Philadelphia, PA – The fired Philadelphia police officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old boy after he opened fire on officers in March has been charged with first-degree murder.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced the charges against 26-year-old now-former Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) Officer Edsaul Mendoza on May 2, CNN reported.
Krasner said a grand jury considered video footage of the March 1 incident between Officer Mendoza and 12-year-old Thomas “TJ” Siderio in making its decision.
The footage has not been released to the public.
In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Mendoza also faces charges of third-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime with intent to use it criminally, and voluntary manslaughter, CNN reported.
The former officer was arrested on Monday morning and booked into jail, where he is being held without bond.
Mendoza’s preliminary hearing has been scheduled for May 16, CNN reported.
PPD Commissioner Danielle Outlaw previously announced Officer Mendoza violated the department’s use of force policy during the encounter with Siderio, the Philadelphia Patch reported.
“It’s tragic, the circumstances that even led our young people out there in the first place,” Commissioner Outlaw said during a press conference in March, according to WPVI. “And it’s tragic that we had one of our own, again, go against everything who we say we are.”
Mendoza was fired after a 30-day suspension that began on March 11.
Commissioner Outlaw also confirmed that Siderio’s family has filed a lawsuit over the teen’s death.
The confrontation occurred near Barbara Street and 18th Street as four South Task Force officers were conducting surveillance in an unmarked police vehicle at approximately 7:20 p.m. on March 1, WPVI reported.
That’s when they spotted two teens riding by on bicycles.
The PPD said one of the boys was wanted for questioning in connection with a firearm violation investigation, according to the Philadelphia Patch.
The officers activated the lights on their unmarked vehicle and tried to stop them, at which point Siderio fired a stolen 9mm handgun equipped with a laser at the patrol unit, according to police.
The bullet traveled through the car’s back window and into a headrest, WPVI reported.
“This kid fires a shot right into the rear passenger’s side window,” PPD Sergeant Eric Gripp told reporters. “We’re really lucky we don’t have an officer seriously injured and killed right now because the bullet went right through that window and embedded itself into the driver’s side headrest.”
One of the officers was hit in the eye and face by shattered glass.
Although the officers were in plainclothes, they were wearing vests, had badges hanging from their necks, and identified themselves as police, Sgt. Gripp noted.
Their vehicle was also “all lit up,” he said.
Two of the four officers bailed out of the vehicle and returned fire before the suspects took off running down the 1800-block of Barbara Street, WPVI reported.
Krasner said the three other officers took cover, but that Officer Mendoza made the “tactically unsound” decision to pursue Siderio, according to CNN.
He fired a total of three rounds at the boy.
Krasner alleged Officer Mendoza fired two of those rounds after Siderio tossed his stolen gun away while running, CNN reported.
The prosecutor said Officer Mendoza fired the fatal round as the suspect was in a “pushup” position on the ground just feet away from him.
“It is certain that (Siderio) had stopped running and he was possibly surrendering,” Krasner said, according to NPR. “It is certain that Thomas Siderio, at the time he was shot, was essentially face down on the sidewalk, that he was in a position that approximates sort of a pushup. Turning back toward where the officer was pursuing him, perhaps turning to look at the officer who was pursuing him, when he was shot through the back.”
Krasner said that after the shooting, Officer Mendoza immediately directed one of his fellow officers to the location where the discarded gun was located, according to CNN.
Police said the stolen Taurus 9mm handgun had one round in the chamber and five more in the magazine, WPVI reported.
“Thus, when Officer Mendoza fired the third and fatal shot, he knew the 12-year-old, 5-foot tall, 111-pound Thomas Siderio no longer had a gun and no ability to harm him,” the district attorney noted, according to CNN.
The officers scooped Siderio up and rushed him to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to Sgt. Gripp.
The 17-year-old male the boy was with was uninjured and was taken into custody, WPVI reported.
He was later released pending further investigation, the Philadelphia Patch reported.
According to Krasner, Officer Mendoza later made an “untruthful statement about his location” when he was running and shooting at the suspect, which the district attorney cited as further evidence that the officer knew he had shot Siderio illegally, according to NPR.
Conor Corcoran, the attorney representing Siderio’s family, previously denied allegations the 12-year-old was carrying a gun when the shooting occurred, WPVI reported.
Corcoran said police simply “murdered” the pre-teen “at point-blank range.”
“This unseemly speculation about his guilt – from Philly PD, in particular – is just the latest example of their own interest in covering their tracks, rather than atoning for this unforgivable act of malice and murder,” the lawyer declared.
During a press conference on Monday, an attorney representing Siderio’s mother seemed to acknowledge allegations that the boy was armed, but he doubled-down on the assertion that Officer Mendoza “executed” him, WTXF reported.
“TJ was asked to drop the gun. He did that 40 feet back,” attorney Andrew Duffey told reporters. “He was asked to get down. He did so. And it’s so painful to learn today he was lying down, face into the sidewalk, trying to look back and he was executed in cold blood.”
Duffey said Siderio would still be alive if the PPD had “done their jobs properly,” WTXF reported.
“This was an execution. The grand jury has concluded that first-degree murder charges were warranted. First-degree murder is an intentional shooting and that’s exactly what happened here,” he added.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 5 has confirmed it plans to provide Mendoza with an attorney, WSET reported.