A former Philadelphia police officer was found guilty on charges relating to a 2017 fatal shooting after a high-speed chase resulted in a crash, reports CBS News. This was the first time in almost 40 years that an on-duty police officer was on trial for murder in Philadelphia.
Eric Ruch Jr. was found guilty by a jury of voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime in the murder of Dennis Plowden who was unarmed. He was found not guilty of third-degree murder which was a more serious charge.
During the trial, Ruch testified that he was afraid for his life when he disarmed his weapon, saying that Plowden kept his right hand hidden when he was asked to raise it. Also, fellow officers testified that there was a possible element of danger and that Ruch's reaction of firing his gun, once through Plowden's hand with the bullet hitting him in the head, was justifiable.
Prosecutors accused the officers of not being truthful because Plowden had posed no threat as he sat dazed, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
According to the Pennsylvania crimes code, "a person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits voluntary manslaughter if at the time of the killing he is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation."
Upon hearing the verdict, Ruch dropped his head and cried. He was immediately taken into custody.
After the verdict was read, Judge Barbara McDermott of the Court of Common Pleas revoked Ruch’s bail and ordered him held until sentencing.
Larry Krasner, the district attorney in Philadelphia, thanked the jury through a spokesperson and added that he would have more to say after the sentencing.
David Mischak, Ruch's defense attorney released a statement Wednesday night saying, "Ever since my client was dismissed from the police department and formally indicted of charges including murder, the prosecution has vigorously pursued a murder conviction. The verdict reflects that the jury rejected that theory and never was this a case of murder. My client will keep all options open moving forward."
The NAACP also released a statement addressing Ruch’s conviction.
"The verdict in the shooting death of Dennis Plowden reminds us that we must allow the justice system to go through its process. Lives are forever changed when spontaneous reactions take place," the statement read. "In this case, Eric Ruch Jr. reacted without regard for what the consequence would be for Dennis Plowden, a man who was already dazed and sitting on the ground when he raised his hand and was shot dead. Justice was served but the story is too common and we must keep holding those accountable who have the power to make decisions that affect whether a person lives or dies."
Ruch faces up to 25 years in prison when he's sentenced on Nov. 17.