Philadelphia – A former Philadelphia police officer convicted of fatally shooting an unarmed motorist has been sentenced to 11.5 to 23 months in prison.
Eric Rouch Jr. says he feared for his life when he fired the fatal shot that killed 25-year-old Dennis Plowden Jr. six seconds after Rouch arrived on the scene.
Rouch faces charges of third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime in connection with the December 2017 shooting death of Plowden.
On the night of the shooting, police say plainclothes officers were spotted in a white sedan that authorities said was wanted in connection with a homicide.
Officers requested marked patrol cars to respond to help them stop the car with Plowden and a 27-year-old woman inside.
Related: A former Philadelphia officer in the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed man
Police followed the vehicle to Sixteenth Street and Nedrow Avenue, where Plowden stopped the car, investigators said. According to authorities, as the officers exited their vehicles to approach Plowden, he drove off at a high rate of speed and crashed into two parked cars.
After the crash, Plowden tried to flee on foot while being chased by officers who drew their guns and ordered him to show his hands, police say.
At that point, Plowden reached into his jacket pocket and Ruch fired a single round, hitting Plowden in the head, police said.
Plowden was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Ruch was later suspended with intent to fire in 2018, and then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Plowden’s crash and airbag deployment were justified. ”
Ross said Plowden exercised “bad judgment in running away,” but noted that the three other officers on the scene did not fire their weapons, so Rouch could have gotten away.
In September 2022, a jury convicted the former police officer of involuntary manslaughter and dismissed the more serious murder charge in the case.
Judge Barbara McDermott told a packed and emotional courtroom Thursday that she considered Rouch’s good behavior before and after the tragic shooting, “and nothing he’s going to do in prison is going to make him a better person.” She said the circumstances that started the tragic night must also be looked at, adding that “Plowden created the accident.”
Judge McDermott said he had received dozens of letters from Ruch’s family, friends, PPD members and people in the community.
Ruch’s neighbors and wife were among those who read emotional impact statements, as Plowden’s mother, wife and sister tearfully read.
Rouch broke down several times and spoke briefly to say he thinks about Plowden’s family every day.
“He was put in a very dangerous situation, and he faced a very crowded and chaotic scene because of the actions of other people,” says Rush’s attorney, David Mishak.
“The verdict in this case reflected that he overreacted, but he is very thankful and grateful that the court considered him, his background and character, because Eric Ruch lived his entire life so selflessly.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, 34, who spent nine years with the Philadelphia Police Department, is one of three city police officers charged with on-duty murder.
Plowden’s widow, Tanya Bond, who testified briefly at the trial, won a $1.2 million wrongful-death settlement from the city.
“I wasn’t surprised, I was far from surprised, but I was very disappointed,” Bond said. “I think the main reason we’re frustrated as a family is, who waits 5 years to come to court for 11 to 23 months?”