A white Philadelphia police officer was convicted Wednesday of voluntary manslaughter and a weapons charge in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black motorist who was struck six seconds after the officer arrived on the scene, the Associated Press reports. Officer Eric Ruch Jr. told jurors he feared for his life when he fired at Dennis Plowden Jr. as the 25-year-old sat on a sidewalk after crashing a car during a high-speed chase. He said Plowden had his left hand raised, but kept his right hand hidden despite police orders. The officer said he could not take cover and feared he would be shot. Only later did he realize that Plowden was unarmed, the defense said. Ruch, 34, dropped his head and cried upon hearing the verdict Wednesday.
The jury rejected a more serious third-degree murder charge, but also convicted Ruch of possessing an instrument of crime. The felony manslaughter charge carries a term of up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Nov. 17. Defense lawyer David Mischak said the jury did not believe that Ruch had murdered Plowden, even though “the prosecution has vigorously pursued a murder conviction” since his client’s indictment.