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Ex-Philadelphia officer charged in 12-year-old's killing pleads guilty

Authorities said Edsaul Mendoza shot Thomas “TJ” Siderio, including when the boy was unarmed. Mendoza pleaded guilty to third-degree murder.

A former Philadelphia police officer who killed a 12-year-old boy and allegedly fired two of the shots during a foot chase after the boy had discarded his gun pleaded guilty to murder Friday, the prosecutors’ office said.

Edsaul Mendoza, 28, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime in the March 1, 2022, death of Thomas “TJ” Siderio, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said.

“Justice must be even-handed. Everyone must be accountable under the law,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement.

A possible sentence was not disclosed. Sentencing was scheduled for July 22.

Mendoza was fired by the Philadelphia Police Department and was charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of a crime in May 2022.

A grand jury said in a court document that Mendoza and three other officers, who were on-duty but in plain clothes, stopped Siderio and his 17-year-old friend as they were riding bikes at around 7:30 p.m., after they recognized the 17-year-old as "tangentially connected" to a stolen gun case.

The unmarked police car’s lights were activated, and a shot went off that broke the police car passenger side window.

The boys ran and split up. Mendoza chased Siderio, who had a gun at the time, on foot, according to the grand jury document.

Mendoza fired three times — but the last two shots were after Siderio had discarded the gun, prosecutors said. The final and fatal shot was fired from about 10 feet away, according to the grand jury document.

The gun Siderio threw was later found, and the grand jury concluded that he likely fired a Taurus 9mm handgun at the unmarked car before the fatal chase.

Siderio was shot in the back when he was unarmed, and died within 90 seconds, according to the grand jury document.

It said Siderio “had certainly stopped running and was possibly surrendering,” when he was killed.

Krasner has described the foot chase as “tactically unsound” and called the boy’s death a tragedy.

When Siderio was struck by the third shot, he had either fallen or dove to the ground, the grand jury said in the document. If Mendoza thought the boy was armed, the tactically correct thing to do would be to take cover and approach, and Mendoza did not do that and ran up the street completely exposed, it says.

“PO Mendoza’s approach to Thomas Siderio was then completely inconsistent with P0 Mendoza believing that Thomas Siderio was armed,” the grand jury said in the document.

Mendoza's attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment left after business hours Friday evening.