PHILADELPHIA - The former Philadelphia police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Thomas "TJ" Siderio in South Philadelphia has been charged with murder, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced Monday.
According to Krasner, former officer Edsaul Mendoza is facing multiple charges including first-degree murder, third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in connection with the fatal shooting.
Mendoza is in custody and being held without bail, Krasner said during a morning press conference, adding that no bail is normal for the seriousness of the charges.
Police say four plainclothes officers in an unmarked car were patrolling the area near the 1700 block of Barbara Street around 7 p.m. on March 1 when they spotted two juveniles on bikes.
According to investigators, officers noticed that one of the juveniles was armed with a handgun and turned on the emergency lights to confront him. As police were getting out of the car, the armed juvenile, identified as Siderio, fired a shot at the passenger's side window and narrowly missed the officers.
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Two of the officers returned gunfire, hitting Siderio in the chest, authorities say.
Siderio died after being rushed to Presbyterian Hospital, according to police.
On March 9, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said the officer violated the department's use of force directive in the shooting and she suspended the officer for 30 days with intent to dismiss.
"I have made the decision to utilize Commissioner’s Direct Action to suspend Officer #1 with the intent to dismiss the officer at the end of 30 days due to violations of our use of force directive," Outlaw said.
Krasner says a grand jury was convened to hear the facts of the case and see evidence, including a video that has not been released to the press.
In the press conference, Krasner announces that Siderio was unarmed when he was shot by Mendoza.
After Siderio allegedly fired the first shot, Mendoza followed Siderio in what Krasner called a "tactically unsound foot chase."
According to Krasner, another officer fired his weapon "at no target in particular" and Mendoza fired his weapon three times, once where the foot chase began, a second time in the middle of Barbara Street and a third time while standing on the sidewalk and "relatively close to Thomas Siderio." He also said at the time Mendoza fired the last two shots, Siderio was unarmed because he had dropped the gun 40 feet behind him.
"Forty feet is a long way. It is certain that Thomas Siderio at the time he was shot had stopped running and that he was possibly surrendering," Krasner said. "It is certain that Thomas Siderio at the time he was shot was essentially face down on the sidewalk. That he was in a position that approximates sort of a push-up turning back towards where the officer was pursuing him. Perhaps turning to look at the officer who was pursuing him when he was shot in the back."
Other evidence corroborates that Mendoza's second shot was fired when he was running and another officer located the gun Siderio allegedly had, according to the DA's Office.
Krasner says the second shot did not hit Siderio, but nearly simultaneously the boy stopped running and went to the ground "either because he fell or he was diving onto the ground."
Following this, Krasner says Mendoza then changed the direction he was running "in a way that shows he knew that Thomas Siderio had stopped and where he was located."
Krasner says Mendoza's approach was inconsistent with a belief that Siderio was armed.
"When Mendoza fired the third shot he was within half a car length of Thomas Siderio and thus would've had the opportunity to see Thomas Siderio clearly at the time he fired," Krasner announced.
Additionally, Krasner says immediately after the shooting, Mendoza told another officer that Siderio threw the gun and pointed back to the area where he began chasing the boy.
"Thus when Officer Mendoza fired the third and fatal shot, he knew the 12-year-old, five-foot tall, 111-pound Thomas Siderio no longer had a gun and no ability to harm him," Krasner said.
TJ's family has spoken publicly about the shooting and called for justice.
"Tj was a great wonderful kid," said Thomas Lawler III, Siderio's grandfather. "He would help anybody out. He loved his family and friends. He loved everybody."
They have also called on the Philadelphia Police Department for answers.
"This message goes out to the Philadelphia cop that killed my 12-year-old grandson," Lawler III said. "I want to know why you shot him in the back at point-blank? You could have tackled him. You didn’t have to shoot him."
Attorneys representing Siderio's mother held a press conference Monday afternoon and they called the boy's death an execution.
"TJ was asked to drop the gun. He did that 40 feet back," attorney Andrew Duffey said. "He was asked to get down. He did so. And it's so painful to learn today he was lying down, face into the sidewalk, trying to look back and he was executed in cold blood."
He said while they have respect for Philadelphia police officers and the work they do, deadly force should not have been used.
"This was an execution. The grand jury has concluded that first-degree murder charges were warranted. First-degree murder is an intentional shooting and that's exactly what happened here," Duffey continued.
He also said Siderio would be alive had Philadelphia police "done their jobs properly."
Sidero's mother did not offer comments through the attorneys and the lawyers say they plan to file a civil rights action against Mendoza and the city.