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Officer Is Fired in Fatal Shooting of Christian Taylor

This photo provided by Angelo State University shows Christian Taylor. A police officer in suburban Dallas shot and killed Taylor, a Angelo State University football player during a struggle after the unarmed 19-year-old crashed a car through the front window of a car dealership, authorities said Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Officers were responding to a burglary call in Arlington when they discovered someone had driven a vehicle through a front window of the Classic Buick GMC, according to a statement from the Arlington Police Department. The statement said police approached the suspect and a struggle ensued. At some point during the struggle, an officer shot Taylor. (Angelo State University via AP)

A white rookie police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black college football player after the youth had broken into a car dealership in this Dallas suburb was fired on Tuesday for “inappropriate judgment” in his handling of the situation, officials said.

The Arlington police chief, Will D. Johnson, said that the officer, Brad Miller, 49, had been fired for making mistakes in the fatal shooting of Christian Taylor, 19, which included entering the building without his more experienced partner and which led to “an environment of cascading consequences.” Officer Miller was hired last fall and was still in training when the shooting occurred early Friday morning.

Officer Miller’s lawyer did not return multiple phone calls or an email sent on Tuesday evening.

The police had said that Mr. Taylor — an Arlington native who was a football player and student at Angelo State University in the West Texas city of San Angelo — was shot around 1 a.m. Friday as he was confronted by officers who had been dispatched to the Classic Buick GMC dealership after reports of a suspected burglary. At a news conference, Chief Johnson said Officer Miller made bad decisions in communicating with other officers and initially approaching Mr. Taylor on his own without a plan for an arrest. There were other officers at the scene, the chief told reporters, including Officer Miller’s training officer, who tried to use a Taser to subdue Mr. Taylor.

“Based on a preponderance of evidence available to me and facts revealed by the investigative team,” Chief Johnson said, “I have decided to terminate Officer Miller’s employment with the Arlington Police Department for exercising poor judgment.”

The chief’s announcement represented a shift in the official police narrative of the events leading up to the shooting. Previously, Chief Johnson told reporters that Officer Miller and his training officer had a confrontation with Mr. Taylor inside the dealership as they tried to arrest him, and that led Officer Miller to fire his weapon. The chief had declined to describe that event, explaining that investigators had not determined “the nature of the confrontation.”

But in Tuesday’s news conference, Chief Johnson offered a detailed account of the confrontation, indicating that Mr. Taylor never reached Officer Miller before he was killed and that the police officer’s own actions had put him in harm’s way.

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The chief also said that the officers had said they saw a bulge in Mr. Taylor’s pocket. It turned out to be a wallet and a cellphone. “It is reasonable that officers were concerned that a weapon may be present,” Chief Johnson said. “This further underscores the questionable nature of Officer Miller’s decision of entering the building alone and without an arrest plan.”

Chief Johnson said that the criminal investigation would proceed and that the evidence would be turned over to the district attorney, who would make a decision on whether to present it to a grand jury for a possible indictment. He said he had spoken to Mr. Taylor’s family.

“I certainly expressed regret that their son had been killed,” Chief Johnson said.

When reached by phone on Tuesday evening, Mr. Taylor’s father hung up the phone.

Police were called to the scene after they had received reports that Mr. Taylor was damaging a car in the parking lot of the dealership. Surveillance video released later showed Mr. Taylor roaming the lot, then kicking in the windshield of one car and snaking his body into the car. Police said he later crashed his own vehicle into the dealership’s showroom.

Mr. Taylor’s death came days before the anniversary of another death caused by a police shooting: Michael Brown, the black teenager fatally shot by a white police officer last year in Ferguson, Mo., and whose death helped touch off a debate around the country about police interactions and excessive use of force in African-American communities.

Chief Johnson has described Mr. Taylor’s death as a “tragedy” and vowed days ago that “there will be consequences” if the shooting turned out to be unjustified.

Chief Johnson had asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to participate in and review its investigation, based on the department’s “commitment to transparency,” Chief Johnson said.

But in a statement released Monday, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. office in Dallas said the bureau declined the request, saying it had “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.” The spokeswoman, Allison Mahan, said that if information came to light indicating a potential federal civil rights violation, “the F.B.I. is prepared to investigate.”

The F.B.I. did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

 

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