A Philadelphia homicide detective — who had been placed on desk duty for allegedly using a racial slur on camera in 2018, then retired last year after being charged with DUI and threatening a responding officer — has been accused of leading an investigation in which two witnesses were coaxed into identifying an innocent man as a murderer.
Darren Rogers, 30, a father of three from Montgomery County, spent more than 14 months in prison awaiting trial on murder and related offenses before the charges were dismissed and he was freed in June 2019.
Rogers’ lawsuit for malicious prosecution, filed Thursday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, contends that then-Detective John Komorowski, possibly with the assistance of other detectives, pressured two reluctant witnesses to identify Rogers as the man who fatally shot Jamal Washington in North Philadelphia in July 2017. Rogers maintains that he had nothing to do with the shooting.
“What’s most alarming about this case is two witnesses told the same essential story about detective misconduct in photo array procedures,” said attorney Jonathan Feinberg, who is representing Rogers in the civil case. “They instructed witnesses which photo to identify.”
The first witness, who had been helping Washington with his wheelchair on the night of the shooting, initially provided police with a description of a gunman that “bore no resemblance” to Rogers “other than the fact that Mr. Rogers is a Black male,” according to the lawsuit. The suit claims that detectives “insisted” that Rogers was the shooter, leading the witness to sign a photograph identifying Rogers.
At Rogers’ preliminary hearing, that witness testified that Rogers was not the shooter, and had a lighter skin tone and different beard than the shooter, the suit states.
A second witness, who was taken into custody in March 2018 on a Family Court warrant and for driving without a license, identified Rogers as the gunman when prompted by Komorowski, according to the lawsuit.
That witness testified at Rogers’ preliminary hearing that Rogers was the shooter, but later realized that he had previously met Rogers and his family and likely identified him as the perpetrator because he looked familiar, and under pressure from Komorowski, the suit contends.
All charges against Rogers were dropped after that witness gave a statement to an investigator hired by Rogers’ defense lawyer and it was shared with the District Attorney’s Office.
Jane Roh, a spokesperson for District Attorney Larry Krasner, confirmed Friday that prosecutors withdrew the case after reviewing evidence showing that Rogers was not the perpetrator. She declined to elaborate.
Feinberg said Rogers, who was not available for an interview Friday, had his world upended by the arrest.
“It set back his family life,” Feinberg said. “It prevented him and his girlfriend from pursuing their education and full-time work.”
Feinberg said it was unclear why police had focused on Rogers as a possible suspect.
Komorowski, 51, was arrested in July after his vehicle allegedly struck two parked cars in North Philadelphia. He was allegedly intoxicated at the time, with his pants unzipped and belt undone, and told the responding officer: “I will f — you over and end your career. … I’ll find you. … Go get a gun … you piece of s—,” according to the police report. He was charged with DUI and making terroristic threats and is awaiting a preliminary hearing.
At the time of his arrest, Komorowski was being investigated by Internal Affairs for a December 2018 video that surfaced on social media showing him getting out of a car in North Phila. and tucking in his shirt. The man recording the video accused Komorowski of soliciting a prostitute.
Komorowski called the man a “white n—,” and the video appears to show Komorowski being punched and ending up face down on the ground.
Sgt. Eric Gripp, a police spokesperson, said Friday that Komorowski retired sometime after his July arrest.
“He’s not on the job anymore,” Gripp said.
Attorney Charles Gibbs, who is representing Komorowski in the criminal case, said he and his client had no comment Friday.
The city Law Department did not have any immediate comment Friday. The city is not named as a defendant in the suit.