Murder charges reinstated against former cop in Irizarry killing

Murder Dial
Philadelphia police officer Mark Dial, center, arrives at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice in Philadelphia, Sept. 19, 2023, with attorneys for a bail hearing.
Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File

A Court of Common Pleas Court judge on Wednesday reinstated all charges, including first-degree murder, against former police officer Mark Dial and ordered him to be jailed without bail.

Dial, who fatally shot 27-year-old Eddie “Junito” Irizarry Jr. during an August traffic stop, had his case dismissed a month ago by a lower court — spurring protests and what authorities have described as opportunistic looting.

District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office quickly moved to refile the charges, and Judge Lillian Ransom ruled that the case should proceed to a trial.

“God is good. God is good,” Irizarry’s aunt, Ana Cintron, of Frankford, said Wednesday as she left the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice. “We got the answer we needed. This is just one step, a big step.”

Meanwhile, Brian McMonagle, an attorney representing Dial, told reporters he intends to file a motion to have the trial moved out of Philadelphia and “to a county where law and order matters.”

“You’ve seen what happened after the first preliminary hearing,” he added. “They vilified our judge. City Council got involved. The mayor got involved. It puts too much pressure, I think, on everybody in this system.”

A formal arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 15, according to court records.

murder dial
Eddie Irizarry’s aunt Ana Cintron speaks with members of the media after a judge has reinstated all charges, including a murder count, against former police officer Mark Dial, in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. Dial on Aug. 14, shot and killed Irizarry during a during a traffic stop.AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Arguments during Wednesday’s hearing, in a crowded fifth floor courtroom, centered on audio from a clip pulled from a private surveillance camera – one of three videos showing the shooting.

McMonagle has said that his team “enhanced” that audio, revealing that someone – perhaps Dial’s partner, Officer Michael Morris – yelled “drop the f—ing gun” and “gun, knife” shortly before the fatal shots were fired.

After playing the recording at the Sept. 26 preliminary hearing, McMonagle questioned Morris about that interpretation, and the officer said it was “fair to say” and that “it sounds like it.” Earlier, Morris had said he screamed that Irizarry had a knife.

“That is the word he used,” Assistant District Attorney Lyandra Retacco told Ransom. “Officer Morris never at any point said, ‘I might have said gun.’”

Retacco said disputes about what was said prior to the shooting, as well as other facts of the case, should be handled at a trial, not a preliminary hearing.

Two knives were recovered from Irizarry’s vehicle, including a folding knife he was allegedly holding and pointing upward in the moments before Dial shot him five times. His defense team has argued that the weapon resembled a gun, with McMonagle referring to it Wednesday as a “knife with a gun handle.”

“The sad and simple truth of this case is that Mr. Irizarry, for reasons that remain unknown, caused this terrible tragedy that resulted in the taking of his life,” Dial’s attorneys wrote in a legal brief filed earlier this week.

McMonagle asserted that it’s never been more dangerous to be a Philadelphia police officer, and he later alluded to the Oct. 12 killing of Police Officer Richard Mendez.

“If you hesitate, you’re dead,” he said. “If you blink, you’re dead.”

Siding with Dial’s attorneys, Retacco retorted, would lead to the “absurd result” of a justice system unable to hold officers accountable for their actions.

murder Dial
Defense attorneys Brian McMonigle, left, and Fortunato Perri walk from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The atmosphere was tense as those from both sides packed into a courthouse hallway waiting for the hearing to start. At one point, as Dial walked through, someone called him a “murderer.”

Ransom repeatedly warned people in the gallery to remain peaceful. “This is a situation where somebody is not going to be happy,” she said. A few of Irizarry’s family members left the room before the decision was announced.

The hearing was not Ransom’s first involvement in the case. Last month, she revoked Dial’s bail, agreeing with the District Attorney’s Office that it was improper to allow someone charged with first-degree murder to be released.

Dial, 27, of the Far Northeast, was freed a week later, when Municipal Court Judge Wendy L. Pew threw out the charges, saying she agreed “100%” with the defense team.

murder Dial
This screen grab taken from police 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, File

Morris testified that he and Dial were together in a marked patrol car Aug. 14 when they spotted Irizarry driving erratically at B and Westmoreland streets in Kensington. They followed him, and he eventually turned onto the 100 block of E. Willard Street, going the wrong direction on one-way road, and pulled into a parking spot.

Prosecutors have alleged that the pair did not activate their emergency lights or sirens, while McMonagle has argued that Irizarry only stopped because a car traveling the right way was blocking the road.

As they were getting out of their cruiser, Morris said he saw Irizarry pressing a knife against his leg while looking side-to-side. He then turned the knife so that the tip was pointing up, according to Morris.

Dial walked across the front of Irizarry’s vehicle and, within seven seconds, he fired several shots at close range through the driver’s side window and front windshield. Irizarry died a short time later at Temple University Hospital.

In the hours after the shooting, a PPD public information officer told reporters that Irizarry had “lunged at” officers with a knife. Authorities revised that narrative more than 24 hours later, after reviewing evidence showing that Irizarry was seated inside his car during the entire exchange.

Then-Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw decided to fire Dial, a five-year PPD veteran, in August, accusing him of not cooperating with the department’s internal investigation.

He was charged Sept. 8 with murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and official oppression.