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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — An attorney for a North Texas police officer in training who fatally shot an unarmed, black college football player during a suspected burglary at an Arlington car dealership defended his client’s actions Wednesday and attacked those of the police chief who fired him.
Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said on Tuesday that Officer Brad Miller had been fired for causing a deadly confrontation that put him and other officers in danger, including pursuing 19-year-old Christian Taylor without telling his supervisor. Miller, 49, could also face criminal charges.
“While Chief Johnson sits behind his desk and Monday morning quarterback’s an officer’s actions when coming face to face with a violent felon, his biggest fears are getting a paper cut or losing his six-figure salary. Chief Johnson used 20/20 hindsight to protect his job and appease anti-police activists. Officer Miller made decisions in the heat of a violent confrontation to save his and other officers’ lives. A four day “investigation” and media theatrics are not even close to due process. This decision, while politically expedient for Chief Johnson, is an insult to the rank and file officers who put their lives on the line every day.”
Arlington police did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Snider’s remarks.
Officers had been called to the scene of a burglary at the dealership early Friday. Security footage from the lot shows Taylor breaking out the windshield of a car on the lot and then driving his vehicle into the glass showroom. There is no video footage of the shooting itself.
Inside the showroom, Miller ordered Taylor to get to the ground. Instead, Taylor cursed at the officer and advanced toward him. When Taylor was about 10 feet away, the officer fired, Johnson said.
Taylor continued moving, so Miller’s training officer, Cpl. Dale Wiggins, shot Taylor with a Taser.
Miller then fired three more times. At least two bullets struck Taylor, killing him, according to the chief, who said the interaction lasted only seconds. Taylor and Miller never made physical contact, he said.
During the Tuesday press conference Chief Johnson said, “Officers had reason to believe that Taylor was committing a felony burglary in progress.” But the Chief also noted that the standard response for police is to secure the perimeter of the building before making entry. “Absent exigent circumstances an officer would not enter a building alone, without communicating their intent with other officers,” he said.
Taylor’s death came two days before the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and is the latest in a series of incidents in which black men have been killed by police. Johnson said he hoped Miller’s firing will “assist in the healing process.”
“Some communities and our nation have been torn apart by similar challenges,” he said.
The firing was “not enough justice,” said Matthew Higgins, 20, one of Taylor’s former high school classmates. “If it was a white person, it probably would have been different.”
The Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association issued a statement decrying Johnson’s decision. The group said it supports “Miller’s right to be judged fairly and completely on facts instead of a snapshot developed in only days,” and expressed sympathy for Taylor’s family.
“We again ask that citizens obey the commands of police officers in order to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future,” the association said.
Taylor’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Taylor was a graduate of an Arlington high school and a football player at Angelo State University in West Texas.
Before his final confrontation with Miller, Taylor held up a set of car keys and told another officer that he intended to steal a car, Johnson said.
“It is clear from the facts obtained that Mr. Taylor was noncompliant with police demands,” Johnson said.
But, the chief said, Miller’s mistakes required his firing. While he said he had “serious concerns” about Miller’s use of deadly force, Johnson said it would be up to a grand jury to decide whether Miller’s actions were criminal.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult case,” Johnson said. “Decisions were made that created an environment of cascading consequences and an unrecoverable outcome.”
Miller joined the police department in September and graduated from the city police academy earlier this year. Police said Miller cannot appeal his firing because he was a probationary employee.
He was undergoing field training and assigned to a more senior officer, though he was a licensed police officer authorized to carry a weapon. Police said he had never fired his weapon in the line of duty before.
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