Texas officer charged with murder after shooting a 31-year-old Black man who tried to intervene in a dispute, attorney says

A police officer in Texas was arrested and charged with murder following the fatal shooting of Jonathan Price, a 31-year-old Black man, authorities said.

Posted: Oct 7, 2020 3:50 AM
Updated: Oct 7, 2020 3:50 AM

A Texas police officer stands charged with murder in the shooting of a 31-year-old Black man after a preliminary investigation determined his actions were unreasonable, authorities said.

Wolfe City officer Shaun Lucas responded to a call about a possible fight after 8 p.m. Saturday, just north of the city center, the Texas Department of Public Safety said. Wolfe City is about 70 miles northeast of Dallas.

"Officer Lucas made contact with a man, later identified as 31-year-old Jonathan Price, who was reportedly involved in the disturbance. Officer Lucas attempted to detain Price, who resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away," a DPS statement said.

Lucas used his Taser and then fired his weapon, hitting Price, the statement said. Price died at a hospital, according to the statement. "The preliminary investigation indicates that the actions of Officer Lucas were not (objectively) reasonable," it said.

Price was intervening in a domestic dispute and was never violent before Lucas shot him, said S. Lee Merritt, the attorney for Price's family.

"The situation was resolved before law enforcement arrived, according to witnesses," the attorney said. "Why this officer still felt the need to tase and shoot Jonathan is beyond comprehension."

Attorney Robert Rogers, who is representing Lucas, said Price "did not claim to be an uninvolved, innocent party" before Lucas attempted to detain him.

"After Mr. Price refused repeated instructions and physically resisted, Officer Lucas deployed his Taser and continued to give Mr. Price instructions. Mr. Price resisted the effects of the Taser and attempted to take it away from Officer Lucas," Rogers said in a statement Tuesday night. "Officer Lucas only discharged his weapon in accordance with Texas law when he was confronted with an aggressive assailant who was attempting to take his Taser."

A preliminary autopsy report from the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office provided few details, aside from the cause of death: gunshot wounds. A full report is expected in six to eight weeks.

Texas Rangers booked Lucas into the Hunt County Jail on Monday. It's not clear where Lucas is being held or if he's bonded out. He is not listed on Hunt County's online jail roster.

'Pretty smile. I loved it'

The Hunt County District Attorney's Office has yet to contact Price's family, Merritt said Tuesday afternoon, adding that he and the family would visit Noble Walker's office in person after their emails and phone calls were not returned.

Normally, Merritt said, prosecutors' offices have advocates who reach out to families when loved ones are killed, and he wonders why the rules wouldn't apply when a policeman is charged with murder.

"They have no idea what happened in this case. We still haven't received an official report from anyone," he told reporters.

Walker's office has not returned CNN's calls seeking information in the case.

Price's mother expressed relief Lucas was taken into custody, saying the news lifted her spirits, allowing her to get some sleep Monday night.

"I'm glad they done got him off the street. My son didn't deserve this," Marcella Louis said just steps away from where her son was shot. "He helped everybody in his community and had a big heart and spirit. Whatever he wants to strive for, he tried to get out there and do it."

She remembers Price as the son who realized all her hopes. The former college football player idolized Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders and even wanted to change his name to Deion, she said.

He'd exercise by running her dog up and down the road, and he always took care of his mother and grandmother, even tickling his grandma to get laughs out of her, Louis said. "I'm going to miss just seeing his smiling face," she said. "Pretty smile. I loved it."

As for Lucas' fate, Louis made it clear he should be imprisoned forever: "I want to see him have justice and just let him feel the pain that I'm feeling. ... Don't let him out. He took a life. Take his life, the way I see it -- but the right way."

Price's funeral is scheduled for Saturday, Merritt said.

Protesters demand justice

Price's death follows a summer of outrage and demonstrations protesting the police killings of Black Americans, including Breonna Taylor and others. The action against Lucas is the latest example of police speedily arresting their own in controversial shootings.

The Atlanta officer who killed Rayshard Brooks was fired and turned himself in on a murder charge less than a week after the shooting. In George Floyd's death, police within days leveled murder and manslaughter charges at the Minneapolis officer seen kneeling on Floyd's neck. In Fort Worth, Texas, it took police only two days to charge an officer accused of fatally shooting Atatiana Jefferson through the window of her home.

Video shows protesters around dusk Monday filling the street in front of the parking lot where Price was shot. They listened to speakers, hugged and chanted, and lit candles for a vigil after nightfall.

One protester carried an upside-down American flag, a sign of distress, while another hoisted an American banner in the pan-African colors of red, black and green.

The hundreds of demonstrators carried on peacefully until a small group of white counterprotesters -- one carrying a long rifle, another walking a German shepherd on a leash -- arrived and were confronted, the video shows.

It's not clear from the video what was was said, but some of the angrier protesters had to be separated from the man with the gun, who was eventually convinced to leave.

The peaceful air prevailed, and protesters began chanting, "Don't start no s**t, won't be no s**t."

Friends, family mourn Price's death

Visibly emotional, Price's father, Junior Price, told reporters, "I loved my son, and I tried to bring him up to do the right thing."

Price played football at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, head coach Jesse Burleson said.

"Jonathan Price was an awesome young man during his time with Cowboy Football. Was only with us for a short time in 2008 but was always a Cowboy. Prayers for comfort and peace for Jonathan's family," Burleson tweeted.

Former Red Sox player Will Middlebrooks said Price was one of his childhood friends and was "a good man."

"I'm sick. I'm heartbroken ... and I'm furious," Middlebrooks wrote on Facebook.

Middlebrooks organized a GoFundMe page for Price's memorial and funeral, which had raised more than $93,000 as of Tuesday evening.

Family attorney calls for videos, police reports

There is surveillance and police bodycam video that "likely caught what happened," Merritt said.

"We want to see a copy of the video. We want to see the official police reports," he said.

"This didn't happen quickly. It should (have) happened the day he murdered JP. John should still be here. This is step one. Let's see it through to justice," Merritt tweeted following Lucas' arrest.

Lucas' bond is set at $1 million, jail records indicate.

The Texas Rangers, along with the Wolfe City Police Department and the Hunt County District Attorney's Office, are conducting the investigation.

The Hunt County District Attorney's office, the Wolfe City mayor and the Texas Rangers did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment.

Before the arrest, the Wolfe City Police Department declined to comment about the shooting beyond a Facebook post that said the officer involved had been placed on leave pending an investigation.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Jonathan Price was the subject of Will Middlebrooks' Facebook post.

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