Update: A former Philadelphia police officer who was fired after the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old in March has been charged with murder. Prosecutors say the shot that killed Thomas "TJ" Siderio was fired from near-point blank range while the boy was unarmed and "essentially face down on the sidewalk," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The former officer, 26-year-old Edsaul Mendoza, faces charges including first- and third-degree murder. District Attorney Larry Krasner says that when Mendoza shot Siderio in the back, he knew the boy "no longer had a gun and no ability to harm him." Our original story from March 2 follows:
Philadelphia police officers fatally shot a seventh-grader in the back on Tuesday. Four plainclothes officers were in an unmarked car taking part in a weapons investigation shortly before 7:30pm when they saw a person holding what seemed to be a handgun on a street corner, according to a police statement issued Wednesday. The driver turned on the emergency lights before a bullet came through the vehicle's back passenger-side window, hitting the passenger-seat headrest, the statement added, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. Two officers exited and fired at the person they'd thought was armed. After giving chase, an officer hit 12-year-old Thomas Siderio in the back with a bullet that exited his chest, police said. He died at a hospital within minutes.
"A young child with a gun in their hand purposely fired a weapon at our officers and by miracle, none of the officers suffered life-threatening injuries," Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a statement, per the Inquirer, which reports one officer was hospitalized with an eye injury from broken glass. But at a virtual briefing, Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Naish said it wasn't certain that Thomas fired the shot that entered the vehicle. Police did note he was holding a stolen semiautomatic handgun equipped with a laser, which had one round in the chamber and five in the magazine. The fact that he was shot in the back doesn't mean "that he was fleeing and that there was not a gun being pointed toward or in the vicinity of the officer," Naish added.
Police said they were in the area in response to social media posts about a stolen gun. A 17-year-old wanted for questioning, who'd been standing with Thomas, was detained, then released, per WTXF. The teen's stepfather tells KABC that the two minors saw an unmarked car slam on its brakes and believed they were about to be attacked, "so the kid shot because he thought somebody was going to shoot him." A 20-year-old who was with the pair shortly before the shooting says they told him they were going to a nearby playground, per the Inquirer. He describes Thomas as a "good kid." Neighbors describe him as "troubled," per KABC. The two officers who fired shots are on administrative leave. None were wearing body cameras. (Read more police shooting stories.)