A white police officer has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of a Black man following a reported disturbance at a convenience store in a small East Texas town over the weekend, authorities said.
Jonathan Price was walking away from Wolfe City police officer Shaun Lucas when Lucas opened fire on Saturday night, killing Price, the Texas Rangers said.
Lucas, 22, was booked into the Hunt County Jail on Monday night, the Texas Rangers said in a statement released by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Jail records show bail was set at $1m.
It was not immediately known if Lucas had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf.
According to the statement, Lucas responded to a disturbance call on Saturday night following a report of a possible fight. He encountered Price, 31, who was reportedly involved in the disturbance, and Price “resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away,” the Texas Rangers said.
Lucas used a stun gun before shooting Price, who was taken to hospital and died, the statement said.
Police did not release details about the dispute, but family and friends of Price said on Monday that the one-time college football player was intervening in a domestic disturbance when he was shot.
Civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt said Price, whom he identified as a Wolfe City employee, was not directly involved in the disturbance.
Shaun David Lucas is in custody for the murder of #JonathanPrice. His bond has been set at $1,000,000.00
This didn’t happen quickly. It should happened the day he murdered JP. John should still be here.
This is step one. Let’s see it through to justice. pic.twitter.com/ydC124MYbG
— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) October 6, 2020
“Mr Price did not become violent, but there was a male who was aggressive towards a woman,” Merritt said. “He intervened, and the situation was resolved before law enforcement arrived, according to witnesses.
“Why this officer still felt the need to Tase and shoot Jonathan is beyond comprehension.”
Regarding Price’s death, Merritt said in a Facebook posting: “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 relatives and friends said Price was a figure well-known around the close-knit community. The town has about 1,500 residents and is situated some 113 kilometres (70 miles) northeast of Dallas.
Price played football in 2008 for Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Hardin-Simmons football coach Jesse Burleson tweeted that the university “lost one of our own in a terrible situation. Jonathan Price was an awesome young man during his time with Cowboy football.”
Lucas’s arrest comes as the United States has a nationwide reckoning with systemic racism and police violence following the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Floyd’s death, along with those of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, has inspired months of sustained Black Lives Matter protests, prompting some areas to consider widespread police reform, including defunding and “abolishing” police departments.
Former Major League Baseball third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who grew up with Price, said on Facebook: “I’m sick. I’m heartbroken… and I’m furious.”
Middlebrooks started an online fundraiser for Price’s family that surpassed its $50,000 goal in less than 24 hours. The fundraiser has currently raised $81,000 of a new $100,000 goal.