Hunt County

Jury Finds Former Wolfe City Officer Not Guilty in Jonathan Price Murder

Jonathan Price, 31, was shot and killed by a police officer outside a gas station in Wolfe City, Texas, in October 2020

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A jury found former Wolfe City officer Shaun Lucas not guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of a Black man two years ago.

Closing arguments wrapped up Thursday around 11 a.m. in the murder trial with the jury returning the verdict around 5:30 p.m.

"I'm feeling disappointed. I'm feeling let down," said Jonathan Price's sister Sabrina Price.

Former Wolfe City Police Officer Shaun David Lucas was arrested on Oct. 5, 2020, and charged with murder two days after the shooting death of Jonathan Price.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, on Oct. 3, 2020, Lucas was dispatched to a disturbance call at about 8:24 p.m. at a gas station on the 100 block of Santa Fe Street. The incident was caught on surveillance camera and played at trial

"Jonathan Price was entering a store at the same time another patron was exiting. That patron didn't like how Jonathan was coming, he initiated a pushing match, pushing match was broken up in 5 seconds," said the Price family's civil right attorney Lee Merritt.

A probable cause affidavit said when Lucas arrived at the convenience store because of a “possible fight” he was greeted by Price, who asked the officer “you doing good” several times and extended his hand in a handshake gesture. Price apologized for the broken glass on the ground, telling the officer someone had tried “to wrap me up.”

The affidavit said Lucas thought Price was intoxicated and tried to detain him. Price said “I can’t be detained” as Lucas grabbed at his arm and used verbal commands. When Lucas produced a stun gun, Price began to walk away.

After Lucas deployed the stun gun, which wasn’t fully effective, Price walked toward him and appeared to reach out to grab the end of the stun gun, the affidavit said. The affidavit said that Lucas then fired four times, striking Price in the upper torso. Price was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

According to the Texas Rangers, which launched a preliminary investigation following the incident, Price resisted "in a non-threatening posture" and started to walk away. At that moment, the Texas Rangers said Lucas first fired his stun gun and then fired his service weapon, striking Price. The Texas Rangers said Lucas' actions "were not objectionably reasonable."

Robert Rogers, one of Lucas' attorneys, said in a statement in 2020 that the officer was acting within the law when he confronted someone who was trying to take his weapon.

"Officer Lucas responded to a fight in progress call. He saw several people gathered at the front of the store. Mr. Price approached Officer Lucas. Mr. Price did not claim to be an uninvolved, innocent party. Officer Lucas told Mr. Price he was detained, and Mr. Price resisted. After Mr. Price refused repeated instructions and physically resisted, Officer Lucas deployed his Taser and continued to give Mr. Price instructions. Mr. Price resisted the effects of the Taser and attempted to take it away from Officer Lucas. Officer Lucas only discharged his weapon in accordance with Texas law when he was confronted with an aggressive assailant who was attempting to take his Taser."

After Thursday's not guilty verdict, Rogers said he was relieved the system worked and that the evidence showed Lucas's actions were reasonable.

"My client's been in jail for two years over a split-second decision that he made in the line of duty," said Rogers.

Sabrina Price, sister of Jonathan Price, and other relatives wept in the courtroom after the verdict. She believes the jury makeup influenced the decision.

"There was not one person that looked like me. There was not one person that looked like my father. There was not one person that looked like Lee Merritt. Period," said Price.

Merritt said the evidence was "overwhelming in favor of guilty" and plans to move forward with a federal civil rights case filed against Wolfe City.

He says he plans to appeal to the U.S. Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against Lucas.

"The verdict today makes every Black citizen in Hunt County less safe, and it was delivered, not surprisingly, by a jury that didn't have a single black citizen on it," said Merritt. "I honestly think it comes down to an inherent bias in the favor of law enforcement."

According to records provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Lucas was appointed as a Wolfe City police officer on April 14, 2020, after completing basic training in March. He previously served for less than six months as a jailer for the Hunt County Sheriff's Department.

Lucas was arrested two days after the shooting and fired in the following days.

The Wolfe City Police Department and Hunt County District Attorney's Office assisted the Texas Rangers in the investigation.

Wolfe City is a small town in Hunt County, about 60 miles northeast of Dallas and about 15 miles north of Greenville.

Rogers said Lucas does not intend to ask for his job back and was unaware whether Lucas plans to seek a career in law enforcement in the future.

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