Trial begins for former Philadelphia police officer who fatally shot unarmed Black man

This trial is expected to last seven to 10 days.

Katherine Scott Image
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Trial begins for former officer who fatally shot unarmed Black man
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Former officer Eric Ruch fatally shot Dennis Plowden Jr. after a car chase and crash in East Germantown.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Opening statements concluded and the first witnesses were called on Tuesday morning in the trial of a former Philadelphia police officer charged with third-degree murder in a December 2017 shooting.

Former officer Eric Ruch fatally shot Dennis Plowden Jr. after a car chase and crash in East Germantown.

In opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Vincent Corrigan argued that the shooting was not justified. Corrigan said Plowden was unarmed and had his left hand raised in an effort to comply with police commands when Ruch fired fewer than six seconds after arriving on the scene.

However, defense attorney David Mischak countered that the prosecution did not paint the correct scene of the circumstances leading up to the shooting.

SEE ALSO: Fmr. Philadelphia police officer charged with murder in killing of unarmed Black man in 2017

Mischak said police initially pursued Plowden because he was driving a car that had been linked to a homicide, and that officers were cautioned occupants of the car should be considered armed and dangerous.

Later, police said Plowden was not a suspect in that homicide.

Mischak also said Ruch arrived to "mayhem and havoc" created by the car chase after Plowden fled authorities. The defense attorney added that Ruch was unable to take cover like other officers and that Plowden made a suspicious movement with his obscured right hand forcing Ruch to make a split-second decision.

A half dozen witnesses were called to the stand on Tuesday including Plowden's widow, Tania Bond. She called the last five years a nightmare.

"My son was 5 months old at the time. Now he's 5 years old," she said to Action News outside the courtroom. "It's not been an easy road."

SEE ALSO: Driver shot by plainclothes officer in Germantown dies; officer ID'd

Due to COVID-19 protocol, the family has to watch the trial on video monitors from a separate courtroom. Bond took issue with that and said she wanted to be there in person.

"It's not the same as being able to sit inside the courtroom and be able to look the person in the eye who had murdered my husband," she said.

In July 2021, the City of Philadelphia agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Plowden's widow. The settlement did not include an admission of wrongdoing.

This trial is expected to last seven to 10 days.