out of the car onto the sidewalk appearing to be confused and a bit dazed. According to evidence, presented to a grand jury he was trying to follow the officer’s orders. Ruch reached the scene in around 6 -8 seconds, go out of his car, and fired his weapon. No other officers on the scene discharged their guns.

Plowden was allegedly shot while sitting on the sidewalk once he raised one hand according to new evidence in the case.

“According to this presentment, Eric Ruch killed Dennis Plowden while on duty, by firing his gun directly at Plowden’s head as Plowden sat on the ground with his left empty hand raised and clearly visible” District Attorney Krasner said according to the news station.

“I mention that because the bullet tore through the fingers of that left hand before it entered Plowden’s head,” Krasner added. After the incident an investigation started and Ruch was fired in October 2018.

After a three-year investigation, Krasner was asked why it took so long for charges to be filed. He compared the case to George Floyd, noting that the existence of strong evidence can speed up a case.

“If we think about a case like the George Floyd case, that is a case where you have a video that captures a lot. A lot of what happened and exactly how it happened. And what we find in general in cases where police accountability is at issue, is where we have video evidence or very strong evidence, we can move more swiftly,” Krasner said. “Because you don’t have to piece together from eyewitness testimony and other sorts of less perfect sources of information. So it is more time consuming always when you have to look at a case where we do not have video that was focused on the crucial moment in the case.”

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