Philly police fatally shot 24-year-old man following traffic stop
Before five officers fired on James Alexander, police said they pulled over the car he was in after the driver failed to halt at a stop sign.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the names of the officers involved in the shooting.
The Philadelphia Police Department has released more details about a traffic stop in the city’s Logan neighborhood that ended in five officers fatally shooting at 24-year-old James Alexander Wednesday night.
One of the five officers responding to the stop also had to be taken to the hospital for a gunshot wound to the foot.
According to the police account, the shooting was preceded by a traffic stop at around 6:45 p.m. Two police officers pulled over the blue Kia sedan Alexander was in after the driver of the car did not stop at a stop sign on the 1500 block of Somerville Avenue.
Alexander was a passenger in the car, which had two other men and one woman in it. Afterwards, the two responding officers took everyone’s information and conducted a search.
Police originally said they found outstanding warrants for the driver and Alexander.
Police initially said the driver, who has not been identified, had a warrant for violating probation. They said Alexander’s warrant was for failing to show up to court after posting bail in Wisconsin, which turned out to be false.
On Monday, police said the “bail jumping” warrant was for a similarly named individual with a similar date of birth, but ultimately a different FBI number.
Police say due to the “wanted status” of two of the men, the responding officers called for backup to remove the men from the vehicle. Four additional officers showed up in response to the request, bringing the total at the scene to six.
Law enforcement’s account said the driver complied with officers’ instructions to exit the vehicle.
When officers approached Alexander’s side of the car to get him to surrender, authorities say police asked the 24-year-old if he was armed. That’s when they say Alexander pulled out a gun.
One of the officers who had first stopped the car yelled, “He’s got a gun,” police said.
While still in the car, Alexander allegedly fired in the direction of the officers. Police say body camera footage captured smoke coming out of the firearm at this time.
As Alexander ran away from the car, police allege he fired the weapon at least two more times. Police say an independent witness corroborated this account and body camera footage captured a second cloud of smoke as Alexander faced away from officers on the sidewalk and extended his arm “to the side and slightly backwards.”
That’s when five of the six officers fired at Alexander, who later died at Albert Einstein Medical Center.
According to the police account, investigators collected 31 fired cartridge casings at the scene. Three of the casings were linked to a .40 caliber handgun, which authorities say none of the responding officers were carrying.
On Monday, the Philadelphia Police Department released the names of the white, male officers who shot Alexander.
Christopher Burton, 28, with 4 years of service and Charles McCairns, 29, with 3 years of service were the two officers who made the original stop.
Michael Braun, 30, with 8 years of service; David Tamamoto, 40, with 13 years of service; and Matthew Ponente, 29, with 4 years of service were the officers who responded as backup. Ponente is the officer who was shot in the foot.
Police say they interviewed the three other people in the car after the shooting and said Alexander had told them he was carrying a gun and that he couldn’t go back to jail.
Ishea Cedeno, Alexander’s aunt, disputed the police account while speaking to FOX 29 earlier Thursday. She said the officers who stopped the car racially profiled her nephew, who was Black, along with the other passengers. Cedeno also told the TV station that the officer was “scared” because he had shot himself in the foot.
It’s unclear from the police account if the officer’s gunshot wound came from Alexander, one of the other officers, or if it was self-inflicted. The injured officer was also taken to Einstein Medical Center for treatment and later released.
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