GREENVILLE, Texas (CN) — A Texas jury acquitted a white police officer Thursday evening of murder in the killing of an unarmed Black man outside of a convenience store with his gun immediately after firing his Taser.
The Hunt County jury deliberated for approximately six hours after hearing eight days of arguments and testimony in the trial of former Wolfe City police officer Shaun Lucas, 24. He was fired by city officials within days of killing Jonathan Price during Lucas’ response to reports of a fight at a Kwik Check store on Oct. 3, 2020.
Lucas had faced up to 99 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Testifying in his own defense, Lucas told jurors Wednesday that Price, 31, approached him outside and asked him how he was before offering his hand to shake. Lucas said he shook to deescalate the situation and get Price “out of my space as easily as I can.”
Lucas claims he fired his Taser at Price after he refused to comply with verbal commands and refused to be detained. Lucas said he wanted to put Price in his patrol car for suspected public intoxication and for possibly being involved in the fight.
Body camera footage played in court this week showed Price refusing to comply with several of Lucas’ commands and was walking away when he was shot with the Taser. Price is seen turning around and appears to reach out to Lucas before he is shot with a pistol.
Lucas claims he used lethal force out of fear Price was reaching for the Taser.
The Texas Rangers charged Lucas with murder within days of the shooting, concluding his actions “were not [objectively] reasonable.”
Defense attorney Robert Rogers, of Dallas, has repeatedly argued his client acted in self-defense due to Price appearing intoxicated and resisting arrest.
“If any of the commands were followed, we would not be here today,” Rogers said during opening arguments last week.
Prosecutors steadfastly disagree that Price was acting aggressive, calling Sergeant Jarred Hayes to testify Monday that Price did not appear aggressive the night of his death. Hayes is one of only two police officers remaining in Wolfe City after Lucas’ firing.
Price’s friend Nicholas Crockett was at the scene that night and told jurors on Monday that Price appeared to be reaching out to catch himself after being shot with the Taser, not reaching out for Lucas.
Price’s mother, Marcella Louis, sued Lucas and Wolfe City three weeks ago in federal court for wrongful death and violations of her son’s Fourth Amendment rights.
“Officer Lucas was not in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death at the time that he shot Mr. Price,” her complaint stated. “There was no justification for officer Lucas to use lethal force against Mr. Price.”
Wolfe City is approximately 70 miles northeast of Dallas.
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