In fact, witnesses told reporters, Price had tried to break up a fight inside the gas station before Wolfe City police officer Shaun Lucas showed up. But Lucas, who is White, ended up Tasering Price and then fatally shooting him, authorities said.
The Wolfe City Police Department quickly suspended Lucas, and on Monday, the Texas Rangers arrested the police officer and charged him with murder in connection with Price’s death.
“The preliminary investigation indicates that the actions of Officer Lucas were not … reasonable,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement shared with The Washington Post.
The arrest comes after an emotional plea from Price’s family on Monday and a peaceful demonstration in Wolfe City. Price became the latest Black man killed by police to spark national demands for law enforcement reform, as #JusticeForJonathan trended on social media throughout Monday.
“I want to see the man get what’s coming to him for killing my son,” Junior Price, his father, said, WFAA reported.
Jonathan Price grew up in Wolfe City, a town of about 1,400 located more than an hour northeast of Dallas, starring as an athlete and playing alongside future Major League Baseball player Will Middlebrooks, who called him his “first ever favorite teammate.” He later played football in 2008 for Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Tex., before returning to his hometown to work in the municipal works department, Heavy.com reported.
“He was a great guy. He was a hometown hero. He was a motivational speaker. He worked with kids,” Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Price’s family, said at a Monday news conference.
Officials have released few details about what happened on Saturday. State officials said Lucas was called just before 8:30 p.m. to investigate a fight at the Kwik Check gas station in downtown Wolfe City. When the officer tried to detain Price, the DPS said, he “resisted in a nonthreatening posture and began walking away.”
Lucas Tasered him and then shot him; Price later died at a nearby hospital. Police have not said whether Price was armed.
Witnesses at the scene, though, told reporters that Price was simply trying to stop a confrontation. According to Merritt, Price stepped in when he noticed a man “assaulting a woman” at the gas station.
“When police arrived, I’m told, he raised his hands and attempted to explain what was going on,” Merritt wrote on Facebook. “Police fired tasers at him and when his body convulsed from the electrical current, they ‘perceived a threat’ and shot him to death.”
Price’s father said on Monday that he rushed to the gas station after the shooting and confronted Lucas, who was still on the scene as they waited for an ambulance. Lucas refused to say why he had shot Price, his father said.
“He just told me to get back. He said he’d tell me later. And later ain’t gotten here yet,” he said at the news conference.
The gas station has given police surveillance video that shows the shooting, Merritt said, though the family’s legal team has yet to see it. Merritt said he spoke to Wolfe City Police Chief Matthew Martin, who has not yet publicly commented on the case, and that Martin said “he was not happy with what he saw.”
Merritt called for swift justice in the case.
“This didn’t happen quickly. It should happened the day he murdered JP. John should still be here,” he wrote on Facebook. “This is step one. Let’s see it through to justice.”