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Ex-cop acquitted of murder in shooting in small Texas town

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GREENVILLE, Texas (AFP) – A former small-town Texas police officer was found not guilty of murder Thursday in the murder of a black man who offered him a handshake when the officer arrived to answer a call about a grocery store brawl.

The Hunt County jury deliberated for more than five hours before acquitting Shawn Lucas of Jonathan Price’s death.

Lucas was a city officer at Wolf where Price, who played football at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, was a city employee, personal trainer, and bodybuilder who dreamed of starting his own fitness center. Lucas was charged with the murder of Price on the night of October 3, 2020, and was fired from police five days later.

The City of Wolf, about 70 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Dallas and near the Texas-Oklahoma border, has a population of about 1,500 people.

It was never clear from witness testimony what triggered the quarrel between Price and another man. Nicholas Malone testified that he, his brother and Price were drinking after Malone’s father’s funeral when they decided to go to the store to buy cigarettes. The three remained in the store when Malone heard a glass break, and saw Bryce get into a fight with another man.

“My brother and I tried to separate them,” Malone said, adding that the argument lasted “for a few seconds” before the two were broken up, and everyone seemed to calm down before Lucas arrived.

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When Lucas, who is white, responded to the quarrel report, Bryce greeted him with an outstretched hand and an apology for the broken glass. Lucas decided that Bryce was drunk and tried to detain him, but Bryce resisted. Lucas used a stun gun when he approached Price, then shot Price when he reached for the stun gun, according to a police statement.

The Texas Rangers concluded that lethal force was not called into the confrontation because Bryce was defenseless. Eleven witnesses at the scene testified that Price was not angry or aggressive in his reactions, Attorney General Stephen Lilly told the Hunt County jury in closing arguments Thursday.

“He is dead. He was murdered that night,” Lily said of Price. “If it wasn’t necessary, it was murder. Go back and find him guilty.”

Defense attorney Robert Rogers asserted that Lucas had no choice but to shoot Price in self-defense “because he was terrified. That was the only reason he fired his gun.”

Lucas had been with the Wolf City Police Department for just under six months when he shot Price, according to Texas Law Enforcement Commission records. His previous law enforcement experience was working as a warden with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office for about five months.

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