A former Philadelphia police officer has been charged with murder for fatally shooting a 12-year-old boy in the back during a chaotic chase in early March.
Authorities say Edsaul Mendoza, 26, engaged in a “tactically unwise” hunt for Thomas “TJ” Siderio and shot him despite knowing he was unarmed.
Mendoza was arrested on Sunday (1/5).
According to a presentation of facts released by the Philadelphia District Attorney, Mendoza was part of a group of four plainclothes officers who spotted Thomas and a 17-year-old friend — identified in court documents as “NK” — on March 1. Agents believed that NK was “tangibly linked” to a stolen firearm investigation.
The agents tried to stop the boys. Then “a shot was fired” and broke a rear passenger window, the presentation added. And when the boys tried to run away, Mendoza chased after Thomas and shot him three times.
The third shot, the document alleges, occurred despite Mendoza knowing that Thomas’ gun had been dropped from about 10 meters away. Thomas had stopped running by the time the final shot was fired.
“So when Mendoza fired the fatal third shot, he knew that 12-year-old Thomas Siderio, 1.5 meters tall and 111 pounds (50 kg), no longer had a weapon and no ability to harm him,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told reporters Monday.
“But he shot him in the back anyway, killing him.”
Mendoza was fired by the police shortly after the incident. At the time, the head of the corporation said that the policies on the use of force had been violated.
According to Krasner, much of the evidence against Mendoza stems from video footage of the shooting, which will not be released until authorized by a judge. He described the video as “disturbing to watch” and said that Thomas was “essentially face down in the street” and possibly surrendering.
Mendoza was detained on Sunday (2/5) without the possibility of bail. A preliminary hearing has been set for May 16.
A public defender who represented him at a bail hearing on Monday (5/2) could not be found. A police support association has now said it will provide him with a lawyer.
In an interview with a local affiliate of the US television station CBS, Thomas’s great-grandmother Mary Siderio said she was “happy” to hear of the allegations against Mendoza.
“I’m heartbroken, I can’t sleep,” she said. “None of us can sleep. It’s horrible.”
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