Tempe, Arizona police officer fatally shoots fleeing 14-year-old boy in the back
By Kevin Martinez
22 January 2019
On January 14, 14-year-old Antonio Arce was shot in the back as he ran away from a Tempe, Arizona police officer down an alleyway. The boy later died at a hospital, fatally wounded by a bullet which struck in his rear shoulder-blade area. The shooter has been identified as Officer Joseph Jaen.
Police claim that Arce was carrying an airsoft gun and that he “turned toward the officer,” who then “perceived a threat and fired his weapon.” Body camera footage released by police shows Arce running away from the officer.
Jaen was responding to a 911 call about a suspected burglary in an alley in Tempe. The bodycam video shows Jaen pulling up to a pickup truck facing his squad car.
The officer then exits his car and crouches behind a trash can yelling, “Hey.” The officer, with his gun drawn, chases after the teen after he exited the passenger side of the truck and began running away down the alley.
The officer yells, “Let me see your hands” and fires two shots at the teen. Jaen then yells, “Shots fired, shots fired,” and later, “He’s got a handgun, he’s got a handgun.” The video inexplicably ends before the officer reaches Arce’s body.
Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir asked the public to withhold judgement until police completed their “investigation.” The purported gun which Arce was allegedly holding was a replica 1911 model airsoft gun.
Arizona police killing video
The video shows Arce holding an object, but it is not clear whether it was the airsoft gun. Two witnesses, who have not been identified or released any statements, have since claimed that Arce was holding an item which looked like a gun.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the owner of the truck in the video, Lou Silvas, disputes the official police version of events. Silvas told the Arizona Republiche was unloading items from his truck around 2:30 p.m. that Tuesday afternoon when he went inside his house and left his truck unlocked. He heard two shots outside and went to check his truck and look for his cellphone.
Silvas said he noticed his two airsoft guns were still in his truck and was later shocked to hear Police Chief Moir tell the media on Friday that Arce had stolen one of his airsoft guns from his truck before running. Silvas said there were only two airsoft guns in his truck and they had been undisturbed.
He believes the bodycam video shows Arce with a large, black cellphone in his hand, which was missing from his truck. In a police photo, the image of the object was freeze-framed and circled, with the caption, “appears to be a weapon.”
Silvas told the newspaper he thought about removing his airsoft guns from the car but noticed the empty police car parked in front of him. He then decided to wait for the officer, assuming he was being recorded the entire time.
He then reported being approached by a group of officers shortly after and was then placed in handcuffs in the back of a police car. Silvas asked what he had done wrong and was merely told it was just a “safety precaution.”
More than an hour later, Silvas was released but forced to wait outside his home while officers searched it. In an initial report, police mentioned a second suspect, but have since not mentioned this.
Silvas was asked by a detective the next day about the contents of his truck and mentioned the two airsoft guns. He then said the police impounded his truck and he would not be able to retrieve it until the following week.
Another resident of the home, Julie Ann Bravo, also said police searched the home without permission or a search warrant. The home’s occupants, including a 71-year-old woman, were ordered out of the house until 10 or 11 p.m., until the officers were done.
Bravo told media how she saw officers use a stun gun and handcuff Arce after the shooting. This would contradict Muir’s press conference where she stated officers “rendered aid” to Arce within minutes of the shooting until firefighters arrived to take him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Bravo claims to have recorded the incident on her tablet and allowed police to take it as part of their investigation. When they returned it, Bravo said it would no longer turn on and hasn’t functioned since, despite it being only a day old.
The shooting had started with a 911 call from an anonymous man who reported being robbed in his home the week before. He told the operator that he was suspicious of anyone in the alley.
Silvas believed the caller was a neighbor who had a grudge against him and thought calling the police about his truck would give him a hard time. He told the Republic, “If he didn’t call that 911 call, that young boy would still be alive today. But I would be out a cellphone — because that’s all he took outside of my truck was a cellphone.”
He added, “If they’re announcing on the airwaves that (the airsoft gun) was taken from my vehicle, that’s not true,” Silvas said. “Because I had my two still there—and that’s all I’m saying.”
Arce’s mother apologized to Silvas for the stolen phone to which he replied, “Look, I can replace the cellphone, but I can’t replace a kid.”
A protest was held on Thursday night with about 100 people gathered outside Tempe Police Department. Sandra Gonzalez, Antonio’s mother, shouted, “They killed him,” adding, “I want you to know the worst racists exist in Phoenix, Arizona. They treat us as criminals. I want justice. I need justice.”
Jason Gonzalez also addressed the crowd demanding, “We want to see the bodycam footage. We want the autopsy and to do an autopsy by ourselves, without police.” He told demonstrators how police would not let the family see Antonio’s body or say in what exact circumstances he died.
As the demonstration continued, police officers threatened to arrest those who were blocking traffic on the street. In order to avoid a potential assault by the police the protest organizers ordered an end to the demonstration around 8:20 p.m.
On Saturday, hundreds of people marched with Arce’s surviving family in the same alleyway where he lost his life the week before. They released balloons and held banners with the words “Justice for Antonio.”
