(This October 6 story corrects to use full name of Wolfe City in all references)
(Reuters) - A Texas prosecutor said he will have a grand jury weigh whether to indict a white police officer charged with murdering a 31-year-old Black man, the latest shooting to trigger unrest over police brutality and racism in the United States.
Wolfe City Police officer Shaun Lucas has been charged with murder by the Texas Rangers, which are investigating the Oct. 3 shooting of Jonathan Price outside of a gas station in Wolfe City, a small city about 70 miles (113 km) northeast of Dallas.
A lawyer for Lucas said his client shot Price because Price resisted his instructions and tried to take his Taser gun.
Hunt County District Attorney Noble Walker said that based on the evidence he had seen, he planned to take the case to the grand jury to consider indicting Lucas once the Texas Rangers complete their probe.
Lucas was called to a disturbance and sought to detain Price, who resisted in “a non-threatening posture” and began walking away when Lucas shocked him with his Taser and then shot him with his gun, according to a statement by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Price later died at a hospital.
Lucas, 22, was arrested on Monday and remains in jail on a $1 million bond. His attorney, Richard Rogers, said Price did not appear to be an “uninvolved, innocent party” when Lucas arrived at the scene and resisted efforts to detain him.
“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 said in an emailed statement.
Wolfe City, with a population of 1,500, could become the latest flashpoint in a national uprising over racism and police brutality set off by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
“We’ve never had a case like this here in Hunt County,” Walker told Reuters.
Dominique Alexander, president of Next Generation Action Network, a Dallas activist group, said 300 to 400 people attended a vigil on Monday night close to where Price was shot. Dozens of demonstrators also gathered in Los Angeles and New York City, according to media reports.
“Everyone in this community will echo that this shouldn’t have happened to Jonathan, because of the character that he had,” civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the Price family, told a news conference on Monday. “However, this shouldn’t happen to anybody and it happens far too often to unarmed Black men, particularly in North Texas.”
Alexander, who is helping advocate for Price’s family, said Wolfe City’s mayor told the family there is body cam footage, as well as video from the gas station and a nearby fire station.
Alexander said Price had been trying to stop a man from striking a woman when Lucas arrived and mistook him for the instigator. He said Price had been working for the city in a maintenance job and was a pillar of his community and a standout athlete.
One of Price’s friends, former Boston Red Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks, started an online fundraising drive that has so far raised more than $90,000 in donations.
“Jonathan was a hometown hero. Somebody that everyone knew,” Alexander said.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Conn.; Editing by Matthew Lewis, David Gregorio and Leslie Adler
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.