ARLINGTON, Texas — A police officer who killed an unarmed college football player during a suspected burglary at a Texas car dealership was fired Tuesday for making mistakes that the city’s police chief said caused a deadly confrontation that put him and other officers in danger.
Arlington Officer Brad Miller, 49, could also face criminal charges once police complete their investigation, Police Chief Will Johnson said.
Called to the scene of a suspected burglary early Friday morning, Miller pursued 19-year-old Christian Taylor through the broken glass doors of a car dealership showroom without telling his supervising officer, Johnson said.
Instead of helping to set up a perimeter around the showroom, Miller confronted Taylor and ordered him to get down on the ground, Johnson said. Taylor did not comply. Instead, he began “actively advancing toward Officer Miller,” Johnson said.
Miller’s field training officer, who had followed Miller into the showroom, drew his own Taser. The training officer heard a single pop of what he thought was Miller’s Taser, but Miller actually had drawn his service weapon and fired it at Taylor, who is thought to have been 7 to 10 feet away from the officer, Johnson said. After Taylor continued to approach, Miller fired his gun three more times.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult case,” Johnson said. “Decisions were made that created an environment of cascading consequences and an unrecoverable outcome.”
The Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association issued a statement Tuesday night decrying Johnson’s decision. The group said it supports “Miller’s right to be judged fairly and completely on facts instead of a snapshot developed in only days,” and also expressed sympathy for Taylor’s family.
“We again ask that citizens obey the commands of police officers in order to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future,” the association said.
An attorney for Miller did not have an immediate comment on Johnson’s announcement. Taylor’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Taylor’s death came two days before the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Taylor, who was black, was a graduate of an Arlington high school and a football player at Angelo State University in West Texas. Miller is white.
At a protest Tuesday night outside the Arlington police headquarters, about 60 demonstrators demanded that Miller be charged with a crime.
The firing was “not enough justice,” said Matthew Higgins, 20, one of Taylor’s former high school classmates. “If it was a white person, it probably would have been different.
There is no video of the shooting itself, though security camera footage from Classic Buick GMC dealership’s parking lots shows Taylor walking around and damaging some vehicles.
Police on Tuesday released audio of a 911 call made by the company manning the exterior cameras. In the audio, the caller tells a 911 operator that a “thin black man with a blond Mohawk” was seen jumping on the windshield of a gray Ford Mustang.
Before his final confrontation with Miller, Taylor allegedly held up a set of car keys and told another officer that he intended to steal a car, Johnson said. He had driven a vehicle through the glass front doors of the showroom and, after officers arrived, was slamming his body into the side of a different part of the building to try to escape, the chief said.
“It is clear from the facts obtained that Mr. Taylor was non-compliant with police demands,” Johnson said.
But the chief said he ultimately decided Miller’s mistakes required his firing. While he said he had “serious concerns” about Miller’s use of deadly force, Johnson said it would be up to a grand jury to decide whether Miller’s actions were criminal.
Miller joined the police department in September and graduated from the city police academy earlier this year. Police said Miller cannot appeal his firing because he was a probationary employee.
He was undergoing field training and assigned to a more senior officer, though he was a licensed police officer authorized to carry a weapon. Police have previously said that he had never fired his weapon in the line of duty before.
But Johnson emphasized that officers in training “have the skills, the decision-making process, the authority” to act correctly in the field.
“Although the investigation is not over, my hope is that the information shared today can assist in the healing process,” Johnson said. “Some communities and our nation have been torn apart by similar challenges.”
EMILY SCHMALL, Associated Press
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Dallas contributed to this report.