A sacked Philadelphia police officer was charged with murder in the shooting of a runaway 12-year-old 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 agent Edsaul Mendoza in the shooting of Thomas “TJ” Siderio on March 1. Police say the young man first fired a shot into an unnamed police car, injuring one of four plainclothes officers inside.
Mendoza was also charged with willful murder and other charges, according to an unsealed grand jury presentation Monday. He was suspended from his job on March 8 with intent to shoot.
Court records show that Mendoza surrendered on Sunday and was denied bail, 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 a lawyer for the officer. Court records showed that the public defender’s office represented Mendoza at the bail hearing on Monday. The defense counsel’s association declined to comment on the case.
New details of the shooting were revealed Monday in the grand jury’s unsealed documents, including that Siderio had thrown a gun about 40 feet before he was shot and that the young man had fallen to the ground, stumbling or obeying a command to get off. Krasner said at a press conference Monday that the officer who shot Siderio knew the boy was unarmed before shooting him in the back, CBS Philadelphia reports.
Krasner said the officer crossed between two parked cars and fired the killing shot from about half a car away.
Krasner said much of the evidence was based on a video that hasn’t been publicly released.
“It is certain that (Siderio) had stopped running and perhaps was giving up … and was essentially face down on the pavement,” Krasner said, saying the young man was in a push-up position looking back at the officer. .
Krasner called the whole foot chase “tactically incorrect” and said the video was “creepy to watch,” though when asked he refused to feature the shooting beyond saying it was clear to him that it was. ‘was evidence to support a first degree murder charge.
Police said the four plainclothes officers were in an unnamed car on the night of March 1, looking for a teenager they wanted to interview in connection with a firearm investigation. They saw two young men, Siderio and an unnamed 17-year-old, and maneuvered the car around the block and next to them to start a stop.
Prosecutors said Monday that almost at the same time as the officers turned on the red and blue lights, a shot came 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 an investigation is ongoing.
An officer was treated for eye and face injuries caused by broken glass.
Mendoza and another officer on the passenger side got out and fired one shot each. Mendoza then chased Siderio down the block, firing twice and hitting the boy once in the back from what prosecutors said was “from a relatively close range”.
Krasner said Mendoza immediately told another officer that Siderio had thrown his gun back, 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 that he was able to see that Siderio was on the ground when he fired the killing shot.
A message left to a lawyer representing Siderio’s father and other family members was not immediately returned.
Speaking with CBS Philadelphia, Siderio’s great-grandmother was emotional after hearing the news of the allegations.
“I’m happy. That’s all I can say right now,” said Siderio’s great-grandmother, Mary Siderio. “I’m heartbroken, I can’t sleep. None of us can sleep. It’s horrible.”