Reminiscent of the mass reaction in the aftermath of the George Floyd lynching in May 2020, angry youth reacted in a similar situation in Philadelphia in the wake of a Sept. 26 decision by Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Wendy L. Pew to dismiss all charges against Philadelphia police officer Mark Dial, who fatally shot Eddie Irizarry, Jr on Aug. 14.
As the evening developed, large groups of youth were taking to the streets across the city. Reports are coming in of youth expropriating expensive items from high priced Center City stores and in multiple shopping corridors — beyond what the cops can control.
Earlier tonight, Irizarry’s family and community supporters protested outside City Hall on Sept. 26. They demanded that the charges against Dial be refiled. Over 100 protesters gathered for a rally at City Hall, followed by a march around City Hall ending at the Criminal Justice Center at 13th and Filbert Street, chanting “No good cops in a racist system.” Speakers included Irizarry family members, and Mike Africa, who lost 11 family members at the hands of the Philadelphia police in 1985.
Body cam supports murder charge
On Sept. 8, just days after he was fired from the Philadelphia PD, Dial was charged with first degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and five other counts by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Body cam video from Dial and his partner, Officer Michael Morris, provide clear evidence to support the charges. The body cam videos also contradict statements the officers initially made to reporters claiming Irizarry “lunged at them with a 3-inch pocket knife while outside his car.”
The videos prove that while Irizarry never got out of his car, Dial exitted his car with his weapon drawn, firing several shots through the windows of Irizarry’s vehicle within seconds of his arriving at the scene. For what was supposedly a “routine traffic stop,” prosecutors argued first-degree murder charges were appropriate because Dial had his gun drawn before he approached Irizarry’s car.
The officers claimed they ordered Irizarry to drop his weapon while he allegedly was outside the car. However, not only did Irizarry not leave his car, but — coming recently from Puerto Rico — he did not speak or understand English.
It appears that Judge Pew based her decision in part on the highly questionable testimony of Dial’s partner, Officer Michael Morris, who claimed that he shouted “knife” when he approached Irizarry’s car. Yet the video shows he yelled “gun,” claiming in court that he was afraid for his life. (CNN, Sept. 26) In initial interviews with reporters, Morris is backing up Dial’s claim that Irizarry was outside of his car.
At the hearing, Dial’s defense attorney claimed that Irizarry’s 3-inch pocket knife “had a handle similar to a gun handle” and could have been mistaken for a gun in the officers’ eyes. (Inquirer, Sept. 26) Yet in body cam footage, the officers can be heard frantically trying to find the knife in Irizarry’s car. Despite ample evidence of Dial’s guilt, Judge Pew dismissed the charges.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office disagreed with Pew’s decision and refiled all seven charges with the Court of Common Pleas (a higher court).
Irizarry’s aunt, Zoraida Garcia, told CNN: “They said there was a lack of evidence. What more evidence do you want? You can see the video; the video was played in the court. The judge has seen the video. For her to drop all charges, she shouldn’t even be a judge. She dropped the charges, so it’s okay for you to murder someone and get away with it.”
The struggle for justice for Eddie Irizarry Jr, — affectionately called Junito by family members — is growing and will not stop until Dial and all killer cops are jailed.
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