GREENVILLE, Texas (CN) — A white police officer in a small town in East Texas was arrested Monday evening and charged with murder for shooting and killing Jonathan Price, a Black man who was reportedly breaking up a fight and nonviolently resisting arrest.
Texas Rangers arrested officer Shaun Lucas, 22, and booked him into the Hunt County Jail. His bail was set at $1 million.
The Rangers say Lucas responded to reports of a fight in Wolfe City on the evening of Oct. 3 and made contact with Price, 31.
“Officer Lucas attempted to detain Price, who resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away,” the Rangers said in a statement. “Officer Lucas deployed his Taser, followed by discharging his service weapon striking Price. EMS was notified and Price was transported to Hunt Regional Hospital, where he later died. The preliminary investigation indicates that the actions of Officer Lucas were not objectionably reasonable.”
Wolfe City is approximately 70 miles northeast of Dallas, located in Hunt County. The town has a population of 1,472 people as of 2018. Lucas is one of only three officers on the police force, according to the city.
Wolfe City police and city officials have refused to describe the details of the fight or the specific circumstances of Price’s death, resulting in growing outrage and protests since the killing.
Attorney Lee Merritt is representing Price’s family. He said Price’s family and friends claim Price was “trying to intervene in a domestic violence situation” at a gas station and that the “argument was settled” before police arrived. Price was a city employee, according to his family.
“He deserves justice because he was a human citizen who was not breaking the law and he was gunned down by police officers,” Merritt posted on Facebook Monday. “Price’s father said he spoke to the officer who shot his son … Junior Price said the officer told him to get back and said he would say why he shot the man later.”
At an hour-long vigil Monday evening outside of the convenience store where Price was killed, Merritt told Wolfe City residents that “we live in the deadliest police culture in the modern world.”
“There is not a nation on this earth that kills and incarcerates more of its citizens,” Merritt told the several hundred attendees of the vigil. “This is a reality that hasn’t visited Wolfe City, but here it is.”
Former Major League Baseball player Will Middlebrooks posted on Facebook that Price was his childhood friend. Middlebrooks started a GoFundMe drive for Price, which has reached over $84,000 in donations as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Don’t let the act of one man make you burn down a city full of good people,” Middlebrooks said. “I know you’re hurt… I am too. I know you’re pissed.. I am too. I know what JP would want… and ripping his hometown to pieces wouldn’t be his answer. Justice will be served. Love you all. Stay strong.”
Price’s mother, Marcella Louis, said Tuesday police would not let approach her dying son after she rushed to the gas station after learning he was shot.
“They wouldn’t let me get close to my baby,” she told ABC-affiliate WFAA. “I just wanted to hold his hand and they wouldn’t let me do that. I just wanted to crawl over there to him.”
Louis said she was able to have some sleep Monday evening after learning of Lucas’ arrest.
“He didn’t have to shoot him,” she said. “I know he was trained to do more than just tase him and shoot him. He didn’t deserve that.”
Lucas is represented by Dallas attorney Robert Rogers, who said Lucas shot Price for allegedly trying to take away his Taser.
“Mr. Price resisted the effects of the taser and attempted to take it away from Officer Lucas,” Rogers said in a statement Tuesday evening. “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 is known for representing former Dallas cop Amber Guyger, who entered the apartment of Botham Jean while off duty, mistook it for her own home and shot Jean after believing him to be an intruder. A Dallas County jury convicted Guyger of murder in October 2019 and sentenced her to 10 years in state prison. It remains one of the rare murder convictions of a white police officer who killed an unarmed Black man.