On Tuesday, Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Wendy Pew dismissed all charges against police officer Mark Dial, ruling that prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to show that his fatal shooting of Eddie Irizarry, an armed suspect in a Kensington-area car chase, was a crime.
Mark Dial shot and killed Irizarry, 27, as he sat in his car on Aug. 14. On the day of the shooting, police said Irizarry had lunged at Dial with a knife.
Video evidence later told a different story: Irizarry did have a knife but was sitting in his car with the windows rolled up when Dial opened fire. The following week, in her administration’s final scandal, Commissioner Outlaw’s office admitted that the claims that Irizarry had lunged at Dial with a knife did not emerge from a statement by Dial or the department’s Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit.
Furthermore, Officer Dial’s suspension from the department was not for an alleged crime but for failure to cooperate with the investigation. After Outlaw’s inaccurate comments appeared in the media, Dial received advice from counsel not to make any more statements.
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Following a preliminary hearing, Judge Pew agreed with Dial’s attorneys that the officer was justified in shooting Irizarry and that he and his partner were reacting to a situation in which Irizarry presented a potential threat to their safety.
Speaking outside the courthouse following the dismissal, Irizarry’s aunt, Zoradia Garcia, said, “The officers can go out here and kill a person that’s not doing anything and get away with murder because this is what it was.” Earlier, Irizarry’s family members stated that he had frequently carried weapons and suffered from mental illness.
When looking at the array of charges faced by Dial, 27, which included first-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and weapons-related offenses (for the firearm he was issued by the Philadelphia Police), it was clear Krasner’s office was charging Mark Dial in a redundant, harsh manner not consistent with how he charged many of the repeat offenders arrested in the city. After Dial surrendered voluntarily, Judge Lillian Ransom ordered Dial’s bail revoked and sent him to jail for the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.
John McNesby, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, said Mark Dial has the union’s full support and asked the public “to reserve judgment until all the evidence is presented during trial.”
Is McNesby looking at legal measures to protect his members? He told Broad + Liberty, “We are looking at different options” in a July 2022 piece alleging the Krasner administration of civil rights violations targeting Philadelphia Police Officers. The July piece was published after Krasner was admonished by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Dougherty over his overzealous prosecution of Officer Ryan Pownall, as well as similar municipal court dismissals of cases against Insp. Joe Bologna and Officer Richard Nicoletti for force used to arrest unlawful protesters during the George Floyd riots, which were later refiled by Krasner’s Office.
Legal action against Krasner may be a vital tool in restoring law and order to the City of Philadelphia.
In April 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in Thompson v. Clark that former criminal defendants can sue law enforcement for a wrongful arrest without needing to prove that they were innocent of the offenses they were charged with, only that their underlying cases ended without a conviction. This is especially noteworthy as many politicized prosecutions against law enforcement officers end in dropped charges, and not in a trial outcome exonerating them.
Thompson changed the landscape, and Philadelphia could become a venue for law enforcement unions to pursue such a claim on behalf of their members since Krasner has made the prosecution of Philadelphia police officers a campaign promise. Recently, Krasner was excoriated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for manipulating the grand jury process to charge police officer Ryan Pownall for shooting a fleeing felon with a firearm. Pownall has been facing murder charges since 2017 and has yet to have his day in court.
Later examples included cases against Philadelphia Police Officers that have resulted in acquittals or dismissals such as Philadelphia Police Inspector Joe Bologna for assaulting a George Floyd protester who tried to steal his police-issued baton. Not only did Krasner charge Bologna with striking the unlawful protester, but he also charged him with possession of a weapon for using his police-issued baton.
In the same set of protests, Philadelphia SWAT Officer Richard Nicoletti was charged with deploying chemical munitions against protesters marching on Interstate 676 after Nicoletti was ordered by his superiors to deploy such munitions. Krasner never misses an opportunity to overcharge police officers, even as other cases involving violent, repeat felons are not pursued or have charges dropped or dismissed, leading to their committing further crimes.
This is why legal action against Krasner may be a vital tool in restoring law and order to the City of Philadelphia. If not found culpable for his bias against law enforcement officers, Krasner will continue to harm the morale and recruiting capabilities of the police officers in dire need on our streets. In the meantime, all eyes are on FOP Lodge Five to see if a suit will be filed.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @PublicSafetySME