Police detective shoots unarmed panhandler after mistaking him for carjacker, authorities say

PHILADELPHIA (KYW/CNN) – An unarmed man, apparently begging for change, was shot by a Philadelphia police detective Monday night.

The man is in critical but stable condition.

The shooting, caught on video, happened after the man approached the plainclothes detective’s unmarked vehicle at a busy intersection.

Authorities said the detective believed the man was armed and thought he was being carjacked.

Some residents said the man begs for money regularly in the area.

Neighbors described how Joel Johnson – a man whose family said has special needs – approaches cars for change at the intersection: two hands clasped, index fingers pointed outward, with perhaps a shiny quarter in his grip.

That gesture is, at this early stage, believed to be why the detective shot at Johnson, hitting him once in the torso.

The unnamed detective is on desk duty, which is protocol in officer-involved shootings.

“This could be just an unfortunate and tragic situation all the way around,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said. “The only fortunate thing is that this male appears like he’s going to survive.”

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