Jan 31, 2024 - News

Philadelphia police release footage of fatal encounter amid questions

Illustration of crime scene tape reading CRIME SCENE and DO NOT CROSS over a dark background.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philadelphia police released surveillance footage Tuesday that they say shows that two officers didn't draw their guns until one of them was shot during last week's fatal encounter with a man inside a North Philadelphia corner store.

Why it matters: The security footage was released days after a video posted on Instagram raised questions about whether police engaged in a controversial tactic known as stop-and-frisk before the shooting.

Driving the news: Two officers were looking for a shooting suspect when they conducted a security check at Jennifer Tavern, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said at Tuesday's news conference.

  • The officers, who have been placed on administrative duty, scuffled with a man identified as Alexander Spencer after they tried searching him for a weapon.
  • Officers didn't have their cameras turned on so there's no body camera footage of the encounter, Bethel said.

What they're saying: The five minutes of surveillance video was released by police to tamp down on "dangerous rumors" and "untruths" about the officers' actions, Bethel said. He pledged investigators would uncover "all of the facts."

  • "A small snippet of time does not take the countless hours that are being put into this investigation," he said.

Details: The surveillance footage shows an officer approaching a group inside the corner store and asking them if they had guns. Some said no and lifted up their shirts to expose their waistbands, per the footage.

  • The officer, later joined by his partner, then approached Spencer and attempted to search him.
  • Spencer resisted and was wrestled to the ground by the officers. A gunshot is heard during the scuffle, which wounded one of the officers.
  • The other officer, Raheem Hall, who has been in the force for six years, then pulled out his gun and shot Spencer in the back.

What happened: The handgun that police said Spencer possessed slid across the floor before being picked up by another man, per the footage.

  • Police identified that man as Jose QuiƱones Mendez. He's wanted on charges of evidence tampering and obstruction.

Of note: The area where the shooting occurred is one of the city's "most violent pockets," Bethel said.

  • There have been five homicides and dozens of shootings and robberies there over the last three years.

Yes, but: Bethel didn't take questions or address concerns about whether officers acted appropriately by initially stopping Spencer.

What we're watching: District Attorney Larry Krasner is awaiting more evidence, including ballistics and an autopsy report.

  • He said he'd have more answers about "what the truth is" in 90 days, which will help determine whether any of the officers will face charges.
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