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Just two days after 31-year-old Jonathan Price was killed by police in North Texas, the Texas Rangers on Monday arrested the officer they say shot him, saying the officer’s actions did not seem “objectively reasonable.”
Wolfe City police officer Shaun Lucas, who is white, was arrested on suspicion of murder in the death of Price, who was Black, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement. Wolfe City officials have declined to comment on the shooting outside of noting on Sunday that the Rangers were investigating the incident and the officer was on administrative leave pending the investigation.
As tensions in America continue to escalate over police brutality and systemic racism, Lucas’ arrest came relatively fast compared to other high-profile Texas police shootings that have resulted in officers facing criminal charges. Amber Guyger, who shot and killed Botham Jean in his own Dallas apartment after she said she mistook it for her own, was arrested three days after the shooting, but police who kill people are often not arrested unless a grand jury chooses to indict them.
Scott Bowman, an associate criminology professor at Texas State University, said the speed of the arrest likely indicates the shooting is a “clear-cut case.”
“Whatever they saw, whatever they received in statements or whatever the visual evidence ... indicated, they felt they had enough to charge him with murder almost immediately, which in terms of policing is unheard of,” he said.
WFAA reported that surveillance footage from security cameras at the gas station where the shooting occurred was handed over to the Rangers.
But Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney in Dallas who is representing Price’s family, said in a Facebook post that the arrest didn’t happen quickly.
“It should [have] happened the day he murdered [Price]. John should still be here,” he wrote. “This did happen because this family fought for their son from the beginning and people worked hard both behind the scenes and in the public eye to make it happen.”
On Saturday night, police in the small town about 70 miles northeast of Dallas were called to a disturbance, according to DPS. Merritt said Price had seen a man assaulting a woman and intervened. When police arrived, Merritt said Price raised his hands and tried to explain what was happening. DPS said Lucas tried to detain Price, who “resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away.”
Lucas fired a taser at Price, then shot him, DPS said.
Robert Rogers, Lucas' attorney who often represents North Texas police officers — including Guyger, said Tuesday in a statement that Price resisted being detained and repeatedly refused instructions given by Lucas.
"Mr. Price resisted the effects of the taser and attempted to take it away from Officer Lucas," Rogers said. "Officer Lucas only discharged his weapon in accordance with Texas law when he was confronted with an aggressive assailant who was attempting to take his taser."
Texas Rangers disagreed.
"The preliminary investigation indicates that the actions of Officer Lucas were not objectively reasonable and, therefore, not justifiable force," the agency's statement read.
Lucas was booked into the Hunt County Jail on a $1 million bond, according to Hunt County jail records. He was later transferred to the Rockwall County Jail, WFAA reported.
Officials at Texas' top police unions, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas and the Texas Municipal Police Association, did not comment on the shooting. Without more information, CLEAT executive director Charley Wilkison said, any comment would be speculation.
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Correction: This story included an incorrect description of the reason why Shaun Lucas was arrested in connection with Jonathan Price’s death. The Texas Department of Public Safety gave reporters the incorrect terminology on Oct. 5. The agency revised its statement on Oct. 6 to say Lucas’ actions were not “objectively reasonable” instead of saying they were not “objectionably reasonable.”