Arlington, TX — O'Shae Terry and his friend were stopped in September 2018 by Arlington police officer Julie Herlihy because the temporary tag on Terry's vehicle had expired. Officer Bau Tran would also respond to the stop, and ten minutes later, he would shoot and kill Terry. Now, Tran is being granted qualified immunity by the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court because jumping onto a moving car and killing the driver is "reasonable."
The incident happened on September 1, 2018 in broad daylight. Terry hadn't gotten in his new license plate yet, so he was targeted for revenue collection by officer Herlihy. When officer Tran showed up, however, he smelled marijuana and a stop for a ticket turned into a search for a plant.
According to the court's decision:
A City of Arlington police officer pulled over O’Shae Terry and his passenger, Terrence Harmon, for driving a large SUV with an expired registration tag. The officer approached the car and asked Terry and Harmon for identification. After taking their information, the officer advised them that she smelled marijuana coming from the car and, as a result, had to search it. In the meantime, another police officer, Defendant Bau Tran, arrived on the scene and approached the car from the passenger’s side next to a curb. While the first officer went back to her patrol car to verify Terry’s and Harmon’s information, Tran waited with the two men. Tran asked them to lower the windows and shut off the vehicle’s engine, and Terry at first complied. Dashcam and bodycam videos capture what happened next.
After some small talk, Terry started raising the windows and reaching for the ignition. Tran immediately shouted “hey, hey, hey, hey,” clambered onto the running board of the SUV, and grabbed the passenger window with his left hand. Tran reached through the passenger window with his right hand and yelled “hey, stop.” Tran retracted his right hand and rested it on his holstered pistol. Then Terry fired the ignition and shifted into drive. Just after the car lurched forward, Tran drew his weapon, stuck it through the window past Harmon’s face, and shot 5 rounds, striking Terry four times.
Instead of simply stepping off the vehicle—knowing he had all of Terry's information and could've followed up with him later—officer Tran pulled out his gun, stuck it into the vehicle and started shooting Terry.
The car had moved forward for just one second before Tran began firing the first of five shots. Because Tran's poor decision making led to him holding on to the car, the court claims that Tran thought his life was in danger and therefore, killing Tran was "reasonable."
Indeed, what came next illustrates the danger Tran faced. Several seconds after Tran shot Terry, while the SUV was still moving, Tran fell off the running board and into the busy street.
Moreover, as Tran tumbled across the asphalt, the car’s rear tires nearly overran his limbs.
The court failed to mention that the car tires only nearly ran over Tran — because Tran killed the driver and no one was at the wheel, causing the vehicle to run out of control.
Highlighting the ridiculous nature of qualified immunity for police is the fact that in 2019, Tran was charged with criminally negligent homicide. Those charges are still pending, yet the Fifth Circuit is already claiming Tran did nothing wrong.
Naturally, the attorney provided by the police union for Tran thinks the charges are a travesty of justice and the cop should've been able to murder Terry with impunity.
"Obviously we're disappointed that he was indicted," said attorney Randy Moore. "Things happened pretty quickly and once the driver made the decision to roll up the window and drive away, then that limited the options that the officer had."
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Moore apparently thinks that Tran's only other option was murder.
When asked why Tran didn't just let Terry drive off since police had his name and license plate, and could've found him later, Moore gave a ridiculous response.
“There’s an inherent flaw in that opinion” and said that if Tran allowed Terry to leave the scene, a pursuit could have started or a crash may have happened.
“He was shot because the officer felt his life was in danger during the commission of the felony,” Moore said, according to the Star-Telegram.
But Moore doesn't actually know that there would have been an accident, or a pursuit. This was over a stop for an expired sticker and the smell of weed. Terry hadn't harmed anyone and was simply suspected of possessing marijuana and had an expired government sticker. Had Terry lived in Colorado or Washington State, or one of the other states in which marijuana is legal, he'd likely still be alive today.
"No family, no mother or father should have to go through anything like this," said Terry's mother Sherley Woods.
Terry's best friend, Terrence Harmon, who was in the passenger seat as Tran killed Terry is also heartbroken.
"I think about him every day, every day, not a day goes by where I don’t think about him," Harmon said. "But as I'm going, I'm learning to live with it."
“He said he had marijuana in the car, marijuana was later found in the car,” attorney Lee Merritt said. “He had an expired tag. He pulled off from a stop that he shouldn’t have pulled off from. We expect law enforcement officers to come into contact with people who are breaking the law, and this was a situation where O’Shae made several mistakes. None of those mistakes should have been fatal.”
We agree. As you watch the video below, remember that Terry was unarmed and merely trying to drive away from police. Yes, this decision was not well thought out, but his mistake should've never been the death sentence that it turned out to be.