A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict an Arlington police officer Wednesday who was fired after fatally shooting a teen who was high on drugs and had broken into a car dealership.
Christian Taylor, 19, a Mansfield Summit High graduate who played football at Angelo State University, was shot four times by rookie officer Brad Miller, 49, on Aug. 7.
The shooting of Taylor, who was unarmed, reverberated nationwide as police departments and communities grappled with repeated stories about young black men dying after fatal encounters with police officers. Taylor’s death came two days before the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an incident that galvanized the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
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 Tarrant County district attorney’s office and a search of the Star-Telegram’s archives.
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Attorney Mike Heiskell, who has been assisting Taylor’s family since the fatal shooting, said the teen’s parents are distraught and disappointed and asked for privacy.
“We were hoping and praying for [Miller] to be held accountable in criminal court for the unprincipled way he conducted himself which led him to fire his Glock 9 mm into an unarmed Christian four separate times,” Heiskell said. “Those hopes have been dashed.”
Attorney John Snider, who represented Miller, said he wanted to thank the members of the grand jury for their service and for taking the time to consider all the facts in the case.
“Too often, police officers’ decisions are judged without proper consideration of the tense and dangerous situations they face,” Snider said. “Brad Miller, like many other police officers, was forced to make a split-second decision to protect his life and the lives of his fellow officers. The grand jury made the right decision.”
District Attorney Sharen Wilson said that “we respect the grand jurors’ decision and appreciate the time they have committed to serve the citizens of our County.”
Arlington police declined to comment.
Drugs in his system
Taylor had traces of marijuana and a synthetic psychedelic drug in his system after his death. The synthetic drug, 25I-NBOMe — called “N-Bomb” — is supposed to mimic the effects of LSD. The Arlington teen had 0.76 nanogram of the drug per milliliter of blood in his system at the time of his death, according to the medical examiner. A nanogram is a billionth of a gram.
Taylor had been home with his family in Arlington and was just days away from beginning football practice at Angelo State, where he was expected to compete for a starting job at cornerback after making two interceptions in the team’s spring game.
Heiskell said he hopes to sit down with Taylor’s family soon and explore options, which include the filing of a civil lawsuit. Findings that Taylor was under the influence of marijuana laced with a synthetic drug and was acting erratically provides no excuse for a law enforcement officer to take his life, Heiskell said.
Security video from the Classic Buick GMC dealership shows Taylor jumping on and vandalizing a new Ford Mustang in the parking lot. He also crashed an SUV through the glass front of the showroom. It was inside the showroom that Miller confronted him.
Cpl. Dale Wiggins and Miller went to secure the west side of the building as other officers established a perimeter around the structure where Taylor was spotted, Johnson said.
But Miller failed to communicate with other officers, including his field training officer, that he intended to enter the building in pursuit of the burglar, Arlington police Chief Will Johnson said. Miller also failed to formulate an arrest plan with his supervisor and his fellow officers and didn’t wait for other officers to assist in apprehending the burglar, Johnson said.
Johnson said Miller “exercised poor judgment” that led to “cascading consequences.”
His “unilateral decision to enter the building alone and to pursue [Taylor] helped create an unrecoverable outcome,” Johnson said.
No physical contact made
According to police policy, an example of an arrest plan would be to designate three officers and assign them different tasks, a police spokesman said. One would provide cover fire if needed, while another would be assigned Taser duty to subdue the suspect in case he became non-compliant or combative. The third officer would place the suspect in handcuffs.
None of those discussions took place because Miller rushed ahead without a plan, Johnson said.
Except for an emergency, “an officer does not enter a building alone without communicating your intent to other officers,” Johnson said.
Miller told investigators that after he entered the building, Taylor approached him screaming. Miller and other officers saw a bulge in his shorts, which Miller thought was a weapon, Johnson said.
Wiggins told investigators that he heard a “pop” that he believed was a Taser being discharged.
It was actually Miller firing his service weapon, Johnson said.
In response, Wiggins deployed his Taser, and after that, Miller fired his gun three more times. There was no physical contact between Taylor and the two officers, Johnson said. The bulge in Taylor’s pocket was found to be a wallet and a cellphone, Johnson said.
Taylor came within 7 to 10 feet of Miller and Wiggins, Johnson said.
Officer indicted in non-fatal shooting
In the past six years in Tarrant County’s 10 largest cities, including Fort Worth, Arlington and North Richland Hills, at least 30 people have been killed by law enforcement officers, according to numbers compiled by the Star-Telegram.
While none of the officers were indicted, a Fort Worth police officer was indicted in March on charges of aggravated assault after responding to a call regarding a prowler armed with a knife in the 1300 block of New York Avenue on June 23.
Courtney Johnson, 34, a white officer who has been with the department since 2013, has been accused of injuring Craigory Adams, 55. Johnson discharged his shotgun and Adams was struck in the arm during the encounter.
Police have said they believe the shooting was unintentional and not racially motivated. Adams continues to recover from his injuries, according to family members.
This article includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.