Fort Worth

‘They murdered him.’ Protesters demand body camera footage of JaQuavion Slaton shooting

Angry and loud, dozens of people demanded Fort Worth officials release body camera footage from the evening 20-year-old JaQuavion Slaton was shot by multiple police officers.

The crowd, often standing and pointing to city council members, chanted “murder, murder” and “no justice, no peace” during Tuesday’s city council meeting. Speakers, often interacting with the crowd, called on the city to name the three officers that shot Slaton on Sunday. He was the fourth man Fort Worth police have shot at since June 1.

The department contends Slaton had a gun and may have fired at officers. A police spokesman Tuesday said the department currently has no plans to release body camera footage, though Councilwoman Gyna Bivens has called for it to be made public.

Those who spoke doubt a police account of the shooting.

The crowd reached its most raucous while Dallas activist Dominique Alexander was at the podium.

He began by arguing with Councilman Dennis Shingleton, who led the meeting in Mayor Betsy Price’s absence, about how long he could speak and then clapped 10 times — the number of shots one witnesses said officers fired. Police have not said how many times Slaton was shot.

Yelling emphatically, Alexander said officers should have deescalated the situation. With Slaton in a truck, surrounded by police, officers had no reason to fire, he said.

“They murdered him,” he yelled as members of the crowded joined in. He continued yelling “Let us see the tapes” at the council even as Shingleton banged his gavel and law enforcement officers moved into demand the crowd settle down.

More than 50 were in the crowd to hear comments about Slaton’s shooting, including his father, James Martin, and girlfriend, Raya Arzu. Fifteen people spoke about the shooting.

At least three Fort Worth officers shot Slaton as he hid in a white flatbed truck in the 5200 block of East Berry Street on Sunday afternoon.

The situation began around 4 p.m. when officers were called to a disturbance involving a suspect with a felony warrant in the 4500 block of Jennifer Court. The man fled, but officers spotted him in a car with two other people, one of whom was arrested, police said.

When officers stopped the car, Slaton and 17-year-old Jevon Monroe ran. They saw Slaton holding a handgun as they chased him, according to the police statement. When they found him in the truck in the back yard of a home on East Berry, Slaton didn’t comply with orders, according to police.

Slaton “made an overt action placing the officers in fear for their lives,” according to the police press release. Officers then shot him. One witnesses reported at least 10 shots were fired.

A handgun was found with Slaton in the truck, police said.

University of Texas at Tyler police had been looking for Slaton in connection with an aggravated assault report involving a handgun filed in late April.

Rodney McIntosh told the council he doubted the police account. He wanted proof Slaton was both armed and acted aggressively toward officers. He said police had pushed out information about Slaton’s warrant to demonize him and justify the shooting.

McIntosh said Slaton’s life was ended before he could contribute positively to family and community, offering his own life as an example. When he was Slaton’s age, McIntosh said he was a member of the Truman Street Bloods and had committed several crimes, but 20 years later he is pastor of Fort Worth’s Christ the Risen King Bible Church.

“We will never know the impact he would have had on his people because you decided as police officers we was going to stop his life,” he said. “How many of you at 20 years old didn’t make mistakes?”

Tuesday marked the third night in a row community members had gathered to voice unease.

Immediately following the shooting Sunday, hundreds gathered on East Berry Street, chanting at officers. On Monday about 70 attended a preplanned meeting of the Tarrant County Coalition for Community Oversight where the focus was on civilian review of the police department.

Fear and mistrust spread rapidly in the neighborhood, said Bivens, who represents the neighborhood where Slaton was shot. A false rumor that police shot an unarmed 15-year-old spurred much of the anxiety, she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before Tuesday’s meeting. It’s unclear where that information originated, but it circulated quickly on social media Sunday.

By Tuesday, Bivens said corrected reports had calmed tension, but many in the community were still confused. She called the rumors of officers shooting an unarmed teen “irresponsible and destructive.”

“Whoever put that out there did a lot damage not just to the community, but the whole city,” she said.

Bivens has called on the police department to release body camera video and other information as soon as possible.

“Only transparency the will help trust,” she said.

Council members, as a practice, generally do not address commentators directly.

Despite the strident calls for the release of body camera video, the police department said Tuesday night that it did not intend to provide the images to the public.

“There are currently no plans to release any footage. The investigation is still ongoing,” said Officer Brad Perez, a department spokesman.

The three officers who fired their guns at Slaton have been employed by the Fort Worth Police Department for five, seven and 10 years. All three were placed on administrative leave while the Major Case Unit and Internal Affairs Unit investigate, as is standard practice. Their findings will be forwarded to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office for grand jury review upon conclusion of the investigations.

Slaton was the fourth person Fort Worth police shot at in June and the second to be killed by officers.

On June 1, a SWAT officer fatally shot a man who police say had barricaded himself in his father’s house on Sixth Avenue after he pointed a rifle at officers. Cody Seals, 38, was shot when he came back out of the house holding an object in a “shooting stance,” police said. Police later determined the object was a flashlight.

On June 5, a Fort Worth police officer shot a burglary suspect he had been trying to handcuff when the man charged at the officer in the front yard of a house on the city’s south side, the police department said. The officer first tried to use a taser, but the suspect pulled out the wires, police said. Esteban Vasquez, 27, was shot in the upper torso and was in critical condition at a hospital, police said.

Also on June 5, an officer shot at murder suspect Martin Charles Wilson while trying to arrest him in the killing of his uncle James Wilson Sr. Martin Wilson was holding a cellphone while running toward officers but was pretending it was a gun because his cousin was shooting at him, police said. The murder victim’s son was the other person who shot at Martin Wilson, police said. No one was injured, and both Martin Wilson and James Wilson Jr. were arrested, police said.

Emerson Clarridge contributed to this report.
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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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