A white police officer who was charged with murder in the death of a Black man at a gas station in Texas had been a police officer for less than six months at the time of the shooting.
The officer, Shaun Lucas, 22, was arrested Monday night and had his bail set at $1 million. He is accused of shooting Jonathan Price, 31, on Saturday night in the small east Texas town of Wolfe City, authorities said.
Before joining the Wolfe City Police Department in April, Lucas worked as a jailer for about five months with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Department, according to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
Wolfe City has a population of about 1,400 and is roughly 70 miles northeast of Dallas. Its police department has six officers, all white and 22 to 40 years old.
Lucas had responded to a call on Saturday about a fight at a Kwik Chek gas station on Santa Fe Street, the Texas Rangers Division said in a statement late Monday.
Lucas tried to detain Price, who had intervened after he saw a “man assaulting a woman,” according to Lee Merritt, an attorney for Price’s family. Merritt said Price was unarmed.
The Texas Rangers said that Price resisted in “a nonthreatening posture and began walking away,” and Lucas then fired a Taser before “discharging his service weapon striking Price.” Price was taken to a hospital where he died.
“The preliminary investigation indicates that the actions of Officer Lucas were not objectionably reasonable,” the Texas Rangers said.
Robert Rogers, an attorney representing Lucas, said the officer fired “in accordance with Texas law” after Price tried to take his Taser away. In a statement Tuesday, Rogers said Price “did not claim to be an uninvolved, innocent party” when Lucas arrived at the scene, as Merritt has implied.
“Officer Lucas told Mr. Price he was detained, and Mr. Price resisted,” Rogers said. “After Mr. Price refused repeated instructions and physically resisted, Officer Lucas deployed his taser and continued to give Mr. Price instructions.”
Rogers represented Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, who was found guilty of murder in the killing of a neighbor, Botham Jean, in his apartment. Guyger is white and Jean was Black.
Hunt County District Attorney Noble Walker Jr. said his office had not yet received the case as the Texas Rangers investigate and would not comment on it.
Jonathan Price.via Facebook
Price’s relatives and friends said he was well known in the close-knit community. He played football in 2008 at Hardin-Simmons University, a private Baptist college in Abilene, Texas. He has been hailed as hometown hero, mentor and motivational speaker, among other things.
His parents, Marcella Louis and Junior Price, were among those to rush to the scene after hearing of the shooting.
Price said he spoke to the officer who shot his son and asked why. “He didn’t say,” Price said Monday. “He said, ‘Get back,’ he’ll tell me later.”
“And later ain’t got here yet,” Price said.
After the shooting, city officials would only confirm that an officer had been involved and that the officer been placed on administrative leave. The city didn’t mention Price, identify the officer or say where the shooting occurred.
“The initial report reflects the lack of transparency in police investigations that we have all grown accustomed to,” Merritt said Monday before Lucas was arrested.
Allowing Price’s family to make funeral arrangements without knowing exactly what happened to him “is a cruel form of punishment that is directed at this family,” Merritt said. He also said he believed race played a factor in Price’s killing.
“This family deserves better,” he said.
Some prominent Democrats in Texas have expressed outrage on social media over the shooting.
“Jonathan Price should be alive,” Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman and presidential candidate, tweeted Tuesday. “Police must stop killing Black men and women.”
Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio who also ran for president, described Price as “a community leader and mentor who was killed while trying to break up a domestic dispute.”