Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Philadelphia Cop

Mark Dial shot driver Eddie Irizarry through rolled-up window
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 26, 2023 5:50 PM CDT
Judge Drops Murder Charge Against Philadelphia Cop
This screen grab taken from the body cam video shows Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Dial with his weapon drawn at Eddie Irizarry on Aug. 14, 2023 in Philadelphia.   (Philadelphia Police Department via AP)

A judge dismissed murder and other charges Tuesday against a Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed a driver through a rolled-up driver's side window, agreeing with defense attorneys who said the officer could have feared for his life because he thought the driver had a gun. Police body camera footage showed the driver, 27-year-old Eddie Irizarry, holding a knife near his right leg as police approached his stopped vehicle on a residential street after a short pursuit prompted by erratic driving. The ruling came after a courtroom, packed with police and relatives of Irizarry attending now-fired Officer Mark Dial's preliminary hearing, watched about 20 minutes of the harrowing video footage, the AP reports.

The defense argued that Dial acted in self-defense when he fired his weapon at close range shortly after noon Aug. 14. Irizarry's relatives appeared stunned and distraught by Municipal Judge Wendy Pew's ruling. They said police should not need to fatally shoot someone just because they speed or act irrationally. "We are going to continue to fight for justice, because that was wrong," cousin Aracelis Brown, 28, said after the hearing. Prosecutors vowed a quick appeal to try to reinstate the charges, including the murder count. Bodycam footage shows Dial shot Irizarry about seven seconds after getting out of a police SUV and walking over to the sedan. He fired a total of six rounds.

Dial's partner, Officer Michael Morris, said the officers started following Irizarry after he sped past them in a bike lane and rounded a corner. They did not put their lights and sirens on but sent in information about the vehicle. Morris testified Tuesday that he saw the driver holding a knife with a black metal handle that could have looked like a gun. He said Irizarry started to raise it as Dial approached the car. "I screamed that he had a knife," Morris testified. Police previously backtracked from initial statements that said Dial shot Irizarry outside the vehicle after he "lunged at" police with a knife. Dial, a five-year member of the force, had been suspended after officials said he refused to cooperate with investigators. Police said Dial was terminated as of Sept. 18.

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Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle urged Pew to drop all charges, which included manslaughter, official oppression, and four other counts. "He is firing while trying to take cover," McMonagle said in court, stressing that Dial acted in self-defense. He said the charges never should have been filed by District Attorney Larry Krasner, a longtime civil rights lawyer who has clashed with police since taking office in 2018. "I agree with you 100%," the judge replied as she threw out the case for a lack of evidence. Dial's bail was revoked last week after prosecutors argued the charges made him ineligible for release. He was released later Tuesday, McMonagle said.

(Read more Philadelphia stories.)

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