The family of David Jones and the city have agreed to a $1 million settlement stemming from his shooting death in June 2017 in Philadelphia.
“The shooting death of David Jones was a tragic incident, and I hope this resolution will begin to assist his family in moving forward after what they have been through,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a joint statement from the city and the Jones family.
“My administration remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring all people in our city receive fair and equal treatment at the hands of law enforcement officials.”
Jones, a 30-year-old Black man, was shot in the back and killed by former police officer Ryan Pownall on June 8, 2017. The North Philadelphia resident was unarmed and running at the time he was shot.
Pownall has been charged with criminal homicide in the shooting, and remains held without bail.
While the settlement does not include an admission of liability from the city, Jones’ father, Thomas, said he interprets it that way.
“I think when the other side sees that the person was dead wrong, this is what happens,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. “You can see from the video that this wasn’t right. When you are dead wrong, you are just dead wrong. That’s what the video shows. He was dead wrong.”
The settlement was reached after Jones’ family asked the city “to resolve their potential legal claims against the City without the need for a civil lawsuit, which would have caused the family to relive this tragedy and the agony of their loss through a potentially lengthy litigation process,” said City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt in the statement.
Thomas Jones said he appreciates the settlement.
“It’s good. It can’t bring back my son’s life, but it’s better than nothing. His life is priceless,” he said. “It happened and that will be something that eases the pain somewhat but not totally.”
Attorneys for Jones’ family called the man’s death a “senseless loss of life.”
Initial reports about the shooting death of Jones varied, and a grand jury ultimately investigated.
Police said Jones was riding a dirt bike in the 4200 block of Whitaker Avenue in the Juniata neighborhood around 6:41 p.m. when Pownall saw him and stopped him. Jones pulled into the parking lot of Casa de Espana, a nightclub, and Pownall followed, according to the grand jury report.
At the time, Pownall was transporting three people, two of them children, in his patrol car to the Special Victims Unit, according to the report. Deviating from the transportation was against police policy.
Pownall claimed Jones suspiciously turned sideways away from him, which justified frisking him, and Pownall felt a firearm, according to the report. An altercation ensued between Pownall and Jones.
Pownall attempted to shoot Jones, but his gun jammed, according to the report. Jones broke free from Pownall and ran back toward an intersection.
Surveillance video showed “Jones’ hands were empty as he ran, and that he never turned or gestured in a threatening manner toward Pownall as he ran,” according to the report.
Pownall allegedly fired at least three shots toward traffic. Jones was struck once, but kept running; a second shot caused Jones to collapse to the ground, according to the report. The second bullet cut through Jones’ spine, lung, aorta and esophagus, and was lodged just outside his heart, according to the report. Jones was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he later died.
No gun was found in Jones’ possession.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross has previously said Pownall used bad judgment and Jones had not posed an imminent threat. Pownall, a 12-year veteran of the police department, was suspended for 30 days and then fired last fall.
“The use of deadly force by police officers in Philadelphia should be a last resort,” Ross said in the statement issued by the city and the family. “The PPD’s policy is that officers will use deadly force only where there is an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to themselves or another person. We continually find ways to improve police strategies and techniques, and to provide officers with comprehensive and up to date training on the use of deadly force. At the same time, the PPD is committed to protecting and upholding civil rights in our City. “
In September, the District Attorney’s office announced it was charging Pownall with criminal homicide, possession of an instrument of crime and recklessly endangering another person.
“I want him to get whatever the sentencing guidelines say he should get,” said Thomas Jones during a September phone interview with The Philadelphia Tribune. “I will never get my son back. I will never see my son again.
“His (Pownall’s family) will at least get to see him, even if they visit him in jail,” he added. “I don’t want to sound cold, but if it was the other way around I’m sure they would say the same thing.”
Tribune city editor Christina Kristofic and staff writer John Mitchell contributed to this report