‘Why was deadly force used?’ Arlington protesters ask

Protest at Arlington Police Department

Questions remain in death of Christian Taylor
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Questions remain in death of Christian Taylor

Chalk messages in the parking lot of Arlington police headquarters Monday night declared “Dreams lost” and “No justice, No peace” in bright pinks, blues and yellows that glowed in contrast to the grief behind the words.

Protesters’ signs said “Stop target practice” and “Black lives matter.”

“We are here to honor the memory of Christian Taylor, to help the family through their grief and to protest the ongoing disgrace of police brutality,” said John Fullinwider, a founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality.

Christian Taylor, 19 and a college sophomore, was killed early Friday after a rookie officer responded to a burglary call at a car dealership.

Taylor, who was unarmed, died of gunshots in his neck, chest and abdomen, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.

When Fullinwider was reminded that several of Taylor’s relatives have said they don’t see his death as a racial issue, Fullinwider said he understood that. Anglos have also been unjustly killed by police, Fullinwider said.

Taylor’s family also asked that any demonstrations remain peaceful.

“The family is appealing for harmony and peaceful dissent,” Fullinwider said. “But the Black Lives Matter movement has it exactly right. All lives can’t matter until black lives matter.”

Sara Mokuria, another founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, said she will fight against police brutality even if it means she loses her own life.

Residents are engaged in a war for their lives and are tired of seeing their children’s promise stolen away from them, Mokuria said.

“I have a 5-year-old son and this is not a world I want him to live in,” she said.

Collette Flanagan, also a founder of the group, said it did not matter what narrative of vandalism had been offered to justify Taylor’s shooting. Teens make mistakes and they should be able to live to correct them, Flanagan said.

“The harshest thing that should have happened to Christian that day is that he should have been arrested, and his parents would have come to pick him up and bail him out. Then he would have gotten some type of probation,” Flanagan said. “If that had happened he would have been at football practice today. Not being buried.”

Richard McCray Jr., who identified himself as Taylor’s 23-year-old cousin, said the officer who fired his weapon should not be allowed to remain on the police force.

“Why was deadly force used when my cousin was not a deadly threat?” McCray asked.

After the protest at police headquarters, about 15 demonstators walked down Division Street, blocking traffic at Cooper and Abrams streets and watched by an officer.

No FBI investigation

The FBI said Monday that it will not join the investigation of Taylor’s shooting as requested by Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson.

The agency “has full confidence in the ability” of Arlington police and local prosecutors to investigate what happened, said Allison Mahan, an FBI spokeswoman in Dallas.

Mahan said the FBI would likely join the case “if in the course of the investigation, information comes to light of a potential civil-rights violation.”

Arlington police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Police release recording

Earlier Monday, Arlington police made an unusually direct response to postings on social media and released the full recording of the communication between officers at the Classic Buick GMC dealership and dispatchers Friday night.

They said an audiotape on social media “grossly misrepresents the facts and makes a false claim.”

Some of the comments questioned the early police accounts of the shooting, and one video published on YouTube said police shot Taylor less than one second after making contact with the suspect.

The audio released by police Monday — a 16-minute, 21-second recording of the talk between officers at the scene and dispatchers — shows that the shooting occurred about two minutes after police first made contact with Taylor.

“We understand that in this day of advanced technology and the proliferation of social media, erroneous information can quickly spread and may be viewed by some as accurate and official; however, we urge the media and the public to rely upon official information provided by the Arlington Police Department as it pertains to this investigation,” police said in a news release.

Late Monday, Arlington police released audio of the Aug. 7 burglary call at a car dealership that resulted in the shooting of an African-American teen-ager by a rookie police officer. (Audio provided by Arlington Police Department.)

Officers responding to the burglary call said Taylor had used a vehicle to crash into the showroom window of the dealership on the Interstate 20 service road east of Collins Street in south Arlington.

Officers confronted him and there was a fight. Officer Brad Miller, 49, fired four times, killing Taylor, police said. Miller’s field training officer, who is a 19-year-veteran and a corporal with the department and has not been identified, deployed his Taser.

As the police recording hits the 12:07 mark, one voice says that he has seen a man in the building who looks as though he has a straw hat on and asks others if they have seen a man with a straw hat on. The top of Taylor’s hair was blond.

At the 14:13 minute mark on the tape, someone says, “We got shots fired.” And then someone asks for an ambulance and requests that they “run code.” Taylor’s body was found on the main showroom floor of the dealership, police said.

The audiotape did not record the shooting, and no video footage of the shooting has been located, according to police.

Police said they would have more information once they interview Miller, which was scheduled to occur Monday. Investigators interviewed Miller’s training officer during the weekend, police said.

Both Miller and the officer were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the Police Department investigation.

On Ferguson anniversary

Taylor’s death came as the nation marked the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Mo., which galvanized the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

In a statement from the Arlington branch of the NAACP, officials said they want a clearer picture that explains the rookie officer’s decision to use lethal force in shooting Taylor and the role of the training officer who was there.

The question is “what level of threat did Christian pose that prompted the officer to use a lethal level of force?” the statement says.

“On the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, it is unfortunate that Arlington joins the ranks of Ferguson, Cleveland, New York City, Baltimore and many other communities in which the lives of unarmed citizens are lost at the hands of law enforcement,” the statement said. “The Arlington NAACP will vigorously advocate for those whose civil rights have been violated and we will seek justice in their name.”

The Arlington NAACP also questioned the in-custody death of Jonathan Ryan Paul, 42, who was found unresponsive in an Arlington jail cell within hours of his arrest, according to authorities.

Paul was pronounced dead on March 13 by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office, who listed the cause as “in-custody death with application of physical restraints.”

Psychosis was listed as a contributing factor, according to the autopsy. Paul’s manner of death remains listed “undetermined.”

A spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office said Paul’s case is still under investigation and could be presented to a grand jury in the future. Paul’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against the police and the city of Arlington.

Taylor is a 2014 graduate of Mansfield Summit High School who was scheduled to start football practice Wednesday at Angelo State University.

Mayor Jeff Williams said in a statement that the racial dynamics of police incidents around the country have driven a wedge between community groups. That’s not characteristic of Arlington, the statement said.

“Arlington is a growing, diverse city,” Williams said. “Residents and leaders alike are committed to continuing our efforts to be the most inclusive and representative community possible. But, it is clear we are not there yet.

“Strong dialogues were already happening with community and neighborhood leaders, and it is imperative that these conversations continue and expand in the weeks and months so our community can become closer and stronger.”

Surveillance footage released to the Star-Telegram Sunday by an employee of Classic Buick GMC shows a teen breaking into the Arlington dealership. The altercation with police in which Christian Taylor was hit with a stun gun and shot in the chest,

Staff writer Robert Cadwallader contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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