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Jonathan Price’s Killing Underscores Need for US Structural Police Reform

More Than 1,000 People Shot and Killed by Police in the US in the Past Year

The call that came into the Wolfe City Police Department just after 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, wasn’t particularly notable in the small Texas town of 1,500 about 70 miles northeast of Dallas. There was a “possible fight in progress” at the Kwik Chek convenience store. Officer Shaun Lucas was dispatched to the scene.

Exactly what the fight was about and who was involved remains unclear, but within minutes of Lucas’s arrival, 31-year-old Jonathan Price, a former high school football star and admired member of the community, was dead – another unarmed Black man shot and killed by police.

A lawyer for the Price family said Price saw a man assaulting a woman and intervened – something his high school football coach said was in keeping with his character. Recently released bodycam footage shows Price greeted Officer Lucas by offering a handshake when he arrived at the Kwik Chek.

The lawyer said that Price raised his hands and tried to explain what was happening. Officer Lucas tried to detain Price, who, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, “resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away.”

According to the police, Lucas used his taser, and then fired his gun, killing Price.

On October 5, the Texas Rangers charged Lucas with murder and the 22-year-old policeman, who had been on the job for only six months, was booked into the Hunt County Jail. His bail was set at $1 million.

Texas Monthly reported that Price was raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs. Price credited two families, both of them white, for helping raise him and encouraging him to play sports. Although he supported the Black Lives Matter movement, Price was outspoken about his own interactions with police being positive, despite being a Black man living in a predominantly white town.

Price is one of more than 1,000 people who have been shot and killed by police in the United States in the past year, a disproportionate number of them Black men. His case is unusual in that prosecutors are filing charges. Better accountability mechanisms, including prosecutions, are important to deter police violence, but structural reforms in policing are urgently needed so that armed officers, whose primary tools are command and force, are not the default response to so many of society’s problems.  

Price will be laid to rest on Saturday in a ceremony at the high school football field where he played in Wolfe City.

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