An armed 20-year-old man was repeatedly told to put his hands up before officers opened fire on him as he hid in a parked truck, according to the police chief and body camera video released Thursday.
JaQuavion Slaton suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of his head in addition to multiple shots fired by police, according to Tarrant County Chief Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani. All of the gunshot wounds, except for one to his arm, were potentially fatal, Peerwani said.
The death has been ruled a homicide, but an investigation continues into whether the self-inflicted wound was intentional or accidental, according to the medical examiner.
Slaton was shot to death on Sunday evening on East Berry Street after police had chased him through a southeast Fort Worth neighborhood.
“Aerial photographs showed pedestrians around the area,” interim Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said in a news conference as body cam video from officers was released. “Police came up behind the truck and eventually in front of the vehicle.”
The video showed officers with guns drawn ordering Slaton, who had outstanding warrants on charges of assault and evading arrest, to “put your hands up” and “put down the gun,” before the police chief said he “raised the loaded gun” and officers fired.
The view of Slaton inside the truck is obstructed in the video, but officers’ commands to Slaton can be heard before several open fire. Kraus, who presented the video, said officers found a loaded handgun and shell casing in the truck.
Police also are testing ballistics on Slaton’s gun as part of the investigation, Kraus said.
The case will be turned over to a Tarrant County grand jury for consideration after the investigation.
Kraus said that though the video doesn’t clearly show it, officers saw Slaton raise his gun. In a statement issued Monday, police said Slaton made an action that put “officers in fear of their lives.”
The video is from the point of view of an officer positioned in front of the flatbed truck. The camera does not have a clear view into the cab, where Slaton was found hiding. Several officers are visible on both sides of the truck, but Kraus did not say if or when their body camera footage would be released.
Richard Vazquez, a community leader, said tensions are high in the neighborhood and there is a lot of mistrust toward police. This release of video was a good first step, he said, but more information, including additional video and accounts from other officers, would answer questions about what happened.
“My community is not going to be satisfied until we know more,” he said.
Kraus said the video was released in an effort to answer questions raised by the community and it shows, “our officers were not on a mission to take anyone’s life that day.”
Since the shooting many, including Dallas advocate Dominique Alexander, have said police should have “de-escalated” the situation. Alexander said officers should have negotiated with Slaton, who was surrounded by police.
“He should not have come out of that truck in a body bag,” he said.
An NAACP official who attended the Thursday morning news conference said it was good that more information was released.
“I’m hoping there will be some changes,” said Estella Williams, president of the Fort Worth Tarrant County branch of the NAACP. “We know there have been lots of shootings in recent weeks, and we need information.”
Following the presentation, Mayor Betsy Price called the shooting a tragedy and “a no win situation.”
She wouldn’t speculate whether the video showed officers acted appropriately, but said its release within four days of the incident was a sign of improved transparency.
Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, who represents the area near the Stop Six neighborhood where Slaton was shot, said the video should begin to answer questions about the shooting, but more information was still needed. She said she was concerned other video may be too graphic.
The Fort Worth Police Department held the media briefing about the shooting Thursday morning at the Bob Bolen Safety Complex auditorium.
Police have previously reported that officers were called out to a disturbance involving Slaton, a suspect in an aggravated assault in Tyler, in the 4500 block of Jennifer Court about 4 p.m. Sunday.
June 9 was the fourth time officers had been called to that address to look for Slaton, who was considered armed and dangerous, Kraus said at Thursday’s press conference.
On Sunday afternoon, Slaton fled before officers arrived, but officers soon saw him in a car with two other people. Raya Arzu, the mother of Slaton’s 4-month-old son, was driving and remained with the car when police stopped it on East Berry Street.
Slaton and 17-year-old Jevon Monroe ran from the vehicle as officers approached, police said.
Officers saw Slaton holding a handgun while they chased him, and they quickly lost sight of him, police said. The police chief noted officers did not fire at Slaton as they chased him even though they were just a few feet from him at times, according to the video.
While searching the area for both suspects, police in a helicopter saw Monroe hiding under the truck in the back yard of a house near 5200 E. Berry St. Officers approached Monroe and were able to take him into custody without incident, police said.
The video showed an object in Slaton’s hand as he ran. Police say that was the gun found with him in the truck. Officers who arrested Monroe asked him where Slaton was and where the gun was, according to body camera video.
Officers continued to search for Slaton and soon found him inside the truck that was parked in the back yard, police said.
Officers gave “numerous verbal commands” to Slaton and he did not comply, police said. As officers tried to break the glass of the truck to get a better view of the him, Slaton “made an overt action placing the officers in fear for their lives,” police said in a statement Monday. “Three officers responded to this threat with deadly force,” the statement said.
The three officers who fired their weapons are assigned to the Special Response Team and have been employed by the department for five, seven and 10 years. All three were placed on administrative leave while Major Case Unit and the Internal Affairs Unit investigate the shooting, as is standard practice. Their findings will be forwarded to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office for grand jury review.
Monroe was arrested and is charged with evading arrest. He also was wanted on a burglary warrant in Louisiana, police said. Arzu was not charged.