Chief fires Texas officer who killed unarmed 19-year-old

People hold signs during a vigil for Christian Taylor on Monday. (G.J. McCarthy/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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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 believed 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 have catastrophic outcomes.”

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 on Miller’s firing.

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.

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.

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.

He was still 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 stressed that officers in training “have the skills, the decision-making process, the authority” to act correctly in the field.

Police said Miller cannot appeal his firing because he was a probationary employee.

While the FBI’s Dallas field office said Monday that it was deferring any investigation to local authorities, Johnson said he was in contact with FBI officials about the case.

“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.”

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