A former Hardin Simmons University soccer player was shot dead by police after intervening in a fight between a man and a woman at a gas station in Texas, his family said.
Jonathan Price, 31, was shot dead on Saturday night at a Kwik Check gas station on Santa Fe Street in Wolfe City, about 70 miles northeast of Dallas.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page Sunday, the city said the official involved in the shooting had been taken on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Texas Rangers. The city did not mention Price or identify the officer. It was also not stated where the shooting took place.
The statement reflects “the lack of transparency in police investigations to which we have all grown accustomed,”
The Texas Rangers confirmed Monday through spokesman Lonny Haschel that they are investigating the shooting at the request of Wolfe City police. Haschel declined to comment further.
Price’s family and their attorney said they wanted the Hunt County district attorney to charge the officer with murder and post a surveillance video of the incident.
“We want to see a copy of the video and we want to see the official police report, which we have not yet seen,” Merritt said at a press conference at the gas station on Monday. “We want the officer to be officially named, identified and arrested.”
Neither the Wolfe City Police nor the Texas Rangers gave details of the shootings. In an Instagram post on Sunday, Merritt said the incident started when Price, who was black, noticed a man attacked a woman at the gas station and intervened.
“When the police arrived, he raised his hands and tried to explain what was going on,” Merritt said in the Post. “The police fired Taser at him and when his body was shaken by the electric current, they saw a threat and shot him.”
Merritt said Monday that Texas Rangers director Steven McCraw told him he watched a video of the shooting and was “not happy with what he saw” because the officer had acted. The gas station owners have refused to volunteer to provide surveillance videos, Merritt said. He said he would go through the legal process to retrieve it if they didn’t. A gas station agent declined to comment when reached by phone, and a Kwik Check spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.
Price’s father, Junior Price, burst into tears Monday when he described raising his son to “do the right thing”.
Standing just a few meters from where he saw his son die on Saturday, he said he spoke briefly to the police officer who shot him. He said he asked the officer why he shot Price.
“He didn’t say it,” said Price. “He said, ‘Come back, he’ll tell me later,'” Price said. “And I’m not here later. It’s Monday.”
Merritt said Price’s mother, Marcella Louis, wanted to be there on Monday but couldn’t be because “she’s overwhelmed”. The family mourned and made funeral arrangements.
Louis told Dallas-based WFAA-TV that she was rushing to the gas station when she learned that her only son had been shot.
“They didn’t let me get anywhere near my baby,” she said. “I just wanted to hold his hands. You wouldn’t let me do that.”
“They took my son away from me,” she said to the station, sobbing. “You took my baby.”
Price’s sister, April Louis, told the WFAA that her brother was highly regarded.
“Everyone loved Jonathan. Everyone,” she said. “Black, white, Mexican, it doesn’t matter. He loved everyone. Everyone loved him.”
Price’s mother and sister didn’t immediately return requests for interviews on Monday.
Merritt and others in the community said Price was known as a hometown hero, motivational speaker, personal trainer, athlete, community advocate, and mentor who worked with children.
“He’s done all the things that deserve praise,” said Merritt. “But that doesn’t mean he deserves justice.”
He deserves justice, Merritt said, because he was a person “who didn’t break the law and was gunned down by a police officer.”
“Everyone in this community will repeat that this shouldn’t have happened to Jonathan because of his character,” said Merritt. “This shouldn’t happen to anyone, though. And it happens far too often to unarmed black men, especially in northern Texas.
“So unfortunately we cannot part with the race issue,” he added.
Jesse Burleson, the head football coach at Hardin-Simmons University, a private Baptist school in Abilene, Texas, tweeted Sunday, “We lost one of us in a terrible situation. Jonathan Price was a great young man while at Cowboy Football. Was 2008 only with us for a short time, but was always a cowboy. Prayers for comfort and peace for Jonathan’s family. #CowboyBrother “
Will Middlebrooks, a former third baseman for Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers, said he grew up with Price and talked about their friendship in a video posted on Facebook on Sunday.
“Jonathan was a very close friend of mine from childhood. We got together, played T-ball, went to elementary school together,” said Middlebrooks, adding that Price was very close to his family. “We know how special he was as a person. And it’s a really hard loss.”
“This is a very, very heavy loss for all of us on many different levels,” said Middlebrooks.
He said “the last thing he wanted to see was Wolfe City being” torn to pieces “about it.
“I understand that you are angry. I understand that you are sad and broken. We all are,” said Middlebrooks. “Most of the people in this town are behind Jonathan and everything that was about him and who he is and who he was as a person. And the legacy he will leave behind.”
Middlebrooks said Price would not want Wolfe City “being set on fire and torn to pieces and ruining people’s businesses for having those people behind him.”
“This was a person who committed this crime,” said Middlebrooks. “And I pray that justice will be served soon. And I pray that this will be handled right.”
Merritt said the Texas Rangers chief raised concerns about social unrest during their interview Monday, but that he should be concerned about Price’s family.
“If this community, if the city officials, if the Texas Rangers, if law enforcement is at all concerned about the peace of this family, then they can take a step in the right direction that treats the man who gunned him away from our current one Location, like any other criminal suspect, “he said.
In June, Price said in a Facebook post that he should have been arrested by police at times for speeding, missing quotes, out of date registration and falling asleep at a red light. He said two white police officers let him go after he passed a sobriety test in Wylie, a town in Texas he described as “VERY racist”. However, he said he never got “that kind of energy” from the police.
The post concluded, “Not to say that black lives don’t matter, but don’t forget your own or your own growth / ‘wake-up’ experiences.”