Over the weekend, yet another name was added to the list of unarmed black citizens killed by police. Christian Taylor, a 19-year-old football player at Angelo State University, was fatally shot when officers responded to a call about a potential break-in at a car dealership early Friday in Arlington. Taylor’s name quickly became a hashtag, with people voicing questions surrounding his death. On his personal Twitter account, the teen frequently tweeted about police and race and had a generally charming social media presence.
Police taking black lives as easy as flippin a coin, with no consequences smh
— October 13th (@he_got_sneaks) December 24, 2014
I don't wanna die too younggggg
— October 13th (@he_got_sneaks) July 31, 2015
There are questions in the case of Taylor’s death, and the FBI is investigating the circumstances of the shooting. Here’s what we know so far.
Taylor was killed inside of a car dealership showroom after crashing a car through its window
At the moment, it appears that the only cameras at the car dealership were outside of the showroom, so the details regarding the final few moments of Taylor’s life are unclear. The video shows a man wandering around a car dealership lot, then driving a car through the showroom’s window. Moments later, a police officer enters the building, followed by several other uniformed officers. Within a minute of the first officer entering the building, an ambulance appears on the scene.
It’s not clear what happened inside the building
The statement from the Arlington Police Department indicates that after the Jeep crashed through the showroom window, officers formed a perimeter and entered the building. The video corroborates that account, and Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson told the New York Times that after entering the building officers found Taylor inside:
The officers ordered Mr. Taylor to lie down, and when he fled instead, they chased him. He was found trying to get out of the building through a locked glass door. Chief Johnson said that the two officers struggled with Mr. Taylor and that Officer Miller fired four shots.
Mr. Taylor was struck multiple times, Chief Johnson said, and was declared dead on the scene. Investigators later determined that he had no weapon.
The training officer fired no shots. A Taser was also used against Mr. Taylor, but Chief Johnson said the department had not determined which officer used it or in what sequence the two weapons were used.
“Two officers struggled with Mr. Taylor” is imprecise language, to be certain, and the nature of that struggle is the source of speculation among activists on Twitter. Arlington Police don’t use body cameras, and unless security footage is discovered from inside of the showroom somehow, it’s possible we’ll never know what exactly happened between Taylor and the officer who killed him.
We don’t know what was going on with Taylor at the time of his death
There’s no toxicology report on Taylor at the moment, but it seems clear that he didn’t have a valid reason to be at the dealership that night. Taylor’s own father said as much to KTVT in Dallas, explaining that, “what he’d done ain’t no way right” before questioning the fact that a break-in resulted in his son’s death.
And ultimately, that seems to be how Christian Taylor’s death will be framed going forward. It’s hard to dispute that he’s guilty of trespassing and property damage, but it’s also clear that, as with other situations, police accounts of what happened in a situation don’t always match footage. This disparity means there are inevitably people who will question any statements from police they can’t verify with their own eyes. We know for certain that Taylor wasn’t armed, and that the more experienced officer on the scene did not fire his gun. That will be enough to lead some to the conclusion that Officer Miller, who was in training at the time he killed Taylor, should have never unholstered his weapon. With the FBI investigating, at the very least we can see that the concerns regarding the circumstances of Taylor’s death will be heard.