Ex-Philly Police Officer Charged with Murder in 2017 Shooting Death of Unarmed Black Man

By Josue Monroy

PHILADELPHIA— The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has pressed charges against former Philadelphia police officer Eric Ruch, Jr., for the 2017 shooting of Dennis Plowden, according to an  announcement made by District Attorney Larry Krasner at a press conference Friday.

Ruch, Jr., has been charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and possession of an instrument of crime. He was fired from the Philadelphia Police Department shortly after the incident, and had been the subject of an investigation during the last year.

He turned himself in to Philadelphia police Friday morning. He is being held without bail.

Plowden, who is Black, was shot and killed by Ruch on the night of December 27, 2017, after a high-speed car chase by police, which ended with Plowden crashing his car and exiting the vehicle.

He stumbled out of the car and appeared dazed and lost on the sidewalk before officers arrived and commanded him to comply by yelling “don’t move” and “show your hands.”

The scene was described as chaotic, with multiple car alarms going off amidst the yelling of officers. It was then that Ruch shot Plowden through the hand and struck him in the head. Plowden died the next day from his injuries.

“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,” said Krasner, reading from the grand jury indictment.

“I mention that because the bullet tore through the fingers of that left hand before it entered Plowden’s head,” noted Krasner.

The sequence of events leading up to the fatal shooting of Plowden spanned less than two minutes and 19 seconds, according to the grand jury presentment.

The situation unfolded after Ruch, who was in an unmarked police car, radioed to have dispatch run the tags on Plowden’s Hyundai sedan. The car came back clean, and the tags were valid until July 2018.

However, after having pulled over briefly, Plowden drove off again and his car struck the open door of another unmarked police car, which led to a pursuit by multiple marked and unmarked police vehicles, leading to the fatal shooting.

“Within six to eight seconds of arriving on the scene, former officer Ruch shot Plowden once, the bullet passing through his raised left hand, wounding three fingers and travelling directly into his head. Plowden was pronounced dead the following day,” said Krasner, adding, “It is indisputable that Plowden did not have a gun or any other weapon that night. Indisputable.”

Also present at the press conference alongside Krasner were Deputy District Attorney Tracy Tripp and Assistant District Attorney Vincent Corrigan. Corrigan has been heavily involved in the case, according to Krasner.

“It didn’t take three years, and there were a number of logistical issues involving grand juries and things of that nature, and obviously the last eight months [due to the pandemic]. Actual, active investigation probably about 12 months,” said Corrigan in response to a question insinuating the investigation had been prolonged.

Referencing the recent George Floyd case, Krasner explained that when there are issues of police accountability and there is strong video evidence, investigations move more swiftly, and there is less need to piece together testimony.  There is no indication of strong video evidence in the Dennis Plowden case.

“We are trying to be fair. And trying to be fair means you are trying to be fair to marginalized people, you’re trying to be fair to powerful people, you’re trying to be fair to people who hold a position of public trust, and trying to be fair to people who hold absolutely nothing in their hands,” stated Krasner.

“That is the only way that we’re going to succeed in restoring the relationship between communities that are sometimes distrustful of law enforcement, including this office, that is supposed to serve them,” added Krasner, who was elected District Attorney in 2017, after Plowden’s death.

Krasner campaigned on a progressive platform of criminal justice reform, which included reducing incarceration rates.

While in office, Krasner has ended bail payments for low-level offenders, and has sought more lenient sentences for non-violent crimes. In the past 30 years, he has served as a criminal defense attorney, civil rights attorney, and public defender.

However,  he has also drawn criticism from Philadelphia’s mayor and the police commissioner for being too lenient on gun offenders.

The high-profile media attention of the Plowden case will put Krasner in the national spotlight.

Ruch, Jr., will be represented by the attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, according to NBC 10 Philadelphia

“Our attorneys will review the allegations and appropriately defend this officer,” said John McNesby, president of the Lodge. “Officer Ruch Jr. is entitled to due process and we believe the judicial system will protect his rights to a fair trial.”

The trial is set to begin on April 12, 2021, at the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, with Judge Barbara A. McDermott presiding.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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