All charges, including murder, have been reinstated against the Philadelphia police officer who fatally shot 27-year-old Eddie Irizarry during a traffic stop in August.
The ruling Wednesday came about a month after a municipal court judge dismissed the seven charges against Officer Mark Dial, including murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime with intent, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and official oppression.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office refiled the charges, and state Judge Lillian Ransom reinstated them during a hearing Wednesday morning where the prosecution and defense argued over whether Dial “reasonably” believed Irizarry had a gun in the car when the officer opened fire on August 14.
Dial and his partner began following Irizarry after they saw a car driving erratically, according to the initial police statement. But the officers never used their sirens or lights, a lawsuit by Irizarry’s family alleges, and “essentially surprised” Irizarry while he was parking.
Surveillance footage shows Dial exiting his patrol vehicle and taking out his firearm as he approaches Irizarry’s vehicle, yelling what sounds like commands to show his hands. Within seconds, the officer opens fire.
The defense insisted the decision to dismiss charges last month was appropriate, while lead prosector Lyandra Retacco said the lower court had erred, insisting a jury should decide whether Dial is guilty.
“The defense has every right to litigate this at trial,” she said.
Before ruling, Ransom put her head in her hands and told the courtroom, “My job is not to take a side,” adding, “Somebody is not going to be happy.” She then reinstated the charges – news that elicited cheers from members of Irizarry’s family in the hallway of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center – and ordered Dial taken into custody and held without bail.
“I feel good,” Irizarry’s aunt Zoraida Garcia told CNN outside court. “I feel relieved.”
Dial’s defense attorney Brian McMonagle told reporters they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision to reinstate the charges and that the officer’s attorneys are considering making a motion to move the case out of Philadelphia. Still, he added, “We can’t wait to go to trial.”
Irizarry’s killing and the prosecution of Dial come as police nationwide are facing increased scrutiny about their use of force, particularly in their interactions with people of color.
Irizarry – whose aunt said he had moved to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico seven years ago – did not speak English well, and his family believed there may have been a language barrier between him and the officers.
Meanwhile, police initially said Irizarry had “lunged at the officers” while outside his vehicle – only to later admit that was not the case. Two days after the shooting, then-Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told reporters Irizarry was still in his vehicle when the shooting occurred, and body camera footage “made it very clear what we initially reported was not actually what happened.”
Dial’s defense last month argued Irizarry had a knife with “a handle similar to a gun handle,” saying it could have looked like a gun to Dial and his partner, Officer Michael Morris.
The prosecution argued charges of first-degree murder were appropriate because Dial approached the vehicle “with gun already drawn for a routine traffic stop.”
The 27-year-old pulled into a parking spot on a narrow residential street, running over orange cones in the process, surveillance video from a nearby restaurant released by an attorney for Irizarry’s family shows. A police vehicle pulls up to the passenger side of his car a few seconds later.
An officer then exits the passenger side of the patrol vehicle and pulls out a firearm as he heads toward Irizarry’s car, yelling what sounds like orders to show his hands.
Some five seconds after getting out of his car, the officer runs over to the driver’s side of Irizarry’s car and fires his weapon what appears to be six times while he’s heard shouting what sounds like an order to drop a knife.
Irizarry’s family’s lawsuit – which seeks at least $150,000 in damages – asserts Irizarry used the knife for his work as an auto mechanic. But he “made no threatening motions or actions towards anyone,” it said.
CNN’s Brynn Gingras, Jessica Xing and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.
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