Authorities released surveillance footage Tuesday from inside the store where a man was killed by police and an officer was shot in his leg during an exchange last week in Fairhill.
Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said he hoped the video would help dispel rumors about the shooting, which have been swirling since a clip taken by a witness appeared on social media.
Officers hopped out of an unmarked car at around 8:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, and entered Jennifer Tavern, a beer deli at Mascher and Cambria streets. Bethel said they were conducting a routine security check at the establishment and also looking for a person wanted in connection with a shooting.
In the video released Tuesday, an officer can be seen holding up a flashlight and instructing patrons to lift their shirts – presumably searching for weapons.
As the pair are checking 28-year-old Alexander Spencer, a struggle ensues, and the officers wrestle him to the ground. At that point, a gunshot is heard, though the mens’ bodies obscures where it originated.
The video, which includes police notations, highlights that the officers’ guns were holstered when the first shot was fired.
One of the officers, Raheem Hall, 33, a 6-year PPD veteran assigned to the 24th District, then pulls out his gun, presses the barrel to Spencer’s back and fires a shot. Moments before that fatal shot, a gun is tossed toward the entrance of the deli.
Later, Hall walks past the discarded handgun and apparently does not notice it. A man in a red hoodie, identified by police as 42-year-old Jose Quinones-Mendez, steps on the firearm while attempting to film the incident and picks it up.
Quinones-Mendez left the area with the firearm, and authorities have issued a warrant for him to be charged with gun violations, theft, obstruction of justice and evidence tampering. He has yet to be apprehended.
Hall’s partner, who has not been identified, was shot through his thigh and calf, Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore said. He was hospitalized for his injuries but has since been released.
Neither officer activated their body-worn cameras, police said. Bethel said that decision will be subject to further investigation.
The video is more than 5 minutes long and includes multiple camera angles. It was played at a news conference at PPD headquarters and later posted to YouTube. District Attorney Larry Krasner said the footage was made public at the request of the Spencer family.
“Ultimately, what they said is ‘show the whole video,’” Krasner said.
Attempts to contact Spencer’s family on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The 34-second clip published to Instagram shows a view of the shooting from the entrance to the deli. It has been shared widely, with commenters suggesting that the officer was shot by his partner or that Spencer did not have a gun.
“The dangerous rumors that come from that, the untruths that come from that are difficult to deal with,” Bethel said. “And so we’re working hard to disprove those rumors.”
Bethel, Krasner and other law enforcement officials declined to answer questions about the shooting at the news conference, saying the investigation is in its early stage.
The District Attorney’s Office, along with the PPD’s officer-involved shooting unit, have launched a criminal probe, while the department’s Internal Affairs Division is looking into whether any police policies were violated. Krasner said more details will come out over the next few months.
“The reality is we may agree with interpretations of the Philadelphia Police Department completely,” he said. “We may agree with them partially. Or we may not agree with them. But today is not the day for that.”
Hall has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation, a standard practice in shootings involving officers.
New Mayor Cherelle Parker, on the campaign trail, spoke about using pedestrian stops – also known as stop-and-frisk or Terry stops – as a way to curb crime. Officers appeared to be conducting the controversial searches after entering Jennifer Tavern on Friday night.
“Mayor Parker supports the lawful use of Terry stops as constitutionally conducted, with reasonable suspicion,” Joe Grace, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, said in a statement.
The Parker administration did not respond to a request for comment about whether officers have been provided with any new directives on the tactic since she took office earlier this month.
Chief Public Defender Keisha Hudson, in a statement Tuesday said “what’s been reported so far sounds too similar to tragedies that have played out in Philly and across the country – right down to the police narrative that seems to shift with every new piece of information revealed.”
“If we want our communities to be safe, we need to explore and invest in interventions that help reduce, not increase, the number of interactions between law enforcement and our communities,” she added.
Spencer was legally barred from possessing a firearm due to prior felony drug-related convictions. He was most recently arrested in late last year and charged with criminal mischief and possession of an instrument of crime, in a case that was still pending.
Bethel spent time at Tuesday’s news conference highlighting the crime near where the shooting took place, calling it “one of the most violent pockets of our area.” Five homicides and 17 nonfatal shootings have occurred within 750 feet of the deli over the past three years, he said.
“I don’t want us to ever lose sight of how important the work that my men and women are doing and what I’m asking them to do on a daily basis, to go into some of the places that have our greatest challenges to serve that same community,” he added.