Sep 21, 2022 - News

Former Philadelphia cop convicted of on-duty manslaughter in historic trial

A headshot of former Philadelphia officer Eric Ruch Jr.

Former Philadelphia officer Eric Ruch Jr. Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Police Department via AP

A jury on Wednesday convicted former Philadelphia officer Eric Ruch Jr. of voluntary manslaughter and a weapons charge in the city's first murder trial for an on-duty police killing in nearly four decades.

Driving the news: Ruch, 34, was found not guilty of third-degree murder in the 2017 shooting of 25-year-old Dennis Plowden Jr. following a car chase.

The big picture: The last time a murder charge against a Philadelphia officer made it to trial was back in 1984, according to a detailed analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Two other officers have faced manslaughter charges since then, but one was acquitted while the other's case was thrown out.

  • Ruch's case is one of three brought against former officers since Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner took office in 2018.

Catch up fast: The jury deliberated for three days before finding Ruch, who is white, guilty of manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime in the fatal shooting of Plowden, who was Black, on Dec. 27, 2017.

  • Prosecutors said during closing arguments that Plowden was unarmed and surrendering when he was shot.
  • Ruch took the stand and told jurors he feared for his life when he opened fire, thinking Plowden was reaching for a gun.

Flashback: The city paid out $1.2 million last year to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Plowden's widow, in which she alleged Ruch had a "history of unconstitutional conduct" that the department ignored.

What they're saying: Ruch's attorney David Mischak told Axios they will keep "all options open moving forward."

  • "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."

Krasner thanked the jury and his team but declined to comment further.

What's next: Ruch is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17.


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