Only 10 Philadelphia police officers have been charged in on-duty killings in the last 50 years. Here is the list.
Prosecutors have brought only nine murder or manslaughter cases against Philadelphia police since 1976.
For decades, even when police shootings hit record levels, Philadelphia district attorneys have been reluctant to prosecute police.
Over at least nearly the last half-century, prosecutors have charged only 10 officers with murder or manslaughter for on-duty killings. Three of those cases have been brought since Larry Krasner, a former defense attorney specializing in civil rights cases, took office in 2018, including the case against former Officer Erich Ruch Jr. that led to his conviction Wednesday.
The 10 cases date back to 1975. During those years, Philadelphia police shot and killed about 400 people.
Krasner brought his first such case in the fall of 2018 when he charged former Officer Ryan Pownall with third-degree murder in the 2017 death of David Jones, 30, after he stopped Jones for riding a dirt bike on a city street. The trial is pending.
In 2020, prosecutors charged former Officer Ruch with third-degree murder and other charges. A jury Wednesday found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime but not of murder.
Most recently, the District Attorney’s Office charged former Officer Edsaul Mendoza with first-degree and third-degree murder in the shooting death earlier this year of 12-year-old Thomas “TJ” Siderio, the youngest person ever killed by a city police officer. That trial is also pending.
Ruch was the first to go on trial on murder charges since former Officer John Ziegler was acquitted on murder charges in 1984. There were two other officers charged with manslaughter after that. Both of those prosecutions failed.
As detailed in a 2020 Inquirer look at the history of police violence in Philadelphia, here is a list of the cases brought before Krasner. The charged officers were often fired after the shooting deaths.
In 1999, former Officer Christopher DiPasquale was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Donta Dawson, 19. The case was thrown out ahead of trial. DiPasquale’s fellow officers said they thought Dawson had a gun when he made a motion with his right hand. No gun was found.
In 1993, former Sgt. Anthony Brasten was charged with manslaughter in the death of Charles Matthews. A judge acquitted him after a trial. Prosecutors said Brasten shot Matthews, 54, in the back 11 times. An unloaded gun was found next to Matthews’ body. His death sparked three days of neighborhood protest.
In 1984, a jury acquitted Officer John Ziegler of murder in the death of William H. Green, 17. Ziegler said his gun went off by mistake when he was hitting the teenager.
In 1979, Officer Thomas Bowe was acquitted at trial of third-degree murder in the death of handcuffed Cornell Warren, 20, the year before. Bowe testified that the gun had discharged in a struggle with Warren. Two eyewitnesses testified, however, they saw Bowe kick Warren while he lay on the ground, then shoot him in the head.
In 1978, Officer Marcus Giardino pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Carpenter, 19. The officer shot him in the back after he ran when police stopped a car for driving without lights. This is believed to be only the second time in Philadelphia history that an officer was convicted for killing a Black man. The previous case was a manslaughter conviction — in 1870.
In 1976, Officer Donald Woodruff went on trial on charges of fatally shooting Michael Sherard, 16, on a Germantown playground. He was acquitted. Woodruff pursued Sherard after spotting him carrying what turned out to be a portable television.
In 1975, Officer Martin Schab was charged with murder by the state Attorney General’s Office in the killing of Anthony Majewski, 37, inside a Manayunk restaurant after he threatened patrons. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, which had previously cleared the officer, successfully filed an appeal to have the case thrown out.