A North Texas police officer who was charged with murder this week after fatally shooting a Black man was fired Thursday, officials announced, days after becoming one of the rare law enforcement officers to face criminal prosecution for shooting and killing someone while on duty.
The incident drew national attention, with witnesses telling reporters that Price had been trying to break up a fight before Lucas arrived.
On Monday, the Texas Rangers charged Lucas with murder, saying that his actions “were not objectively reasonable and, therefore, not justifiable force.” An attorney for Lucas, meanwhile, has defended his actions, saying Price ignored the officer’s orders and tried to grab Lucas’s Taser.
Since Lucas was charged, his job status has remained unclear, with police and officials in Wolfe City declining to respond to repeated requests for comment about the shooting and whether Lucas remained employed. He has been moved from jail to jail in the community, which officials have also not publicly explained.
A statement released Thursday by the city said that because Lucas was a certified peace officer, Wolfe City “was required to conduct an administrative investigation of Mr. Lucas’s misconduct.” Lucas was terminated from the department that day “for his egregious violation of the City’s and police department’s policies,” the statement said.
An attorney for Lucas defended his actions during the encounter.
“Mr. Lucas acted within policy and law during this entire incident,” John Snider, the attorney, wrote in an email. “He attempted to detain Mr. Price and was met with physical resistance. Mr. Lucas only discharged his pistol as a last resort in response to an aggressive assailant who was actively trying to take his taser.”
Snider said there was no appeal process available for Lucas to challenge the firing.
The city’s statement did not provide further details about what specific policies Lucas violated. Police and city officials have not responded to multiple requests for the use-of-force policies used by the police force.
“As the Mayor and Council of Wolfe City we want to extend our gratitude that the gatherings in support of Mr. Price and his family have remained peaceful,” the statement said. “Wolfe City is a tightknit community, and we join you in mourning Jonathan’s death and the events of the last week.”
The statement also noted that many city employees had worked with both Lucas and Price. It said Wolfe City and its police force have been cooperating with both the Texas Rangers’ investigation and the district attorney’s office.
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A probable cause affidavit in the case made public Wednesday said Lucas was responding to a possible fight at the Kwik Check convenience store when he was greeted there by Price.
Laura Simmons, a Texas Ranger, wrote in the affidavit that the entire encounter was recorded by a body camera. That footage has not been made public so far. In her affidavit, Simmons details a brief narrative of what happened, citing a combination of video, physical evidence and witness accounts.
Simmons wrote that when Lucas arrived, Price approached him, came close and offered a handshake while asking him multiple times, “you doing good?” Price is also described as apologizing for broken glass on the ground, saying that someone tried to “wrap me up,” Simmons wrote in the affidavit, which was signed Monday and released publicly two days later.
Simmons’s account makes no further mention of what may have happened before the officer arrived. Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Price’s family, has reported that Price stepped in when he noticed a man “assaulting a woman.”
Lucas told the Texas Ranger that he thought Price was intoxicated and tried to detain him, Simmons wrote.
“I can’t be detained,” Price said in response, Simmons wrote. Lucas tried to grab Price’s arms and give him orders, then pulled out his Taser and said he would use it if Price did not start following his commands, the Texas Ranger continued.
Price began to walk away, at which point Lucas tried to use the Taser, which “was not fully effective,” Simmons wrote.
She then describes Price as approaching Lucas, writing: “While being tased, Price continued to walk toward Officer Lucas. Price appeared to reach out and grab the end of Officer Lucas’ taser.”
Lucas then fired his pistol four times, Simmons wrote, hitting Price in the upper torso. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which announced the charge against Lucas on Monday, said Price “resisted in a nonthreatening posture and began walking away” before the officer used his Taser and then shot him, deeming it was an unjustified use of force.
Robert L. Rogers, another attorney for Lucas, said Tuesday that Price “did not appear to be an uninvolved, innocent party” when the officer arrived and “refused repeated instructions and physically resisted.”
“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,” Rogers wrote in a statement.
He did not respond to questions about the affidavit’s account after it was made public.