Protest after Texas officer who killed unarmed teen fired
Posted August 11, 2015 11:37 p.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2015 7:47 a.m. EDT
Arlington, Texas — An unarmed college football player tried to smash through a locked door in a car dealership showroom to escape an officer in training before he was fatally shot, Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said Tuesday.
Called to the scene of a suspected burglary early Friday morning, Arlington officer Brad Miller, 49, pursued 19-year-old Christian Taylor through the broken glass doors of a car dealership showroom without telling his supervising officer, Johnson said.
Miller ordered Taylor, 19, to get to the ground. Instead, Taylor cursed at the officer and advanced toward him, Johnson said.
When Taylor was about 10 feet away, Miller fired.
Taylor continued moving, so Miller's training officer, Cpl. Dale Wiggins, shot Taylor with a Taser.
Miller then fired three more times. At least two bullets struck Taylor, killing him.
Johnson said the interaction between Miller and Taylor lasted only seconds.
Taylor's death is the latest in a series of police killings of unarmed black men.
Johnson said Tuesday he hoped Miller's firing will "assist in the healing process," and keep Arlington from exploding like Ferguson, Missouri, or Baltimore.
"Some communities and our nation have been torn apart by similar challenges," he said.
About 60 protesters demonstrated outside Arlington police headquarters late Tuesday, demanding that Miller face criminal charges.
The firing was "not enough justice," said Matthew Higgins, 20, one of Taylor's former high school classmates. "If it was a white person, it probably would have been different."
The Arlington Municipal Patrolman's Association issued a statement Tuesday night decrying Johnson's decision. The group said it supports "Miller's right to be judged fairly and completely on facts instead of a snapshot developed in only days," and also expressed sympathy for Taylor's family.
"We again ask that citizens obey the commands of police officers in order to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future," the association said.
An attorney for Miller did not have an immediate comment on Johnson's announcement. Taylor's family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Taylor's death came two days before the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Taylor, who was black, was a graduate of an Arlington high school and a football player at Angelo State University in West Texas. Miller is white.
There is no video of the shooting itself, though security camera footage from Classic Buick GMC dealership's parking lots shows Taylor walking around and damaging some vehicles.
Police on Tuesday released audio of a 911 call made by the company manning the exterior cameras. In the audio, the caller tells a 911 operator that a "thin black man with a blond Mohawk" was seen jumping on the windshield of a gray Ford Mustang.
Before his final confrontation with Miller, Taylor allegedly held up a set of car keys and told another officer that he intended to steal a car, Johnson said. He had driven a vehicle through the glass front doors of the showroom and, after officers arrived, was slamming his body into the side of a different part of the building to try to escape, the chief said.
"It is clear from the facts obtained that Mr. Taylor was non-compliant with police demands," Johnson said.
But the chief said he ultimately decided Miller's mistakes required his firing. While he said he had "serious concerns" about Miller's use of deadly force, Johnson said it would be up to a grand jury to decide whether Miller's actions were criminal.
Miller joined the police department in September and graduated from the city police academy earlier this year. Police said Miller cannot appeal his firing because he was a probationary employee.
He was undergoing field training and assigned to a more senior officer, though he was a licensed police officer authorized to carry a weapon. Police have previously said that he had never fired his weapon in the line of duty before.
But Johnson stressed that officers in training "have the skills, the decision-making process, the authority" to act correctly in the field.