PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Two Philadelphia police officers had their weapons holstered before a scuffle with a man inside a corner deli when one of the officers was shot by a suspect who was then fatally shot by the wounded officer’s partner, the city’s police commissioner said Tuesday.
The department promised full “transparency” about the Friday night encounter inside a corner store and released several minutes of security video as concerns grew about the police use of force in the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Alexander Spencer. Two officers were wrestling with Spencer on the floor as two shots rang out in a five-second span.
At the same time, neither new Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel nor District Attorney Larry Krasner took questions at a morning news conference.
“The officers’ guns are holstered, and only after being shot do they take their weapon out,” Bethel said.
Krasner, a longtime civil rights lawyer who has clashed with police, said he had met with Spencer's family, and said they wanted the video released. Bethel said his staff had also met with the family.
The video shows two uniformed officers stopping in the narrow store as several men meander near a row of video gambling machines. The officers appear to confront Spencer about whether he has a gun, and the three begin wrestling.
“He alerts his partner that there’s a gun. And the struggle is on.” said Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore.
The injured officer, who was crouching, suffered four wounds when he was shot by a single bullet, Vanore said. He may have tried to fire back, but could not, he said.
“I think he tried, but it did not operate. The other officer did and that was the shot that struck Mr. Spencer,” Vanore said.
The suspect's gun appeared to kick out from the scrum, and was later grabbed by a man seen on video recording the scene with a cellphone. Police have a warrant out for his arrest, and have identified him as Jose Quinones-Mendez, 42. He is being sought on charges that include obstruction of justice and evidence tampering. The two officers apparently did not notice that the gun had slid away.
The officers, whose names have not yet been released, were on routine patrol in the area while also keeping an eye out for a person wanted in a recent non-fatal shooting, Bethel said. He described the immediate area, in the city's Fairhill neighborhood, as particularly dangerous, with five homicides and 17 nonfatal shootings in the past three years.
The commissioner, a department veteran recently appointed by new Mayor Cherelle Parker, said he has to send his officers to work every day in "some of the places that have our greatest challenges.”
The injured officer was released Monday from a hospital, the department said. He has been on the force for nine years and the other officer for five years, officials said.