Investigation underway into fatal shooting by off-duty Philadelphia cop

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross speaks at a press conference on January 29, 2018.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross describes the fatal interaction of an off-duty detective and a driver who struck a pedestrian Monday morning. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Philadelphia police are investigating whether an off-duty officer was justified in fatally shooting an unarmed man in South Philadelphia after the man apparently attempted to run over a pedestrian.

During rush hour Monday morning, police said,  a man driving a Honda Accord with Maryland tags targeted a pedestrian exiting a car around South Broad and Bigler streets.

A witness in another vehicle who saw the driver strike the pedestrian moved his car to block the Accord from driving away. The witness got out of his car, which provoked the Accord driver to leave his car and chase after the witness.

An off-duty detective saw the commotion and confronted the Accord driver. After identifying himself as a police officer, he ordered the driver to get to the ground, according to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who said he has reviewed video footage of the incident.

“There is a violent struggle that you can see. They’re spinning each other round and round, and at some point in time, there are multiple discharges,” Ross said. “There are a couple of which leave us with some concern, to be quite frank.”

Witnesses said the detective shot at the suspect about a dozen times. A single bullet to the head was the fatal shot, authorities say.

The suspect did not have a weapon, but Ross said he punched the detective multiple times.

The 40-year-old pedestrian who was struck by the driver has been released from the hospital.

Authorities have not yet identified the detective or the suspect, who police say was 30 years old. Police are waiting for a toxicology report and still trying to figure out what brought the Civic driver to Philadelphia.

Ross said though the driver’s hit appears to be an isolated incident, the officer’s violent response during the brawl does gives him pause.

“There are some concerns because of the way the shots were fired,” Ross said. “And I’m just being very candid about the fact that we do have some concerns about the discharge.”

The officer has been placed on administrative duties while the investigation is pending, which is standard department policy.

This story was updated to reflect that the police changed the model car involved.

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