Arlington officer charged with killing man in traffic stop had history of bad behavior

An officer who was indicted earlier this year on a charge of criminally negligent homicide had a history of violating Arlington police policies, including a time when he threatened a man with a knife and lied about a suspect in a DUI case, according to court documents.

Bau Tran shot and killed O’Shae Terry in September 2018 after Terry tried to take off from a traffic stop in Arlington.

He was fired from the department for violating policies in relation to the shooting and was indicted in May.

Court documents filed on Friday show that state prosecutors plan to introduce evidence during the trial of other policies that Tran is accused of breaking during his time as an Arlington police officer. They call the evidence “extraneous offenses, bad acts and bad character” of Tran.

In May 2012, Tran threatened a resident with a knife while off-duty. During a confrontation with the resident, Tran said, “What the (expletive) are you looking at?” and then pulled a knife on the man, the document says.

He was suspended from duty for one day without pay. The document doesn’t give any additional details on how or why the confrontation began. The Star-Telegram has filed a records request in an attempt to get more information about this incident and the others mentioned in the state’s document.

Then, in May 2017 while off-duty, Tran was found in violation of the department’s unbecoming conduct policy for putting on his police uniform shirt, getting out of his personal vehicle and confronting a resident after “a road rage incident,” the document says.

In another incident that wasn’t dated, Tran was accused of lying to a sergeant about a driving while intoxicated suspect. The document doesn’t give any more details.

Other behavior by Tran listed in the document includes a time he allegedly called a man a bad father and threatened to take him to jail, a time when he used his patrol vehicle for something other than city business, and an incident where he failed to tell a woman she was under arrest and didn’t handcuff her despite her being a suspect in a felony.

The 2018 shooting

Tran was standing on the passenger side of Terry’s SUV as another officer made preparations to search the vehicle after saying she smelled marijuana. Officer Julie Herlihy originally stopped Terry because the temporary tag on the SUV he was driving showed it to be expired.

About 10 minutes into the stop, Terry started to roll up his windows. Tran grabbed the top of the passenger side window with his left hand, ordered Terry to stop, stepped onto the foot rail, put his right arm inside the vehicle and then brought it back out to reach for his gun, the video shows.

Dashcam footage from the shooting shows the car’s back lights lit up at 13:55:27. At 13:55:44, the car moved forward and about a second later, the first of at least four shots are fired.

Terry was killed and his passenger, Terrence Harmon, said he had to remove Terry’s foot from the gas pedal in order to stop the moving vehicle.

A trial hasn’t been set, but prosecutors have said they don’t plan to offer Tran any kind of plea deal.

Randy Moore, Tran’s defense attorney, said his client was justified in his actions.

Asked by a Star-Telegram reporter in October 2018 why Tran didn’t let the car drive off since he had Terry’s name, Moore said, “There’s an inherent flaw in that opinion” and said that if Tran allowed Terry to leave the scene, a pursuit could have started or a crash may have happened.

“He was shot because the officer felt his life was in danger during the commission of the felony,” Moore 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.