Ryan Pownall: A Former Philadelphia Police Officer Accused of Murdering David Jones

Who is Ryan Pownall?

Ryan Pownall is a former Philadelphia police officer who was charged with third-degree murder in the fatal shooting of David Jones, a 30-year-old Black man, in 2017. Pownall, who is white, was the first city officer to face a potential murder trial over an on-duty shooting in two decades. He was also the first officer to be prosecuted by District Attorney Larry Krasner, who ran on a platform of criminal justice reform and police accountability.

What happened on June 8, 2017?

On June 8, 2017, Pownall was transporting three people to the police station when he saw Jones riding a dirt bike on a city street, which is illegal in Philadelphia. Pownall decided to stop Jones and frisked him. During the frisk, Pownall felt a gun in Jones’ waistband and tried to pull it out. A struggle ensued, and Jones managed to break free and run away. Pownall then fired his weapon twice at Jones, hitting him in the back and killing him. Pownall’s gun jammed after the first shot, but he cleared it and fired again.

How did the investigation and prosecution unfold?

The shooting sparked protests and outrage from the community and activists, who demanded justice for Jones and accountability for Pownall. The Philadelphia Police Department launched an internal investigation and placed Pownall on administrative duty. The District Attorney’s Office also initiated a criminal investigation and convened a grand jury to review the case.

In September 2018, the grand jury issued a presentment recommending that Pownall be charged with criminal homicide, possession of an instrument of crime, and recklessly endangering another person. The presentment stated that Pownall had violated the department’s use-of-force policy and that Jones posed no threat to him or anyone else when he was shot. The presentment also criticized Pownall for endangering the lives of his passengers and other civilians by firing his weapon in a crowded area.

Krasner announced that he would follow the grand jury’s recommendation and charge Pownall with murder. He said that Pownall had acted with “intent to kill” and that his actions were “neither reasonable nor necessary” He also said that this was not a case of self-defense or mistake, but of “an illegal use of force”.

Pownall turned himself in and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was released on bail and placed under house arrest. His lawyers argued that he acted in self-defense and that he followed his training and instincts. They also challenged the validity of the grand jury process and accused Krasner of having a political agenda against police officers.

What happened on October 11, 2022?

On October 11, 2022, just weeks before Pownall’s trial was scheduled to begin, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara A. McDermott dismissed all charges against him. She ruled that prosecutors had failed to provide proper legal instructions to the grand jury as it weighed whether to charge him with murder. She said that prosecutors had not informed the grand jury about the legal standards for self-defense and use-of-force by police officers. She also said that prosecutors had made other errors and omissions that rendered the presentment “no good”.

The judge’s decision was a major setback for Krasner’s office, which had made prosecuting police misconduct one of its priorities. Krasner said that he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling and that he would appeal it to the state Supreme Court. He also said that he believed that there was sufficient evidence to convict Pownall of murder.

The judge’s decision was also a relief for Pownall and his supporters, who maintained his innocence and claimed that he was unfairly targeted by Krasner. His lawyers called the prosecution a “travesty of justice” and said that Pownall was “vindicated” by the ruling. They also said that they would seek to have him reinstated to the police force.


Ryan Pownall is a former Philadelphia police officer who was charged with murder in the shooting death of David Jones, a Black man who was fleeing from him after a traffic stop in 2017. The case was seen as a test of District Attorney Larry Krasner’s commitment to holding police accountable for their actions. However, in October 2022, a judge dismissed all charges against Pownall, citing prosecutorial errors in instructing the grand jury that recommended the charges. The case is now pending appeal by Krasner’s office, while Pownall’s lawyers are trying to get him back on the force. The case has sparked controversy and debate over the use-of-force by police, the role of the grand jury, and the fairness of the criminal justice system.

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