Fired Arlington officer regrets shooting teen but feels he had no choice, pastor says

Fired rookie police officer Brad Miller “deeply regrets” fatally shooting 19-year-old burglary suspect Christian Taylor but felt he was in a “life-threatening” situation, Miller’s pastor said Thursday.

Gary Smith, senior pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, said he has counseled Miller, 49, since the Aug. 7 shooting at a car dealership in south Arlington.

“I had ministry with him,” Smith said. “I think he deeply regrets the loss of life, but he feels he was in a life-threatening state of circumstances and he responded as best he knew how.”

Miller joined the police force in September, graduated from the academy in March and was finishing a 16-week field-training program.

He was fired Tuesday by Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson, who said Miller “exercised poor judgment” that led to “cascading consequences.”

Taylor, a defensive back on the football team at Angelo State University, was shot to death after officers responded to a burglary call at the Classic Buick GMC dealership. Security video shows Taylor vandalizing a car in the parking lot before he crashed his SUV through the glass front of the showroom.

Taylor’s funeral is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Koinonia Christian Church in southeast Arlington, where Taylor attended.

Taylor was a 2014 graduate of Mansfield Summit High School and was expected to begin football practice this week at Angelo State, an NCAA Division II school in San Angelo.

Coaches and players from the school are expected to attend the funeral, a school spokeswoman said Thursday.

When contacted Tuesday, Miller’s wife, Leslea Miller, declined to comment to the Star-Telegram. She did not respond to a message Thursday. Miller’s attorney, John Snider, declined to comment Thursday.

On Wednesday, Snider criticized Johnson for firing Miller, saying the decision “is an insult to the rank-and-file officers who put their lives on the line every day.”

Johnson said that once the criminal investigation into the shooting is complete, the case will be turned over to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, which could submit it to a grand jury.

No police officers have been indicted in Tarrant County for fatally shooting someone in at least 20 years, according to current and former prosecutors in the district attorney’s office.

Miller, who lives with his wife in a modest home near Lake Arlington, “realizes that he has lost his dream here,” Smith said.

“He’s not depressed,” Smith said. “But he’s just trying to figure out what the future holds, how he’s got to support a family and get another career. He’s trying to work his way through all those decisions.”

‘Brad cut my hair’

Smith, who spoke at a special prayer meeting Wednesday night, told the Star-Telegram on Thursday that he’s not commenting about who was right or wrong when he talks about Miller.

But he said Arlington police have handled the matter professionally.

“There’s been a significant effort on their part to get the facts out as quickly as possible,” he said. “In those other cities [where police shootings have sparked violence], in the absence of facts, people make up their own.”

Arlington police have held two news conferences since the shooting, which happened almost exactly a year after the fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., of another black teen, Michael Brown, whose death galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.

Smith said people familiar with Miller only through media coverage don’t really know him. He described Miller as a “fine man who was delighted with the opportunity to be a policeman.”

A licensed cosmetologist, Miller hung up his shears for that opportunity.

“Brad cut my hair,” said Smith, who has known Miller for years. “I was one of his first customers.”

Smith said he’s a bit annoyed that so many people ask how a 49-year-old could become police officer. The answer: He has to want it, Smith said.

“Brad was in great physical condition because he knew that’s what it took at 49 to be a policeman,” Smith said.

He said Miller and his son Nathan, an Arlington firefighter, would go to the gym and work out together.

Posting on his Facebook page the day after the shooting, Nathan Miller quoted from Psalm 9:9-10: The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

“God is always bigger. Always,” Nathan Miller wrote.

A ‘crazy’ connection

Smith said he counseled Brad Miller’s family in another stressful matter, one that went on for years. It culminated in June, when Miller’s father-in-law, convicted killer Les Bower Jr., was executed.

Miller’s wife is the daughter of Les and Shari Bower.

Smith said the Bowers were members of the church before Les Bower was convicted in 1984. Smith became Fielder Church’s pastor in 1991 and met often with Shari, who was still struggling emotionally over her husband’s confinement.

Bower, 67, was convicted of killing four men in an airplane hangar near Sherman in October 1983.

“We were just always trying to give her support, hoping he would get a new trial,” Smith said.

Bower’s family maintained that he was innocent of the killings, which prosecutors say he committed to cover up the theft of an ultralight airplane.

“The daughter [Leslea Miller] never had a dad. He was in prison, on Death Row, all those years,” Smith said.

Smith said he has thought about the two high-profile events.

“It’s crazy that both of these are connected to our church,” he said.

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7186

Twitter: @Kaddmann_ST

Christian Taylor funeral

▪ ▪ 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Koinonia Christian Church, 2455 SE Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington

▪ Burial at Skyvue Memorial Gardens, 7220 Rendon Bloodworth Road, Mansfield

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