The Texas Rangers arrested a small-town cop on a murder charge Monday, just two days after he allegedly shot and killed a 31-year-old Black man who was reportedly trying to break up a fight.
Family members and friends of the deceased man, Jonathan Price, told Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA that Price was trying to intervene in a domestic-violence incident between a man and a woman at a Kwik Chek gas station shortly before he was tased and shot by a Wolfe City police officer, who’s since been identified as Shaun Lucas.
“That’s what he always did, tried to help others,” Price’s mother, Marcella Louis, told WFAA of the fatal Saturday night incident. “I taught him that all the years.”
Lee Merritt, the high-profile civil rights attorney now representing the family, also said in a statement posted to his Instagram account Monday that Price was unarmed during the confrontation with Lucas, who is white. He described Price—a city employee, community advocate, and athletic trainer—as a “beloved and valued member” of his community. Some have described Price as a “hometown hero,” according to Dallas CBS affiliate KTVT.
The Texas Rangers said in an emailed statement to VICE News that Lucas was responding to a disturbance call for a potential fight in progress around 8:30 p.m. Saturday when he attempted to detain Price, who was “reportedly involved.” The statement did not detail whether that “involvement” was related to trying to stop the fight.
“Officer Lucas attempted to detain Price, who resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away,” the Rangers said. “Officer Lucas deployed his Taser followed by discharging his service weapon, striking Price.”
“The preliminary investigation indicates that the actions of Officer Lucas were not objectionably reasonable,” the Rangers added.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many shots Lucas fired, or where he struck Price. Price died at a local hospital after the shooting.
Officials in Wolfe City, a town of nearly 1,500 people located about 70 miles outside of
Dallas, have said little about the shooting, except to offer in a short statement posted to Facebook Sunday that the officer involved had been placed on leave while the Rangers conducted their investigation. The statement did not name the officer or Price.
Lucas is being held in custody on a $1 million bond, Merritt said on Twitter late Monday evening. As of Tuesday morning, he was detained in the Rockwall County jail, according to WFAA, although he was initially booked in the Hunt County jail Monday.
It’s not yet clear whether Lucas has retained a defense attorney. The Wolfe City Police Department and the Hunt County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment.
Footage of the shooting, either from an officer’s body-worn camera or the gas station’s surveillance cameras, hasn’t been released, but Merritt suggested surveillance footage exists and was turned over to authorities, according to WFAA.
Price’s mother has said she was not allowed to rush to her son once she reached the gas station where he lay dying Saturday.
"They wouldn’t let me get close to my baby. I just wanted to hold his hand and they wouldn’t let me do that," Louis told WFAA. "I just wanted to crawl over there to him."
Junior Price, Price’s father, echoed that in a press conference with Merritt Monday afternoon, according to WFAA, saying he was told to step back once he reached the gas station and wasn’t provided information about why his son had been shot.
Price once played football at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, according to CNN. He was also a childhood friend to former Red Sox athlete Will Middlebrooks, who wrote on Facebook Sunday that he’s heartbroken over what he called “purely an act of racism.” Middlebrooks had raised nearly $80,000 for Price’s family on GoFundMe as of Tuesday morning.
“Jonathan will be missed by everyone whose life he touched. He always looked for ways to help others, so to honor his passion for giving back, we are currently in the process of establishing a Memorial Fund in Jonathan’s name,” Middlebrooks wrote on the fundraiser’s page. “May his legacy last forever.”