A 21-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department has admitted to fabricating a story about being shot by a Black man, but his reasons for doing so remain unclear, according to media reports.
On April 5, Sgt. Robert Ralston radioed that he’d been shot by a Black in a predominantly Black neighborhood in West Philadelphia. The 46-year-old told investigators that a gun had been pointed at his head, but he knocked the gun away and he was just grazed in the shoulder. He then said that he returned fire, hitting the mystery man in the chest, but no blood was found at the scene and no victim turned up at the hospital.
The Philadelphia Police Department began an exhaustive search for the suspect that morning. The incident even brought SWAT teams out to look for the phantom suspect. When Ralston went to the Hospital for treatment, he found top police officials there, including Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.
As the investigation began however, Ralston’s story fell apart. Gunpowder on his shirt matched that of his service weapon, he made mistakes describing the layout of the area and detectives surmised that he’d been shot at point-blank range, contradicting what he told police.
After hours of questioning, Ralston finally confessed to shooting himself on May 11.
“The community has supported this city’s police officers through so much, every time we lose an officer,” John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 in Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “To have something like this come along that could possibly tear that down is a disgrace.”
It is still unknown why Ralston shot himself and fabricated the story, but it’s clear why he chose an African-American male as the culprit.
“He wanted the story to be consistent with the environment he was in,” Ramsey told the AP. “I am troubled by this whole situation. He violated the trust the people have in him.”
Ralston has been suspended from the force and is expected to be dismissed, but will not face criminal charges because he was offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for his confession, according to the Inquirer. Because he will not be charged, he may still be eligible to receive a yearly pension, and one city official told the paper that the officer could collect as much as $24,000 annually. However, part of those funds may be used to recoup the costs of the investigation and manhunt.