The Washington Post

Officer convicted in Black motorist’s death


A White Philadelph­ia police officer was convicted Wednesday of voluntary manslaught­er and a weapons charge in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black motorist shot six seconds after the officer arrived on the scene.

Officer Eric Ruch Jr. told jurors he feared for his life when he fired at Dennis Plowden Jr. as the 25-year-old sat on a sidewalk after crashing a car during a high-speed chase. He said Plowden had his left hand raised but kept his right hand hidden despite police orders. The officer said he could not take cover and feared he would be shot.

Only later did he realize that Plowden was unarmed, the defense said.

“As soon as my client discovered it was heroin and not a gun, he was upset. He was distraught,” lawyer David Mischak said in opening statements last week.

Ruch, 34, dropped his head and cried upon hearing the verdict Wednesday, the Philadelph­ia Inquirer reported. He was soon taken into custody.

Ruch was fired from the police department 10 months after the incident.

Plowden’s widow, Tania Bond, who briefly testified at the trial, won a $1.2 million wrongful death settlement from the city.

The jury rejected a more serious third-degree murder charge, but it also convicted Ruch of possessing an instrument of crime. The felony manslaught­er charge carries a term of up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Nov. 17.

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