The police officer who was fired from the Philadelphia Police Department after he fatally shot Thomas "TJ" Siderio, 12, in the back in March has been charged with murder. Photo courtesy Philadelphia District Attorney/Facebook
May 2 (UPI) -- The police officer who was fired from the Philadelphia Police Department after he fatally shot Thomas "TJ" Siderio, 12, in the back in March has been charged with murder.
Edsaul Mendoza, 26, was arrested Sunday night and charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and possessing an instrument of crime, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced during a press conference Monday.
Mendoza is being held without bail.
Mendoza and three other plainclothes officers responding to reports involving a stolen gun were conducting surveillance in an unmarked car when they spotted Siderio holding a Taurus 9MM handgun with another 17-year-old boy, identified as N.K., on March 1.
The officers -- including Kwaku Sarpong, Robert Cucinelli and Alexander Camacho -- activated their emergency lights and drove toward the boys when Siderio allegedly fired into the car, Krasner said.
"When the child fired the gun, that immediately caused three officers to take cover and police officer Mendoza began what can fairly be called a tactically unsound foot chase of the 12-year-old," Krasner said.
Mendoza fired three shots, including the one that killed the preteen, and another officer fired a single shot "once at no target in particular."
Krasner said the charges came after a grand jury viewed video footage that has not yet been made public, which he summarized during the press conference.
The video and other evidence showed, Krasner said, that Mendoza had allegedly fired the first round after getting out of the vehicle and then one mid-block as he chased Siderio down Barbara Street before firing the third shot farther down the block.
"At the time of the last two shots, Siderio was unarmed having discarded the gun back at 1739 Barbara Street which was approximately 40 feet away from where Thomas Siderio was chased and then shot," Krasner said.
Krasner said that Siderio had stopped running at the same time Mendoza fired his second shot and was face down on the sidewalk "in a position that approximates a sort of a push-up" while turning back to look at the officer.
"Mendoza then slowed down and changed direction in a way that showed that he knew Thomas Siderio had stopped and where he was located," Krasner said.
"Mendoza's approach to Siderio was completely inconsistent with Mendoza believing Siderio was armed. Officer Mendoza approached Siderio even though Siderio was behind a parked car where the child could have taken advantage of cover."
Krasner said that, in approaching Siderio, Mendoza was required to pass by an opening between two parked cars that would have placed him into the potential line of fire if he had believed the boy still had the weapon.
"Nevertheless, Mendoza went right through there. Mendoza did not hesitate even a moment to enter what some experts call this 'fatal funnel,'" Krasner said.
Mendoza was within half a car length of Siderio and "thus would have had the opportunity to see Thomas Siderio clearly" when he shot him, Krasner said.
He then allegedly told another officer who arrived after the shooting that the boy tossed the gun halfway down the block and pointed to the location.
"Comacho immediately went to the place the Mendoza had indicated and secured the gun. The gun was sitting on the street below the curb line nearly 40 feet away," Krasner said.
"Thus, when Officer Mendoza fired the third and fatal shot, he knew that the 12-year-old, five-foot-tall 111-pound Thomas Siderio no longer had a gun and no ability to harm him."
Krasner added that Mendoza had made "untrue statements" about where he was when he fired the last two shots "which can indicate guilty knowledge."
He also said that his office intends to confirm that Mendoza had called out to Siderio to "drop the gun" and then ordered him to "get down."
"Now why are we shifting from drop the gun to get down unless you saw the gun drop," Krasner said.
"And by the way, after the cry was 'drop the gun,' the gun was dropped. And after the cry was 'get down,' he got down. Whether he got down because he tripped or whether he got down in a hurry and voluntarily is less clear."
Siderio, who was hit in his upper right back, was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead, officials said.
When asked during the press conference if he would characterize the incident, Krasner declined but said: "I can tell you that I find this very, very disturbing and very difficult to watch."