DALLAS (CN) – Arlington, Texas fired the white, rookie police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager to death at a car dealer Friday, “for exercising poor judgment” and putting other officers in danger, its police chief said.
After announcing the firing at a Tuesday evening news conference at police headquarters, Police Chief Will Johnson attended the monthly meeting of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, which he attends regularly. Several members thanked him for the information he provided.
At the news conference at police headquarters, Johnson said that the decision to fire Officer Brad Miller, 49, was his alone, and that he made it after meeting with his investigators.
He said the investigation is continuing and that Miller could face criminal charges when the Tarrant County District Attorney’s separate criminal investigation concludes. Johnson said he based his decision on a “preponderance of evidence available to me and the facts revealed” by his investigators.
Miller fired four shots from his service pistol at Christian Taylor, 19, inside the Classic GMC Buick dealership early Friday morning . Miller recently graduated from the police academy and was serving the 16 weeks of field training required of new officers.
The training officer with him, Dale Wiggins, fired his Taser at Taylor. Wiggins, a 19-year police veteran, has been placed on administrative leave.
“Officer Miller exercised inappropriate judgment by entering the building alone,” Johnson said. “This unilateral decision to enter the building and to continue the pursue deeper into the building to continue contact with Mr. Taylor, along with failing to communicate with fellow officers or develop an arrest plan, created an environment of cascading consequences that produced an unrecoverable outcome.”
Johnson said he had “serious concerns” about the “rationale articulated” by Miller for his use of deadly force. He said Miller fired on Taylor after he failed to comply with commands to get on the ground, instead “actively advancing towards Officer Miller.”
Johnson said training officer Wiggins heard a pop from what he believed was Miller’s Taser, but it was the first bullet.
The dealership released surveillance video on Sunday that shows Taylor driving up to the closed showroom in a Jeep, then calmly walking up to several cars in the parking lot and jumping up and down on them. He kicks in the windshield of a Ford Mustang, then drives his Jeep through the glass exterior of the showroom. There is no video of the shooting because the dealership does not have video surveillance inside its showroom.
Before being shot, Taylor showed officers car keys in his hand and said he wanted to steal a car, Johnson said.
“Although the investigation is not over, my hope is the information shared today can assist in the healing process,” Johnson said. “Some communities and our nation have been torn apart by similar challenges.”
Taylor’s death came two days before the first anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. That Sunday night protest turned violent and another young black man was shout and critically wounded, allegedly after shooting up a police van with officers inside it.
Johnson answered questions Tuesday night at the monthly meeting of the Arlington branch of the NAACP. Branch President Alisa L. Simmons told the group that she met with Taylor’s family on Monday for three hours.
“My heart breaks for them,” she said.
Several people thanked Johnson for firing Miller and for his detailed description of what happened Friday night. The police chief told the NAACP members that “today did not fix anything,” and that lives had been changed forever by the shooting.
“I can’t promise another controversial event won’t happen in Arlington,” he said. “But I can promise we will care and try to respond with a sense of compassion.”
For the second night in a row, dozens of peaceful protesters demonstrated outside police headquarters. Several called for criminal charges and prison time for Miller.
Johnson asked the FBI to help investigate possible violations of civil rights, but the FBI field office in Dallas declined the request Monday, saying it has been “in contact” with Arlington police.
“(T)he Dallas FBI has full confidence in the ability of the Arlington Police Department and Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office to conduct a thorough investigation of this matter,” FBI spokeswoman Allison Mahan said in a statement. “If in the course of the investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate.”
Police are sharing information with the FBI in case the agency decides to intervene later, Johnson said.
A sophomore football player at Angelo State University, Taylor’s posts on Twitter about racism and police tactics have gone viral since his death.
“Police taking black lives as easy as flippin a coin, with no consequences smh, [shaking my head]” he posted on Dec. 24, 2014.
On July 30 this year, he posted: “I don’t wanna die too younggggg.”
Arlington, pop. 380,000, is between Dallas and Fort Worth.
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