Philippe Holland was heading back to his car Tuesday night after making his last stop for his pizza delivery job; he didn't have his pizza bag with him, Philly.com reports, because it had been a small order.
So with his hoodie up and hands in his pockets he trekked back toward his car from the house when the two men—plainclothes officers—stopped him. What happened next is what Philadelphia police are saying may have been a misunderstanding.
Holland's car was riddled with bullets, three of which hit the 20-year-old in his neck, leg and head. He was left in critical condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
"As I understand it, they asked the male to stop. The male, in quick fashion, got in his car and he drove at a high rate of speed towards the officers. The officers then discharged out of fear for their lives," Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross told CBS 3, adding that the two officers had identified themselves as police. However, police added that Holland may have believed he was being mugged.
"We are getting information that he is a pizza deliveryman, so it is a possibility he may have thought he was being robbed. We do know the police officers announced themselves as police officers; he may not have heard that. Again, what I stress is this is all preliminary at this point," Ross said. "It may just be an unfortunate set of circumstances all the way around."
The officers in question never said anything about believing Holland to be carrying a loaded weapon, a police spokesman told Philly.com. The spokesman, Lt. John Stanford, also acknowledged that guidelines instruct officers not to fire into moving vehicles "unless deadly physical force is being used against the … officer or another person … by means other than the moving vehicle," the news site reports.
"That is our policy, 'Don't shoot at moving vehicles'—it's clearly laid out that way," Stanford said. "But I wasn't there, so I can't say whether these officers were right or wrong, what their process of thinking was, whether they were in fear for their lives or not."
As for the officers, they expressed to their commissioner how "terrible" they felt about the entire incident.
"They feel terrible," Commissioner Charles Ramsey told Philly.com. "It's just unfortunate all around, and we're just praying that this young man is able to fully recover."
Holland, who lived with his girlfriend, worked two jobs and was described as a "good neighbor" and "friendly." Court records showed he had been arrested the week before the police shooting on simple assault and harassment charges after being accused of throwing a cell phone at his girlfriend.
The two officers were being held on desk duty as the shooting was investigated by the department's Internal Affairs unit.