A white police officer who shot and killed a 31-year-old black man in Texas two years ago was acquitted of murder on Thursday by a judge who found the preliminary investigation “not objectively reasonable.”
The officer, Shawn Lucas, shot a man, Jonathan Price, four times in the torso on October 3, 2020, after responding to reports of a fight at a gas station in Wolfe City, a small town northeast of Dallas. His lawyer said that Mr. had tried to settle the fight.
An officer arrived after the altercation and attempted to arrest Mr. Price after believing Mr. Price may have been involved in the altercation, according to officials. Mr. When Price told the officer he could not be arrested, Mr. Lucas tried to use the Taser on Mr. Price, who reached and grabbed the Taser, according to the opening affidavit. Mr Price’s lawyer said he was only tipping his hand.
Mr. Lucas then pulled out his gun and fired, the affidavit said. Mr. Price died shortly after being taken to Hunt Regional Hospital. He was not armed.
The Wolfe City Police Department hired three officers, immediately placed Mr. Lucas on administrative leave and later fired him. The Texas Rangers, the state law enforcement unit that investigates officer-involved shootings, arrested him two days later for actions they condemned in their initial investigation.
Mr. Price “resisted in a non-threatening manner and began to walk away,” the Texas Rangers said of the confrontation.
Mr. Price’s death followed a string of deaths in 2020 in which white police officers killed black people, including George Floyd and Bronna Taylor, whose names became synonymous with protests over social justice that swept the country and raised awareness of institutional racism.
Mr. Lucas’ acquittal “goes against the weight of the evidence and exposes black Texans to state-sanctioned violence,” said Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the Price family. He said on Twitter.
“Shawn Lucas was acquitted by an all-white jury in rural Hunt County, Texas,” Mr. Merritt added on Twitter. “Every law enforcement professional who reviewed the facts concluded that Lucas’ use of force was unjustified.”
Mr. Lucas’ lawyers, Robert Rogers and Toby Shook, could not be reached for immediate comment. In a 2020 statement, Mr Rogers said Mr Price had “not claimed to be a uninvolved, innocent party” before he tried to arrest Mr Lucas.
“After Mr. Price refused repeated instructions and physically resisted,” Mr. Rogers said, “Officer Lucas deployed his Taser and Mr. Price continued to give instructions. Mr. Price resisted the effects of the Taser and attempted to take it from Officer Lucas.
Mr. Rogers and Mr. Shook represented Dallas police officer Amber Geiger in the 2018 trial in which she was convicted of fatally shooting her neighbor, Botham Jean, after accidentally entering her apartment, mistaking him for an intruder. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Footage taken by Mr Lucas’ body camera was played in court but not released to the public, and the courtroom did not allow any video recording to take place.
Mr Lucas, now 24, spent the past two years in prison and was released after a jury verdict.
Mr. lost in the Democratic primary election for Texas Attorney General last year. Merritt, to intervene and Mr. He said he is appealing to the Justice Department to bring federal criminal charges against Lucas.
The fatal shooting in Wolfe City once again soured race relations in Hunt County, where deep tensions go back decades. One city, Greenville, is still associated with its old official town slogan, “The Blackest Land, The Whitest People,” which hung on a banner over Main Street from 1921 until 1960, when city officials changed it during the Civil Rights Movement. Another city, Quinlan, was recently considered the headquarters of the Texas Rebel Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 2017, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2019, a year before Mr. Price was shot, more than 80 people in Wolfe City received racist and anti-Semitic fliers in their driveways. The perpetrators were never caught, and the Hunt County Sheriff’s investigation of the incident was dropped.