Philadelphia – In December 2017, community members began searching for answers after an unarmed man was shot and killed by a police officer in an unmarked car who claimed that he opened fire because he had his hand in his pocket. But their victim, 25-year-old Dennis Plowden Jr. was unarmed and was not a threat when cops opened fire on him just six seconds after they stopped the vehicle.
For years, Plowden's family sought justice and this month, they found out that justice will not come. Disgraced officer Eric Ruch Jr. — who put a bullet in Plowden's head that night — was sentenced to just 11 months in jail.
Ruch, 34, was charged in 2020 and convicted in September 2022 of voluntary manslaughter and a weapons charge. The voluntary manslaughter charge alone was supposed to come with a 20-year sentence. However, Ruch, according to the court, "demonstrated good behavior" since he murdered Plowden, so he will not have to spend years in prison for his crimes.
“Nothing he is going to do in prison is going to make him a better person,” Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara McDermott said.
“I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed,” Plowden’s widow, Tania Bond, said outside the courthouse, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Who wastes five years to come to court and hear 11 to 23 months? Did we value Dennis’ life or did we just throw something out there to feel like we shut the family up and feel like we satisfied?”
As we reported at the time, the incident started around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 27, 2017, when officers claimed they spotted a 2013 Hyundai that was wanted in connection with a homicide investigation.
The officers pulled over Plowden, who was driving the vehicle with a female passenger in the front seat. Ruch, a nine-year veteran of the Philadelphia police, proceeded to follow the car, claiming he was struck by it.
Police claimed that Plowden then went on to plow the Hyundai into two other parked cars before he “got out of the car and tried to run away.” A report from WPVI-TV claimed that when Plowden exited the car, he had “his hand in his pocket.”
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While other officers who were in uniform arrived at the scene, Ruch “gave repeated commands for the man to show his hands” and then opened fire when he claimed Plowden did not comply. Ruch struck Plowden in the head, and he was pronounced dead several hours later at a hospital. Clearly illustrating that Plowden had his hands up was the fact that Ruch's bullet went through Plowden's hand before it struck Plowden in the head.
It would later be determined that Plowden had committed no crime before running from police that night.
“Investigators have determined that while the vehicle may have been connected to that December 21 homicide, Plowden himself was not,” WPVI-TV noted, confirming that Plowden was not armed at the time of the incident.
Police claimed that the female passenger in the vehicle “suffered minor injuries."
Plowden left behind a wife, a six-month-old son, and two stepdaughters.
Plowden’s grandmother, Stacy McCoy, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Dennis was her second grandson who had been murdered. His brother Darryl was shot and killed in August 2016 at the age of 20. His homicide is still unsolved.
“He was unarmed,” McCoy said. “They shot him like a god damned dog.”
“They could have stun-gunned him. They didn’t have to do a kill shot. They murdered my grandson like all the other black kids out here,” McCoy said.