I have been a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia since 2005. I was a prosecutor for four years beginning in 2002. I have seen a lot in those years. But, this case was one-of-a-kind. My client was shot at by Philadelphia police officers thirteen times and hit in the head twice. Despite that, he found himself sitting next to me at defense table charged with assault against police after the District Attorney alleged he pointed his firearm at police. How did that happen and where did the story go from there?
DA’s Story: Philadelphia Man Points Gun at Two Police Officers
Two Philadelphia police officers were in an unmarked car in plainclothes. Nothing about their Ford Taurus would lead anyone to know they were police officers. They stopped at the corner of 19th and Plymouth Streets in Northwest Philadelphia. My client, driving a Ford Explorer, couldn’t understand why the Taurus was sitting at the stop sign so he laid on his horn twice. The police moved their vehicle to the left so my client could get by. But, he wasn’t satisfied so he pulled out a gun and pointed it at two Philadelphia police officers. As he pulled beside their vehicle he continued to point his 9 mm Ruger at them out his SUV window. The passenger notified the driver of the gun.
The driver jumped out of the Taurus, went to the back to take cover and fired at my client. The passenger, believing my client was shooting at him, also began to fire his city-issued firearm. When the shooting was over, police had discharged their firearms 13 times, riddling my clients car with bullets, shattering windows and hitting him twice. My client fled the scene with blood pouring down his face from a head wound. Over police radio, fellow officers learned that shoots had been fired and quickly responded to protect their brother officers. The cops gave chase as my client fled at a high rate of speed going through stop signs. With multiple police cars behind him, my client slowed and fell out of his moving vehicle.
The vehicle rolled over his leg and continued down the street without an operator until it crashed into a parked car. Found inside my client’s car, hidden under the brake pedal was his fully-loaded firearm. My client was arrested and charged with aggravated assault against police, possessing an instrument of crime and multiple lesser-included offenses for pointing his gun at two people who had identified themselves as Philadelphia police officers.
Defendant’s Story: Two Unknown Men Shot at Him Multiple Times
My client didn’t dispute many of the above facts. But, took issue with the one that made this a crime: He claimed he never pointed his gun at the undercover police officers. My client was waiting behind a Ford Taurus at the stop sign of 19th and Plymouth. He honked his horn a few times because the car in front of him wouldn’t move. He moved to go around the vehicle so he could make a right. A man jumped out of the other car, stood in front of his vehicle, pointing a gun directly at him and started shooting. One shot went through the front windshield and across the top of his head. Another struck him in the back of his head where he still has bullet fragments. The passenger also started firing.
Fearing for his life, he tried to get away from these men. He wanted to get to a busy intersection where he would be safe. Once there, and in complete shock as he had blood from the top of his head down to his socks, he rolled out of his SUV. The next thing he knew a detective had his foot on his back, a gun pointed at him and he was being arrested. His firearm was recovered in his SUV and he was rushed to the hospital. After receiving staples to the head, he was released to get his mugshot, be fingerprinted and sent to CFCF prison on $150,000/10% bail and multiple felony charges. He didn’t understand. If he was the victim of a shooting at the hands of two violent men, why was he the one being arrested?
Rogue Philadelphia Cops Have to Justify Shooting
When hired for this case, I immediately had an investigator take pictures of the car and the scene and scour the neighborhood for possible witnesses. I learned that my client had legally bought and registered his gun. He had a permit to carry. He had a wife and children and had never been arrested. Something didn’t add up. But still I was meeting him in a prison interview room.
At the preliminary hearing I had two goals: (1) Get the aggravated assault charges dismissed as there was no proof my client knew that the individuals he allegedly pointed a gun at were police officers and (2) Have his bail greatly reduced so he could get home to his family and address his medical concerns. I was successful on both fronts. The felony aggravated assault charges were dismissed after one officer testified and his bail was reduced to $25,000/10%.
After I received full discovery, I learned that thirteen shots had been fired and my client didn’t shoot once. One officer shot at my client six times and the other seven. How do we know? The cops’ and client’s guns were compared to the fired cartridge casings at the scene. They all matched the officers’ guns. Why would a man point a gun at two people, get shot at 13 times and not return fire even once? On the other hand, why would police fire their guns 13 times if my client never pointed his gun at them first? This became the battle at trial.
However, the more I analyzed the crime scene evidence, the injuries to my client’s head and both the cops’ and my client’s version of events, it was clear the cops were lying. And they were doing so because they had to justify firing off thirteen rounds at a citizen. There were two bullet holes in my client’s front windshield. But, the cops said that they shot from behind my client’s SUV. The police tried to claim that the windshield shots were outbound holes. But, that didn’t add up with the location of the officers’ shooting location based on their fired cartridge casings or with the injury to my client’s head. And no crime scene officer could get on the stand and reach that preposterous conclusion.
A Jury Speaks: Not Guilty of Assault on Police Officers
Twelve people would have to hear both sides of this story and unanimously decide which made more sense. Despite the fact that my client gave a compelling and honest statement to police following his arrest, he chose not to testify. We felt it wasn’t necessary after the police officers contradicted each other and their story simply didn’t line up with the physical evidence. The jury did not have to deliberate long to agree with the defense theory of the case. My client was acquitted of two counts of simple assault, two counts of recklessly endangering another person and possessing an instrument of crime. Justice was served.
If you or a loved one has been arrested after an altercation with police in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties, contact The Fishman Firm to learn about your rights and seek legal representation.