Rookie police officer Brad Miller fired four shots during his deadly altercation with Christian Taylor, and another officer discharged his Taser, though it’s not clear which weapon was used first, Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said Saturday.
Taylor, the unarmed black teen shot to death during a burglary call early Friday, died of gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
Johnson, speaking at a news conference Saturday night, said that he has asked the FBI to assist in the investigation and that “our pledge is to provide answers in the most thorough ... manner possible.”
“My goal is to keep the public informed,” he said.
As Johnson addressed the media, more than 200 people gathered for a candlelight vigil at an Arlington church, with Taylor’s relatives asking for everyone to let the police investigation play out.
Taylor, 19, is a 2014 graduate of Mansfield Summit High School who was scheduled to start football practice this week at Angelo State University. He is accused of vandalizing a vehicle and crashing through the glass in the front of a showroom at the Classic Buick GMC dealership on the Interstate 20 service road east of Collins Street.
Police were contacted by a company that manages security cameras at the dealership at about 1 a.m. Friday, said Sgt. Paul Rodriguez, an Arlington police spokesman.
In a security video shown to the Star-Telegram on Saturday, Taylor stands on top of a car and stomps his feet on the windshield before taking it out and entering the car. He then gets out of the car and into his SUV, which he drives through the gate and the showroom’s plate-glass window.
Johnson said officers observed Taylor “freely roaming inside the dealership building.”
He said they stood outside the building and made contact with Taylor, who refused to comply with their orders to lie down. Taylor then fled to the southwest corner of the building, Johnson said.
Miller and his training officer entered the showroom and tried to arrest Taylor, Johnson said. An altercation ensued that led Miller to fire his weapon.
Johnson said police “don’t have the full understanding of Taylor’s motive.”
A national issue
Taylor’s death has raised some of the same questions as other recent police shootings involving unarmed suspects, and it coincides with the anniversary of the slaying of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, Mo. The death of Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, galvanized the “Black Lives Matter” movement and sparked protests that at times turned violent.
Johnson acknowledged that “this incident has not occurred in isolation. But rather it has occurred while our nation has been wrestling with the topics of social injustice, inequities, racism and police misconduct.”
“We recognize the importance of these topics,” Johnson said.
Johnson said “everything about the outcome of this incident is a tragedy.”
Taylor’s death resonated on social media far beyond Arlington.
Tennis star Serena Williams tweeted: “Really??????!!!!!!!!!!? are we all sleeping and this is one gigantic bad nightmare? #ChristianTaylor how many hashtags now?”
Taylor had tweeted in October that “I don’t wanna die too younggggg” and “Police taking black lives as easy as flippin a coin, with no consequences.”
Taylor’s brother Adrian Taylor said he doesn’t believe police had to use deadly force.
“My brother was 5-7 and 165 pounds,” he said. “That’s the struggle that you have. … I am sure there are a number of ways to do that without killing you.”
He said he appreciates the public interest in the case.
“But I don’t want this to be a black-and-white thing. I don’t want this to be a race thing. I want mothers and dads to teach their children how to behave around police. Police have a lot of power, and they are taking advantage of it,” said Adrian Taylor, 27. “I want them to teach their children to not try to be tough and talk smart.
“It’s easy for the police to get out of trouble situations. The police write it off and get put on paid administrative leave. Other people don’t get to push restart. They are just gone.”
‘Everything was God’
At a candlelight vigil attended by about 200 people Saturday night, the emphasis was on appreciating the fragility of life, making sure Taylor’s death was not in vain and letting the police investigation play out.
Koinonia Christian Church Pastor Ronnie Goines urged those gathered in a parking lot at the southeast Arlington church to use Taylor’s death to change themselves for the better and do positive things that Taylor is no longer around to do.
Taylor’s brothers and father also spoke, saying that while he wasn’t perfect, he seemed to have found the right path.
“For the last month, it was God. Everything was God,” brother Josh Taylor said.
His father, also named Adrian Taylor, said “we’ve got a lot of work to do. This happens every week.”
As the crowd watched a handful of balloons sail out of sight into the sky, the silence was broken only by sobs.
Completing field training
Miller, 49, joined the Police Department in September. Although he had completed the police academy and was a fully licensed officer, he was still finishing a 16-week field-training program required of new officers, Rodriguez said.
Miller, who is on paid administrative leave, has no disciplinary record and had not fired his gun in the line of duty before, Rodriguez said.
His work history is unclear. State records show his name, with the corresponding address, listed as an executive with two businesses, one of which was a Web hosting service that is now dormant.
As is standard in this type of case, investigators have not yet interviewed Miller, Johnson said.
Taylor, a sophomore at Angelo State in San Angelo, was listed on the roster as a 5-foot-9, 180-pound defensive back and was expected to compete for a starting job. He had two interceptions in the spring game for the nationally ranked school, which competes in the Lone Star Conference.
Angelo State will play a game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in September.
In his only known criminal charge, Taylor received six months’ deferred adjudication on a drug charge after police found him with 11 hydrocodone tablets that were not prescribed to him. He completed that sentence, and the case was dismissed.
Adrian Taylor said that a doctor had prescribed the medicine to his brother and that bringing it up is “totally irrelevant, in my opinion.”
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office is conducting Taylor’s autopsy. It has not released any initial findings on toxicology, and Rodriguez said he didn’t know whether police found any evidence to suggest Taylor was under the influence.
Staff writers Robert Cadwallader and Patrick M. Walker contributed to this report.
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752