An Arizona police officer who shot a fleeing teenager in the back from 200 feet away, killing him, was cleared of any wrongdoing last month after convincing prosecutors he believed his life was in “imminent danger.”
But not only was the teen running away from Tempe police officer Joseph Jaen, the gun he was holding was a replica Airsoft pistol with an orange tip.
Not even Jaen’s own supervisors were as forgiving, writing in an investigative report that Jaen “engaged in poor decision making, poor tactics, and failed to adhere to his training” when he shot and killed the 14-year-old boy in the back in January 2019. Nevertheless, Jaen was allowed to resign and is now collecting disability retirement payments for life.
The teen, Antonio Arce, had been burglarizing a truck when Jaen pulled up in his patrol car. After spotting Jaen, the teen ran off. Jaen ordered him to his hands as he ran away before firing.
Arce’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit month. The attorney for the family also accuses Tempe police of trying to get them to enter into a nondisclosure agreement to keep everything private.
According to Az Family:
Antonio got out of the truck and ran. Jaen said he believed the teen had a gun. It was later revealed that it was an Airsoft gun – a replica that appeared to have had the standard orange tip. In the video, you can hear Jaen yell, “Let me see your hands!” as Antonio ran. While Jaen, a 14-year veteran of the force, had said in his report that he identified himself as a police officer, the lawsuit says the video shows that he did not.
“Even though Antonio had never turned toward defendant Jaen, was running in the opposite direction, made no attempt to manipulate the purported gun, and was over 100 feet away, defendant Jaen nevertheless made the decision to shoot Antonio,” the suit reads. The body camera video shows Jaen fire twice. One of those bullets hit Antonio in the back.
The suit then runs through the events of that afternoon, second by second, as documented by Jaen’s body camera, including his description of the teen as a “Hispanic male in his mid-40s.” The complaint also says that the officer “never attempted to render aid” in the 4 minutes it took for paramedics to arrive. “Rather, he watched as Antonio stopped breathing …,” the family’s lawyer wrote.
In October, months after the notice of claim was filed, the lawyer representing Arce’s parents says Tempe police wanted to keep documents related to the case secret. He said the department would only provide public records if he and the family entered into a nondisclosure agreement with a $1 million penalty if any information leaked.
Tempe police’s attempts at keeping a lid on information is not surprising considering it initially told media on the day of the shooting that the victim was an armed man in his 40s when the video shows officers were well-aware that the victim was a kid with a toy gun.
The shooting sparked protests but when it came down to it, the Maricopa County State Attorney’s Office saw no evidence of a crime.
“Based on the facts and the evidence in this case, Officer Jaen believed he was in imminent danger,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel, according to the Arizona Republic. “Officer Jaen believed that those in the immediate area were in imminent danger. Officer Jaen believed he had no other choice but to fire his weapon to protect himself and the community.”
The video shows that Jaen became distraught after discovering he had shot a kid with a fake gun.
“He’s just a (expletive deleted) kid,” he said crying. “It’s just a (expletive deleted) toy gun.”
Watch the shortened edited video below or the longer unedited video here.