Juan Arce, Antonio’s father, spoke in Spanish with an English interpreter saying, “It doesn’t matter if it was a child of 14-years-old or a person who is 50, there are many other ways to find solutions to things like this instead of murdering people.”
Antonio’s 18-year-old brother, Jason Gonzalez, also spoke at the vigil saying, “He ran because he was scared—my brother isn’t a criminal, isn’t a bad person.” He was joined by 13-year-old Samantha Gomez, who befriended Arce in third grade at Scales Technology Academy. “He was such a good best friend, I miss him very much.”
Chicago police officer sentenced to less than seven years for murder of Laquan McDonald; three officers acquitted in cover-up
By Michael Walters
21 January 2019
On Friday Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to less than seven years (81 months) in prison, plus two years’ probation for the 2014 murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The sentence was handed down by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan one day after three CPD officers were found not guilty of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in covering up the murder of the African-American teen. Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer to be convicted of murder during an on-duty assault in more than half a century.
Van Dyke was convicted in October 2018 by a jury of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, one for every bullet Van Dyke unloaded into McDonald’s body over a 15-second period. Van Dyke could have received up to 20 years for second degree murder and between six and 30 years for each count of aggravated battery. If he was given the full sentence, he could have been in prison for the rest of his life. The minimal sentence can only be understood as the action of a ruling class that needed to sentence Van Dyke to avoid an eruption of social anger but did not want to set a precedent that might limit the ability of the police to act with the utmost violence.
The special prosecutor, Joseph McMahon, requested in his closing argument that Van Dyke receive 18 to 20 years. The defense argued that the case “screamed out for probation” due to the officer’s “clean” past and unlikeliness to reoffend. Including the time already served, and an early release he would not have received under aggravated battery, Van Dyke will likely spend less time in prison than it would have taken McDonald to go through high school.
Judge Gaughan overrode the jury’s conviction of murder and battery by electing to only sentence on the second-degree murder, reasoning that murder charge was the most serious conviction since the death was the result of the battery. Further, he stated that if he were to sentence on the aggravated battery charges, he would have combined the 16 convictions into one because they were all part of one act. Even if one accepts the reasoning that Van Dyke should only have been sentenced on murder, the 6.75-year sentence stands in contrast to the will of the jury.
McDonald was murdered in a working class neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side. At Friday’s sentencing, the prosecution presented five witnesses to offer a glimpse of the terror that Van Dyke and the CPD regularly unleash on the area’s residents. As an officer, Van Dyke had 18 official complaints filed against him, none of which were investigated.
Edward Nance recounted being pulled over by Van Dyke and experiencing an immediate aggression that would be echoed by several other witnesses. “Open this mother f-cking door right now” Nance recalled Van Dyke yelling. Van Dyke then proceeded to pull him out of the car and slam him onto the hood without explaining why he was pulled over. After the manhandling by Van Dyke, an emotional Nance testified on Friday that he is in constant pain and cannot lift more than 10 pounds with his left arm. Due to the actions of Van Dyke Nance was awarded $350,000 by a federal jury in a suit against the city of Chicago.
Nance was ticketed for not having a front license plate and his car was towed after police found a small amount of marijuana in the car. He testified this was the last time his family saw the car. Cars are frequently impounded when small amounts of drugs or open alcohol are found. The steep fines are often more than the value of the vehicle. This puts enormous strain on families who can barely afford to share one car.
Vidale Joy recounted being pulled over by CPD in 2005. Van Dyke immediately approached the car with his gun drawn “infuriated” and “out of his mind” shouting obscenities and racial epithets. Joy recalled that Van Dyke immediately pulled a gun to his temple and demanded he get out of the car.
Jeremy Mayers recounted a traffic stop where Van Dyke choked him for refusing to spit out a cough drop. A third witness, Eric Breathette, recounted Van Dyke pulling him over, then immediately handcuffing him and placing him in the back of the police car. Van Dyke accused him of playing his music too loud, an accusation that Breathette would not admit to. He was taken to the police station. When the prosecutor asked him to identify the officer in the courtroom by an item of clothing, Breathette let out a sigh and a chuckle and stated, “He’s definitely in the right attire, he’s in a county [prison out]fit”
The final witness for the prosecution was Laquan McDonald’s great-uncle who read a letter prepared in the voice of the slain teen.
For its part, the defense produced several police officers, Van Dyke’s family, including two of his children, and Van Dyke himself. Van Dyke categorized the night as the “worst day in my life” and that he prayed for the soul of McDonald. Not called to testify was Van Dyke’s partner Joseph Walsh, who had just been acquitted of conspiracy the day before Van Dyke’s sentencing.
Walsh, Thomas Gaffney and Detective David March, had been charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct in relation to the murder of McDonald. They were accused of lying to investigators immediately after and following the shooting of McDonald, withholding or giving misleading information, filing false police reports, failing to interview witnesses and destroying evidence. After a five-day bench trial, Cook County Criminal Circuit Court justice Domenica Stephenson found the state failed to meet the burden of proof on all charges.
The three officers filed a series of reports alleging that McDonald threatened them with a knife and lunged at Van Dyke, and after being shot twice, McDonald tried to get up, and swung his knife. These claims were contradicted by the dashcam video that was buried for 13 months after the shooting.