He knew the child was unarmed when he stood over him and shot him, the DA said.
The Philadelphia police officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old boy in the back has been charged with murder, per the DA.
Thomas ‘TJ’ Siderio was unarmed and lying face down when he was killed — and Officer Edsaul Mendoza knew that when he pulled the trigger, according to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
The child died on the night of March 1, while fleeing from police officers after reportedly firing a shot into their patrol car.
The DA told a press conference Monday that the grand jury had seen a video of the incident — which has not yet been revealed to the public — that proved the shooting was murder, and not self-defense.
He described the video as “very, very disturbing and very difficult to watch.”
According to the DA, after the child fired a round from the Taurus 9 mm pistol, three of the officers in the car took cover, while Mendoza “began what can be fairly called a tactically unsound foot chase of the 12-year-old.”
One of the other cops taking cover — Officer Sarpong — fired one shot “at no target in particular”. Officer Mendoza meanwhile fired three shots as he chased the child along the block, the final one “while standing on the sidewalk and relatively close to Thomas Siderio.”
For the second two shots, the child was unarmed, Krasner said, having discarded the gun 40 feet earlier.
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“It is certain that Thomas Siderio, at the time he was shot, had stopped running and that he was possibly surrendering,” Krasner said
“It is certain that Thomas Siderio, at the time he was shot, was essentially facedown on the sidewalk, that he was in a position that approximates sort of a pushup. Turning back toward where the officer was pursuing him, perhaps turning to look at the officer who was pursuing him, when he was shot through the back.”
The DA said the child went to the ground as the second shot was fired, either because he fell or dived; he said Mendoza knew the child was unarmed at this stage because of the way he carelessly approached the suspect, who was behind a car — which he never would have done if he thought the suspect had a gun on him.
“When Mendoza fired the third shot, he was within half a car-length of Thomas Siderio, and that’s when he would have had the opportunity to see Thomas Siderio clearly at the time he fired.”
Krasner said that immediately after the shooting as the other officers arrived, he told them the suspect had tossed the gun, and pointed in the direction of where it was found.
“When officer Mendoza fired the third and fatal shot, he knew the 12-year-old, 5-foot-tall, 111-pound Thomas Siderio no longer had a gun and no ability to harm him, but he fired a shot through his back, nonetheless, that killed him.”
Krasner also told reporters Mendoza had made “untruthful statement about his location” when he fired the last two shots, indicating he knew what he’d done was illegal.
Mendoza is charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime. He has been denied bond.
The DA said it was possible the two boys may not have even believed the four men were really police officers, as they were in plainclothes and an unmarked car; he said the police lights and the first shot happened “almost simultaneously”.
Reporters were told that the grand jury also had issues with the initial stop; two of the officers claimed they had wanted to speak to the pair as part of a weapons inquiry, while the two others claimed they were making a traffic stop related to riding a bike the wrong way on the street.
See our previous coverage:
Philadelphia Officer Who Shot 12-Year-Old Boy in the Back Will Be Fired