A fired Philadelphia police officer has been charged with murder in the shooting of a 12-year-old fugitive boy, who prosecutors said Monday was on the ground and unarmed when the officer fired the fatal shot.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced first- and third-degree murder charges against former officer Edsaul Mendoza in the March 1 murder of Thomas “TJ” Siderio. Police said the youth first fired at an unmarked police car, wounding one of four plainclothes officers inside.
Mendoza, 26, was also charged with voluntary manslaughter and other counts, according to an unsealed grand jury presentation Monday. He had been suspended from his job on March 8 with the intention of laying off.
Court records show Mendoza surrendered on Sunday and was denied bail, a rare treatment for former law enforcement officers facing charges.
A spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 said the union plans to provide the officer with a lawyer. Court records showed the public defender’s office represented Mendoza at his bond hearing on Monday. The defender’s association declined to comment on the case.
Details of the unsealed case
New details of the shooting emerged in unsealed grand jury papers on Monday, including that Siderio threw a gun about 40 feet from where he was shot and the youth dropped to the ground , either by tripping or by obeying a command to descend. . Krasner said the officer crossed between two parked cars and, about half a car length away, fired the fatal shot from a position on the sidewalk behind the youth.
Krasner said much of the evidence was based on video that has not been made public, but was shown to the grand jury. According to the grand jury papers, prosecutors created composite video from two cameras, one that recorded clear footage of the foot chase and another that recorded a different visual angle but picked up audio from the chase. shooting.
“For sure (Siderio) had stopped running and was maybe surrendering…and he was basically face down on the sidewalk,” Krasner said, claiming the youngster was in a push-up position and looking down. rear towards the officer.
Krasner called the entire foot chase “tactically unsound” and said the video was “disturbing to watch”, but when pressed refused to characterize the shooting beyond saying he was clear to him that there was evidence to support a charge of first degree murder.
Police said the four plainclothes officers were in an unmarked car on the night of March 1, looking for a teenager they wanted to interview in connection with a firearms investigation. They saw two youths, Siderio and an unnamed 17-year-old, and maneuvered the car around the block and pulled up next to them to initiate a stop.
Prosecutors said Monday that around the same time officers turned on the red and blue lights, a shot went through the rear passenger window and ricocheted around the car. Prosecutors said it was unclear from the video whether the boy knew it was a police vehicle when he fired, but the investigation is ongoing.
An officer was treated for eye and facial injuries caused by shards of glass.
Officer knew youth was unarmed, says DA
Mendoza and another officer on the passenger side got out and fired one shot each. Mendoza then chased Siderio around the block, shooting twice and punching the boy once in the back from what prosecutors said was “relatively close range.”
Krasner said Mendoza immediately told another officer that Siderio had returned his gun, signaling to prosecutors that he knew the boy was unarmed. He said the video also shows the officer slowing down and changing his approach, and he could see Siderio was on the ground when he fired the killing shot.
Police recovered a gun that had been reported stolen and noted in the days after the shooting that it was loaded with another bullet in the bedroom.
A message left with a lawyer representing Siderio’s father and other family members was not immediately returned.
The court document also notes a handful of contradictions in Mendoza’s story that the boy pointed a gun at him before firing the last two shots, and that he was standing in the street when he fired the fatal blow, rather than almost above Siderio on the pavement.
It also raises questions about whether officers were carrying out a traffic stop on the two boys for riding their bikes the wrong way down a one-way street to tell them about the gun investigation. . He notes that neither was the target of this investigation. Unmarked cars and plainclothes officers are only supposed to carry out traffic stops in unsafe circumstances, according to department guidelines.
“It’s definitely a situation that could have had a very different outcome had there been a marked police car,” Krasner said, referring questions about the task force officers’ behavior to the police commissioner.