On August 8, 2015, a white Arlington, Texas, rookie police officer Brad Miller, shot and killed an unarmed black 19-year-old, Christian Taylor. He was a sophomore football player at Angelo State University. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his shooting a homicide.
At a press conference the following day, police chief Will Johnson said that he invited FBI special agent Thomas Class, who runs the bureau’s Dallas office, to join the investigation.
Because a police officer’s primary mission is the preservation of life, the decision to use deadly force is innately contrary to the goals to preserve the peace and to safeguard life and property. For this reason, any time the police use deadly force, there must be a vigorously thorough, transparent and procedurally fair investigation that answers all relevant questions.
He also spoke to the current climate:
Equally important to the investigative process is an acknowledgment that this instance has not occurred in isolation. Rather it has occurred as our nation is wrestling with the topics of social injustice, inequities, racism and police misconduct. We recognize the important of these topics, the impact these issues have on communities throughout our nation, and pledge to act in transparent manner in an effort to alleviate these concerns.
Surveillance video shows Taylor arriving at Classic Buick GMC car dealership at around 1 am. He then wandered around the lot, jumped on a few cars and then smashed the windshield of one and got into it. He got out, used his own vehicle to push open the gate, then drove it through the showroom’s plate glass window.
Audio files that have leaked online portray what happened next on different timelines. In one, it sounds as if Taylor was shot seconds after police spotted him, while another seems to indicate just over two minutes of elapsed time, during which the police say there was an “altercation.”
“I just saw a guy in the building that has a hat on, a straw hat,” an officer says. (In the surveillance video, Taylor’s hair is dyed blonde on top.)
Then an officer says, “Whoa, we got shots fired!” Followed by, “Make sure they’re called, make sure they’re called!” And then about four minutes later, “Notify Internal Affairs, please.”
Johnson tweeted that the police radio audio will be released today and that it will clarify the timeline:
— Will Johnson (@ArlingtonChief) August 10, 2015
Miller, 49—who was in a 16-week field training program following his completion of police academy—shot Taylor four times in the chest, stomach and neck. He has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. His training officer, 19-year veteran of the force, used a Taser.
Taylor’s father, Adrian Taylor, told The Guardian that despite the police department’s promise of transparency, they have not been forthcoming with information. “They won’t even talk to me, man,” he said. “I’m having to find out about how CJ died on social media.” After watching the video and listening to the audio, he says he’s at a loss as to why his son was killed. “Maybe he had been drinking, maybe he was on something. I don’t know. But you don’t kill somebody for that. You don’t just take a life,” he said.