He was called “the worst cop Wolfe City ever had.”
Many Texans were shocked to hear of the fatal shooting of Jonathan Price, a Black man who was attempting to break up a fight between a man and a woman before he was shot by Officer Shaun Lucas in the tiny Texas town northeast of Dallas on Oct. 3.
However, the Black citizens of Wolfe City, a town of approximately 1,500 residents, had been keeping an eye on Lucas and the progressively hostile behavior he exhibited over time concerning issues as minor as a traffic violation, according to an Oct. 10 Washington Post report.
Locals told the newspaper that the arrival of the “new cop” brought about intimidating traffic stops, along with a clear focus on targeting Black residents. “Where the hell did he come from?” asked resident Veronica Brown.
According to the Post, in August, white and Black residents shared a cautionary Facebook post about “another mean police officer” stopping “everything that moves at night.” A former resident told the Post that she was reluctant to even visit her parents in the city because of Lucas.
City attorney Daniel Ray said he didn’t recall any complaints being filed against Lucas prior to the shooting. However, residents interviewed by the Post to relay their encounters with Lucas, such as 65-year-old James Alton Brown, who was walking home when Lucas arrested him for public intoxication. Brown had difficulty walking due to a serious limp.
According to Brown, he tried to show Lucas that he was only drinking a soda, but was then charged with resisting arrest. Records show that the public intoxication charge was dropped, but Brown must still deal with the resisting charges and court fees.
Residents were on alert after Brown’s arrest, warning others that Lucas’ “vibe was off,” and that Black people needed to “be careful when [they] came to town.”
On Thursday Lucas, who is now facing murder charges, was fired by Wolfe City for the shooting. Some friends of the former officer have come forward in his defense, saying that his behavior that night was out of character, and he is being judged too harshly.
Caleb Thomas, Lucas’s friend of 10 years, told the Washington Post, “Every time he saw an officer or a first responder, I can recall him stopping and saying, ‘Thank you,’” said “Shaun has never been racist. He may have made some jokes in high school when he was 15 or 16, but everyone jokes around.”
“I knew from the start that there was no way that this transpired because of someone’s skin color,” he said. “His biggest dream was to become a police officer. It’s now turned into his biggest nightmare.”
When Lucas and Price first encountered one another at the local Kwik Chek convenience store last Saturday, Price greeted the other man with a handshake, and repeatedly asked him, “You doing good?” according to a publicly released affidavit written by Texas Rangers investigator Laura Simmons. Lucas had arrived at the scene, pursuing a call concerning a “possible fight in progress,” and surveyed the area as Price apologized for some broken glass that was on the ground.
Price was deemed intoxicated and the officer tried to arrest him, Lucas told investigators. According to the affidavit, Price answered “I can’t be detained” and struggled, which caused Lucas to withdraw his Taser.
Simmons wrote that Price started toward Lucas as he was being tased, when he appeared to attempt to grasp the end of Lucas’ taser.
Lucas discharged his gun four times, with one bullet piercing Price in the upper torso, and three bullets penetrating the store’s ice freezer. Price was declared dead at the hospital.
In a rare move of condemnation, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Price “resisted in a nonthreatening posture” before the Taser and gun were used, and stated that Lucas did not act with “justifiable force.”
Lucas’s attorney, Robert L. Rogers, shot back, and labeled Price as “an aggressive assailant who was attempting to take his taser.”
Several residents spoke to The Post about Lucas’ behavior, describing it as abnormal for a city where people greet law enforcement officials by their first names. An officer would normally be familiar with someone like Price, a city employee of the town who family and friends say was not a danger to others.
Witnesses have reportedly told the family that Price raised his hands when Lucas responded to him aggressively, and was too far from the Taser to grab it, said attorney Blerim Elmazi.
“The situation already was calm. There was no problem” when Lucas arrived, said Elmazi. “Officer Lucas completely and unreasonably escalated a situation when there really was no situation to begin with.”
Following the Wolfe City council’s firing of Lucas, a recent meeting had numerous people urging them to make a practice of hiring officers with more experience.
The mayor and council said in a joint statement, “Wolfe City is a tightknit community, and we join you in mourning Jonathan’s death and the events of the last week,” There was no further comment from city officials about Lucas.