Family questions who shot first in Arlington police shootout. Chief says it’s clear

Arlington’s police chief said he believes it’s clear who fired the first round in a shootout between two of his officers and a 20-year-old man last Friday.

Three videos of the Jan. 11 shooting — taken from the dashcam of one officer and body cameras from two others — were released to the public Thursday afternoon.

An Arlington police officer stopped a black Toyota Corolla when the driver did not use a turn signal. Prior to the stop, Chief Will Johnson said the officer did a routine check on the license plate and found the car had been involved in a November drug case.

The driver and passenger in the front seat — Jessica Lee Lawson and Tre’Shun Miller — had been released from jail on bond in that case, he said.

During the stop, the officer smelled marijuana in the car and requested backup.

The occupants of the car began to question why the officer was waiting and what was happening. The officer told them he’d tell them soon, and then asked them to stay off their cellphones. He told them they could record them if they wished, but asked for officer safety purposes that they not make any phone calls.

About 10 to 15 minutes after the stop, two other officers — a male and a female — showed up. The first officer then asked Lawson to get out of the car.

The female officer began to search Lawson while the other officer walked to the passenger side of the car, where Miller was sitting in the front seat.

Miller was asked to get out of the car, which he did. As the officer tried to grab his hands, Miller twisted around and ran toward the side of a building.

Two officers ran after Miller. The female officer stayed behind at the car.

In the body camera videos, four to five gunshots can be heard. As shots ring out, the first officer falls to the ground and screams out. There’s a pause, then the second officer keeps running, begins firing and empties his magazine. It’s unknown how many shots were fired after the initial four to five gunshots. Johnson said there will be ballistic testing.

Miller was shot and fell near a curb. The officer then called for an ambulance. That officer was placed on routine administrative leave after the shooting and has not been identified.

“Shots fired, officer down, suspect down,” he says into his radio before the video ends.

The officer who was shot is a 17-year veteran with Arlington police and was one of the backup officers who responded. He did not unholster his weapon or fire any shots, police said. He was hit in his pelvic area and has been released from the hospital.

Lawson and the two men in the backseat were not charged and detectives said they are cooperating with the investigation.

Those passengers told Miller’s family that police shot first and Miller returned fire in self-defense. A Dallas attorney who has been retained by the family, Justin A. Moore, said after viewing the footage earlier Thursday that the video is “inconclusive.”

Asked if the officer who remained at the car with the passengers was able to witness the shooting, Johnson said he wouldn’t speculate on what she saw.

Johnson said two investigations are being conducted, one an administrative inquiry to determine if the officers acted appropriately, and a second criminal investigation of all involved in the shooting.

Asked if he believes whether his officers acted appropriately, Johnson said he thinks it’s important to remain neutral as both investigations unfold.

Johnson reiterated that the passengers and driver had been out on the street on bond. He expressed frustration about a court system that allows offenders to leave jail on bond who then may put the public at risk.

The system, he said, helps “to contribute to a perpetual revolving door of interactions for police officers and these individuals who may be on a downward spiral or worse.”

“For the police officer on the street, that’s incredibly frustrating,” he said.

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.