Judge dismisses charges against Philadelphia police officer in fatal shooting during traffic stop

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge has dismissed all charges, including a murder count, against a Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed a driver.

Philadelphia Municipal Judge Wendy Pew made her ruling Tuesday after watching video of the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Eddie Irizarry. The defense had asserted that Officer Mark Dial was acting in self-defense when he fired his weapon at close range through the rolled-up driver’s side window of Irizarry’s sedan during a vehicle stop on Aug. 14.

Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle had urged Pew to drop all charges, which included manslaughter, official oppression and four other counts.

Dial's bail had been revoked this month after prosecutors argued the charges made him ineligible for release.

Police bodycam footage shows Dial firing his weapon at close range through the rolled-up driver’s side window of Irizarry’s sedan during a vehicle stop. Dial shot Irizarry about seven seconds after getting out of a police SUV and walking over to his car, the video showed. He fired a total of six rounds.

Defense lawyers called the shooting justified. They said the officer, also 27, thought Irizarry had a gun. The bodycam footage shows the driver holding a knife by his right leg.

Dial's partner, Officer Michael Morris, testified Tuesday that the pair had been following Irizarry, who was driving erratically, turned the wrong way down a one-way street, and stopped. Morris said Irizarry had a knife in his hand and started to raise it as the officers approached.

“I screamed that he had a knife,” said Morris, adding the knife had a black metal handle that could have been mistaken for a gun.

Sitting at the defense table, Dial dabbed his eyes with a tissue as prosecutors played video of the fatal shooting from Morris' body-worn camera. District Attorney Larry Krasner has called bodycam videos from Morris and Dial “crucial evidence in the case,” saying they “speak for themselves.”

Irizarry’s family has said that Dial deserves a long prison sentence.

The defense, meanwhile, blasted Krasner's decision to charge Dial with murder.

“When police officers ordered him to show his hands, he instead produced a weapon and pointed it at an armed police officer,” lawyer Brian McMonagle told reporters this month. “In no world (are) those facts murder.”

The police department had to backtrack from initial statements that said Dial shot the driver outside the vehicle after he “lunged at” police with a knife. Dial, a five-year member of the force, was suspended with the intent to dismiss after officials said he refused to cooperate with investigators.

Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press