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Questions Surround Police Shooting of Christian Taylor as Video and Audio Emerge

Surveillance footage shows Christian Taylor’s actions at a car dealership before police killed him, while a leaked recording suggests the shooting happened quickly.

by Keegan Hamilton
Aug 9 2015, 3:50pm

Image via YouTube/YouFirstNews

Shortly after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black college student early Saturday morning at a car dealership in Arlington, Texas, police said there was no surveillance footage of the incident. That turned out to be only partly true.

Though footage of the shooting itself has not yet emerged, video obtained by a Dallas TV news station shows 19-year-old Christian Taylor at the car dealership in the minutes leading up to his death. An audio recording of police radio chatter during the fatal encounter has also leaked, offering additional insight into what happened.

The video, obtained by NBCDFW, is surveillance footage of the parking lot at Classic Buick GMC in Arlington. The footage appears to show Taylor, a sophomore at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, and a defensive back on the school's football team, wandering around disoriented, breaking into a car through the windshield, and later driving his own SUV through a large window at the dealership.

Taylor can be seen pulling up to the car dealership's front gate, exiting his vehicle, and entering the lot. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts, the teen tries opening several car doors, and stands on the hood of one car before stomping his way through the windshield. He enters the car through the hole in the glass and exits through the driver's side door a short time later. He returns to his vehicle, uses it to break through the gate, and then crashes into the dealership. Several police officers arrive on the scene and enter the dealership, and an ambulance pulls up a few minutes later.

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Police said they were responding to a report of a burglary, and that an "officer discharged his weapon" during a scuffle that ensued. Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said at a press conference Saturday that four shots were fired and Taylor was struck multiple times. A second officer also used a Taser in the encounter, but the exact sequence of events remains unclear. Arlington police do not wear body cameras.

The officer who shot Taylor has been identified as Brad Miller, a 49-year-old rookie cop who had been working under the supervision of a training officer since graduating in March from the police academy. Miller has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Johnson told reporters that the FBI agent in charge of the Dallas field office would take part in the probe.

An undated handout photograph made available by Arlington Police Department of Officer Brad Miller.

A police reform activist who posted audio of the incident online told the Huffington Post that he obtained recordings of police radio chatter from the hacktivist group Anonymous. The clip suggests that the shooting happened quickly and caught some officers by surprise.

"I just saw a guy in the building that has a hat on, a straw hat," one officer says about four and a half minutes into the recording, apparently mistaking Taylor's dyed blonde hair for a hat.

Seconds later, another officer can he be heard saying, "Whoa, we got shots fired!"

"Make sure they're called, make sure they're called!" another officer, possibly Miller, shouts.

Related: Obama Outlines Criminal Justice Reform Plan After Year of Police Killings and Protests

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Taylor was arrested in 2013 during a traffic stop after police found 11 hydrocodone tablets not prescribed to him. He was reportedly sentenced to six months of deferred adjudication, and the case was dismissed on July 14 after Taylor completed his probation. The Tarrant County medical examiner's office is conducting Taylor's autopsy, and no toxicology reports have not been publicly released to show if Taylor was under the influence of any substance, police said.

Taylor was shot on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, an incident that sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and the use of deadly force on unarmed citizens. Research and analysis VICE News found that police have killed at least 1,083 Americans in the year since Brown was shot.

Related: Police Have Killed at Least 1,083 Americans Since Michael Brown's Death

Taylor posted several statements on Twitter saying he was concerned about the way police treat black suspects.

He said in one tweet that he did not "feel protected by police," and remarked in another, "Our police system is a joke, when will we ever be protected?" He also expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and said he did not want to die young.

Taylor's great uncle, Clyde Fuller, told the Star-Telegram that Taylor was "a good kid," and said he didn't believe that Taylor was trying to commit a crime.

"They say he's burglarizing the place by running up in there? Nuh-uh. Something doesn't sound right," Fuller said.

Related: Backlash Against Police Use of Force Is Making Its Way into US Courtrooms

Follow Keegan Hamilton on Twitter: @keegan_hamilton

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