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Philly police say the man officers killed in a traffic stop was a fugitive who said he couldn’t go back to jail

Police said the man killed by police during the Wednesday night traffic stop fired three times. Five officers on the scene fired at least 28 times.

Philadelphia officers stand in front of a vehicle involved in the officer shooting at 15th Street and West Somerville Avenue in North Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Philadelphia officers stand in front of a vehicle involved in the officer shooting at 15th Street and West Somerville Avenue in North Philadelphia on Wednesday.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

» UPDATE: Police say man officers killed did not have outstanding bail warrant, as they incorrectly believed

The man killed during a shootout Wednesday evening with Philadelphia police officers during a traffic stop in Logan was a fugitive from Wisconsin who told his friends that he could not go back to jail, the Philadelphia Police Department said Thursday.

James Alexander, 24, was killed by gunfire from five officers after he pulled a .40-caliber, semiautomatic Ruger handgun from his waistband and opened fire, striking one officer in the foot. The shooting occurred during a traffic stop in the 1500 block of Somerville Avenue just after 6:45 p.m., police said.

According to a police account released Thursday, two men and a woman who were in the car with Alexander told investigators during interviews that he had told them he had a gun and that he “could not go back to jail.”

Alexander, who was Black, fired at least three times, based on the number of fired cartridge casings police said they recovered at the scene. The 35th District officers, all of whom are white, fired at least 28 times, police said.

Alexander and the injured officer — a 29-year-old, four-year veteran of the force whom the department has not identified — were both rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where the gunman died and the officer was treated and released, police said.

“For someone to shoot at a police officer is very telling,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Wednesday, “and it makes you wonder not only what was going on in their mind at the time, but what is it that they’re trying to get away from.”

For Alexander, police said, it was “bail jumping” in Wisconsin. Their statement did include details of his criminal case in Wisconsin. It offered this account:

Alexander was a backseat passenger in a blue Kia Optima sedan that contained three other passengers. Two uniformed officers in a marked patrol car pulled that car over after observing the driver did not stop at a stop sign, police said.

After learning that the driver of the Kia had a Philadelphia warrant for parole or probation violations and that Alexander was wanted out of state, the officers requested backup assistance. Four officers soon arrived in two marked cars, police said.

After the driver complied with officers’ requests to exit the Kia, officers asked Alexander to also exit the car, police said. But when an officer opened the rear passenger door where Alexander was seated, and asked if he had a gun, he removed a firearm from the front of his waistline. An officer yelled, “He’s got a gun,” and the officers tactically retreated, police said.

“Alexander, still positioned in the vehicle, discharged his weapon in the direction of police,” the department said in its account. “Alexander exited the Kia and discharged at least two additional rounds in the direction of police,” prompting five of the six officers to return fire, it said.

In addition to the officer who was shot, the other officers who discharged their weapons are: a 28-year-old four-year veteran; a 29-year-old three-year veteran; a 30-year-old eight-year veteran; and a 40-year-old 13-year veteran. None of their names was released as of Thursday.