Courts

Ex-Cop Faces a Wrongful Death Lawsuit over Fatal Shooting of Black Man in Wolfe City

The Wolfe City shooting came months after nationwide protests against police brutality.
The Wolfe City shooting came months after nationwide protests against police brutality. Michael Förtsch on Unsplash
On Thursday, a Hunt County jury unanimously found Shaun Lucas, a former police officer who shot and killed a Black man named Jonathan Price in October 2020, not guilty of murder.

Lucas, who was fired from the Wolfe City Police Department following the incident, admitted to shooting 31-year-old Price, but he insisted he was acting in self-defense, a claim the prosecution denied.

Price’s mother, Marcella Louis, has filed a federal lawsuit against Lucas and Wolfe City in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Louis’ attorneys were not available for comment Friday.

Filed on Sept. 3, the wrongful death suit claims Lucas shot and killed Price in violation of the man’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Wolfe City has a population of around 1,100 and is about 70 miles northeast of Dallas.

The suit also notes that the city “is responsible for the operation of the Wolfe City Police Department and the conduct of its officers.” Wolfe City didn't respond to the Observer's request for comment.

The fatal shooting took place on the night of Oct. 3, 2020, after Lucas had shown up at a convenience store responding to a disturbance call. Price had reportedly broken up a scuffle between two other individuals.

According to authorities, Price approached Lucas and tried to shake his hand several times. Testifying this week, Lucas claimed that Price appeared intoxicated and had reached for his taser, although witnesses disputed that claim. The police officer first tased Price and then shot him in the chest.

An investigation by the Texas Rangers concluded that Lucas had responded with his firearm in a way that was “not objectively reasonable.”

During the trial, Lucas’ attorneys argued that Price had posed a threat to the police officer.
"We're very gratified that the jury found our client not guilty," Toby Shook, one of Lucas' attorneys, told the Observer by phone. "He'd been waiting two years in jail for his day in court. It was a very tragic situation, obviously. A man lost his life, but the evidence showed he was acting in self-defense, and that's what the jury found."

Meanwhile, the federal civil suit alleges that Lucas “was not in danger of serious bodily injury or death at the time that he shot Mr. Price.”

That suit requests a jury trial.

Lee Merritt, the Dallas-based civil rights attorney who has represented the Price family, condemned Thursday’s not-guilty verdict on Twitter the next day.

“Shaun Lucas was acquitted in rural Hunt County Texas by an all white jury. At the time of his murder he was unarmed and did not pose a threat to any one,” Merritt wrote. “Every law enforcement professional that reviewed the facts concluded Lucas’ use of force was unjustified.”

He added that the family intended to call on the U.S. Department of Justice “to intervene and bring federal criminal charges.”

Price's death came just months after a Minneapolis police officer killed a 46-year-old George Floyd, whose death sparked Black Lives Matter protests in cities around the nation.
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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