Body camera footage shows that a Tempe police officer fatally shot 14-year-old Antonio Arce in the back on Tuesday in the latest high-profile police shooting that has led to protests in metro Phoenix.
Tempe police released the body cam footage to reporters during a press conference on Friday.
Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir announced that an officer she identified only as “Officer Jaen” on Tuesday fired two shots at Arce, who was holding an Airsoft handgun at the time of the shooting and who Jaen suspected of burglarizing a truck. Moir did not disclose Jaen’s first name, but a now-deleted LinkedIn account listed a Tempe officer named Joseph Jaen.
One of the bullets struck the boy in the “scapula area,” Moir said, using the anatomical term for the shoulder blade. The other bullet struck a wall behind an alley that Arce was running down.
Officer Jaen has been placed on administrative leave. He has been a police officer with the Tempe police department for 14 years, Moir said. He was a member of the Army National Guard from 2007 to 2013 and completed a deployment to Iraq.
Moir said that police plan to submit results of the investigation to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which would determine whether to file charges against the officer. The department has also opened an administrative investigation into the shooting.
She repeated some details that have already been released about the shooting and did not take questions from reporters.
Around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jaen responded to an alley at 4500 East Fair Lane in Tempe after a 911 caller reported a burglary involving a gray Chevrolet pickup truck. In the video, Jaen can be seen exiting his patrol vehicle once he sees the truck. He conceals himself behind a large, plastic container.
At this point, Moir said, Jaen saw Arce holding the gun.
The video then shows Jaen drawing his service weapon as Arce exists the truck through the passenger door.
“Let me see your hands,” Jaen says with his weapon still drawn, as Arce runs away from the officer. Just after Jaen gives the order, he fires the two shots. Arce then collapses.
The video ends as Jaen reports “shots fired” to dispatchers while running toward Arce’s body.
Officers who arrived at the scene performed CPR and called paramedics. The boy was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The body camera release is likely to inflame tensions between police and community members. Poder in Action, an activist group critical of police use-of-force, released a statement after seeing the footage, calling the death of Arce a “murder.”
“Poder In Action is joining Antonio’s family in calling for murder charges to be brought against the Tempe officer by County Attorney Bill Montgomery,” read the organization’s statement. “Murder charges will be one step towards justice for Antonio’s family, but will not transform the culture of violence in the Valley’s police departments.”
In her statement to the media, Moir urged the public to withhold judgment on the shooting until the criminal and administrative investigation is completed. Tempe Officers Association president Rob Ferraro released a statement expressing a similar sentiment.
“As we hope the public will do, we will withhold judgment on this matter until the investigation is complete and all the facts are known,” Ferraro said. “No Tempe police officer goes to work hoping to use his or her service weapon in the line of duty. We do so only under the most serious circumstances in moments that require split-second reactions and decision-making.”
In its initial description of the shooting, Tempe police officials said that Jaen “perceived a threat” before he fired at Arce.
“The loss of his life is tragic, deepened only in our department that it was due to a rapidly evolving incident with a Tempe police officer,” Moir said.
In addition to the body cam footage, the department also displayed multiple still photos taken from Officer Jaen’s body-cam. The photos show Arce running away from Jaen with his back turned to the officer, and Arce holding the gun in the distance. The department also displayed a photo of the replica Airsoft gun that Arce allegedly stole from the truck.
More than 100 people reportedly gathered outside the Tempe police department on Thursday night to protest the shooting.
A GoFundMe to raise money for Arce’s funeral had raised more than $2,800 as of publication.