Phoenix, AZ — A year ago, a tragedy unfolded in Tempe, Arizona as a 14-year-old child was gunned down as he ran away from a cop, holding a toy. Last month, police in Arizona released the full dramatic body camera footage from when an officer shot and killed 14-year-old Antonio Arce who had attempted to escape on foot while holding a toy gun with a visibly orange tip. On Friday, the officer Joseph Jaen, who killed Antonio was cleared in his death—despite shooting the child who was unarmed and running away.
Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel on Friday announced that Jaen will face no charges for killing the child, claiming that Jaen thought he was in imminent danger from the child running away from him.
"Based on the facts and the evidence in this case, Officer Jaen believed he was in imminent danger," Adel said. "Officer Jaen believed those in the immediate area were in immediate danger and Officer Jaen believed he had no other choice but to fire his weapon to protect himself and the community."
"That day Officer Jaen did not see a 14-year-old boy with a replica. In that moment he saw a suspect running through a neighborhood with a weapon," she continued. "In those split seconds, Officer Jaen believed someone was fleeing the scene of a crime."
The only real crime scene, however, appeared as a 14-year-old child bled out on the ground after being shot twice in the back.
“My clients want accountability and what they call justice,” said Daniel Ortega, the family’s lawyer said last month after announcing a lawsuit. “There is no question in my mind or in my client’s mind that this was a mistake.”
But this justice will not come.
The family says that regardless of a mistake, that never gave this cop the right to kill their child who was 100 feet away and running in the opposite direction.
“There has to be accountability,” Ortega said.
As TFTP reported, last month, the Tempe Police Department released the video among a slew of other documents, 911 calls and personnel files on officer Jaen. The files and the video were released only after the family and the media made numerous requests. Still, the department waited almost a full year after Arce's death to release it.
The files reveal a history of excessive force dating back to 2013. In total, this officer, who shot and killed a child holding a toy gun with an orange tip, had 19 separate incidents — not including the investigation for killing Arce — in his record.
As Arce's family still mourns the loss of their child, this cop with a history of excessive force was granted an early retirement with full benefits for the rest of his life.
In December, Jean was awarded accidental disability retirement. In a unanimous vote, the Tempe Police Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board granted former officer Joseph Jaen's request for accidental disability. Jaen submitted the request back in June of 2019, AZ Family reported.
As we reported at the time, the Tempe Police Department officer was responding to reports of a burglarized truck in an alleyway of the Phoenix suburb last January when he encountered the teen.
The body camera footage shows Officer Jaen encountering a grey pick-up truck, taking cover behind a trash can after noticing Arce was still present in the vehicle. After Jaen shouts “hey” to the suspect, Arce flees holding what authorities said appears to be a handgun. In reality, however, it was a legal airsoft gun with a visible orange tip.
The lawsuit describes Jaen's negligence clearly and catches the officer in a lie:
In the aforementioned video, defendant Jaen reaches the truck and shouts, “Let me see your hands” as Antonio was running away, with his back facing the officer and never turning around. According to the report, defendant Jaen stated that he said “Stop Police or Tempe Police” to Antonio at that time. His body cam video clearly shows that at no time does defendant Jaen announce himself as Tempe Police. According to the report, defendant Jaen claimed that he believed Antonio had an actual handgun (which turned out to be a toy Airsoft gun with an orange tip) in his right hand but that he did not see Antonio attempt to manipulate it.
As Arce approaches the end of the alley, Jaen fires two shots, hitting the teenager once in the shoulder while the second shot hits a wall at the end of the alley.
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“He’s got a handgun,” Jaen is heard saying on his radio as he continues his pursuit. Even if Antonio would've had an actual gun, he was running away and never pointed or otherwise threatened anyone with it.
Eventually, Arce can no longer run and collapses at the end of the alley. Instead of rendering aid to the dying child he just shot, Jaen initiates a several minutes long standoff with him because he couldn't respond to the officer's commands.
Once other officers arrived, Jaen realized what he had done.
"F--k man, he's just a f--king kid. It's a f--king toy gun," Jaen is heard on his body camera saying minutes after the Jan. 15, 2018 shooting.
Clearly misjudging the situation, Jaen's body camera recorded the officer claiming the small boy, holding an orange tipped toy gun was a man in his 40's.
During questioning with his lawyer present after the shooting, Jaen appeared to know that he messed up.
"In describing his first realization that the gun the subject was carrying was possibly a toy gun since it had an orange tip, (officer) Jaen had difficulty speaking further until he finally stated, 'it was like why?'" according to the police report.
As AZ Central reports, the police report also says that Arce's mother, Sandra Gonzalez, had called 911 to get help in finding her son. She had called police because she didn't know where her son was and he wasn't picking up his cell phone when she called it, she has previously said.
She even told police that her son would likely run if he saw police, because they make him nervous.
Gonzalez "described him as having a nervous tick," the police report says. "Furthermore, she stated that if he were to see the police, he would get nervous. Additionally, if the police tell him to stop, he would not stop due to being nervous."
"He ran because he was scared," Antonio’s brother said at the time. "I heard witnesses saying he was screaming, 'Oh my God, oh my God!'"
After killing Arce, officer Jaen was placed on administrative leave pending the criminal and internal investigations. Despite the fact that the investigations are still underway, Jaen was allowed to retire in May and was just granted full benefits.
Questions around the shooting have focused on the distance at which the teenager was shot by Jaen and the risk he posed while fleeing—which happened to be none.
Speaking on behalf of the family of the deceased, attorney Danny Ortega said: “It was a long distance. How this young man could have presented a threat at that far a distance is a question that needs to be asked.”
Because the system failed to hold their own accountable, the taxpayers are now on the line. Arce's family is now seeking punitive, compensatory, and special damages of an amount to be determined at trial.
Below is this disturbing and graphic video of a police officer killing a boy for holding an orange tip toy gun.