Philadelphia police on Thursday named Detective Francis DiGiorgio, an eight-year veteran of the department, as the officer who shot and wounded a man panhandling Monday night in Kensington who he believed was armed and about to rob him.
Police say DiGiorgio, 29, was stopped at a red light on the 3400 block of G Street when a man whom relatives identified as 28-year-old Joel Johnson approached his window. Johnson was well-known around G and Tioga Streets, where residents say he spent nearly every day asking people for change, often by extending his arms and rubbing his fingers together.
DiGiorgio, according to the police, said Johnson had his arms extended and his hands together. The detective, who had just come from a crime scene, thought the man was pointing a firearm and saw him as threat.
DiGiorgio, who was alone in his cruiser, fired his sidearm four times and struck Johnson once in the stomach. Surveillance footage appears to show a few seconds passing between the moment Johnson approached the front of DiGiorgio’s car and the first shot, then Johnson falling to the ground in what looks like a plume of smoke or shattering glass.
Officials said they did not recover a firearm from Johnson, who underwent surgery and remained in critical but stable condition Thursday.
Internal Affairs will investigate the shooting. DiGiorgio has been placed on desk duty, which is standard procedure when an officer shoots someone.
John McNesby, president of the police union, said DiGiorgio declined to comment. McNesby said he was confident the investigation into the detective’s actions would be “thorough and transparent.”
"We urge the public to reserve judgment until the investigation is completed,” he said.
The shooting marked the fifth time this year that an officer has opened fire while on duty, according to police statistics. Last year, the department reported 12 incidents in which police officers fired shots, the lowest annual total in at least a decade.