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'They took my baby': Man killed by Texas police after intervening in dispute, family says

Jonathan Price, 31, had stepped in between a couple arguing at a gas station about an hour north of Dallas.

A former Hardin-Simmons University football player was shot and killed by police after he intervened in a fight between a man and a woman at a gas station in Texas, his family said.

The man, Jonathan Price, 31, was shot Saturday night at a Kwik Chek gas station on Santa Fe Street in Wolfe City, about 70 miles northeast of Dallas.

In a statement posted Sunday to its Facebook page, the city said the officer involved in the shooting had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Texas Rangers. The city didn't mention Price or identify the officer. It also didn't state where the shooting occurred.

The statement reflects "the lack of transparency in police investigations that we have all grown accustomed to," Lee Merritt, an attorney for Price's family, said Monday.

The Texas Rangers, through spokesman Lonny Haschel, confirmed Monday that they were investigating the shooting at the request of Wolfe City police. Haschel declined to comment further.

Price's family and their attorney said they want the Hunt County district attorney to indict the officer on murder charges and release surveillance video of the incident.

"We want to see a copy of the video, and we want to see the official police report, which we haven't seen yet," Merritt said Monday at a news conference at the gas station. "We want the officer officially named, identified and arrested."

Neither Wolfe City police nor the Texas Rangers released details of the shooting. In an Instagram post Sunday, Merritt said the incident began when Price, who was Black, noticed a man assaulting a woman at the gas station and intervened.

"When police arrived, I'm told, he raised his hands and attempted to explain what was going on," Merritt said in the post. "Police fired tasers at him and when his body convulsed from the electrical current, they 'perceived a threat' and shot him to death."

Merritt said Monday that the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, told him that he had watched a video of the shooting and "was not happy with what he saw" because of the officer's actions. The owners of the gas station have refused to turn over surveillance video voluntarily, Merritt said. He said he would go through the legal process to retrieve it if they don't. An employee at the gas station declined to comment when reached by phone, and a spokeswoman for Kwik Check didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Price's father, Junior Price, broke down in tears Monday as he described having raised his son to "do the right thing."

He stood just feet from where he watched his son dying Saturday and said he spoke briefly with the officer who shot him. He said he asked the officer why he shot Price.

"He didn't say," Price said. "He said, 'Get back,' he'll tell me later," Price said. "And later ain't got here yet. It's Monday."

Merritt said Price's mother, Marcella Louis, wanted to be there Monday but couldn't be because "she's overwhelmed." The family were grieving and making funeral arrangements.

Louis told WFAA-TV of Dallas that when she learned that her only son had been shot, she rushed to the gas station.

IMAGE: Jonathan Price
Jonathan Price.via Facebook

"They wouldn't let me get close to my baby," she said. "I just wanted to hold his hands. They wouldn't let me do that. "

"They took my son from me," she told the station through sobs. "They took my baby."

Price's sister, April Louis, told WFAA that her brother was well regarded.

"Everybody loved Jonathan. Everybody," she said. "Black, white, Mexican, it doesn't matter. He loved everybody. Everybody loved him."

Price's mother and sister didn't immediately return requests for interviews Monday.

Merritt and others in the community have said Price was known as a hometown hero, a motivational speaker, a personal trainer, an athlete, a community advocate and a mentor who worked with children.

"He did all those things that deserve praise," Merritt said. "But that is not why he deserves justice."

He deserves justice, Merritt said, because he was a human being "who was not breaking the law and was gunned down by a police officer."

"Everyone in this community will echo that this shouldn't have happened to Jonathan because of the character that he had," Merritt said. "However, this shouldn't happen to anybody. And it happens far too often to unarmed Black men, particularly in North Texas.

"So we unfortunately can't divorce the race issue from it," he added.

Jesse Burleson, the head football coach at Hardin-Simmons University, a private Baptist college in Abilene, Texas, tweeted Sunday: "Lost one of our own in a terrible situation. Jonathan Price was an awesome young man during his time with Cowboy Football. Was only with us for a short time in 2008 but was always a Cowboy. Prayers for comfort and peace for Jonathan's family. #CowboyBrother"

Will Middlebrooks, a former third baseman for major-league baseball's Texas Rangers, said he grew up with Price and talked about their friendship in a video posted Sunday on Facebook.

"Jonathan was a very close friend of mine from childhood. We came up together, played T-ball together, went to elementary school together," Middlebrooks said, adding that Price was very close to his family. "We know how special of a human being he was. And it's a really tough loss."

"This is a really, really tough loss for all of us on a lot of different levels," Middlebrooks said.

He said "the last thing" he wanted to see was Wolfe City "get torn to pieces because of this."

"I understand you're angry. I understand you're sad and broken. We all are," Middlebrooks said. "Most people in that town are behind Jonathan and everything he was about and who he is and who he was as a person. And the legacy he'll leave."

Middlebrooks said Price wouldn't want Wolfe City "torched and torn to pieces and people's businesses being ruined because of this, because those people were behind him."

"This was one person who committed this crime," Middlebrooks said. "And I pray justice will be served soon. And I pray this is handled correctly."

Merritt said that McCraw expressed concern about social unrest during their conversation Monday but that he should be worried about Price's family.

"If this community, if the city officials, if the Texas Rangers, if law enforcement is concerned at all with the peace of this family, then they can take one step in the proper direction, which is treating the man who gunned him down feet away from where we stand now, like any other criminal suspect," he said.

In June, Price said in a Facebook post that there were times he should have been detained by police for speeding, outstanding citations, outdated registration and dozing off at a red light. He said two white police officers let him go after he passed a sobriety test in Wylie, a city in Texas that he said is considered "to be VERY racist." He said, however, that he had never gotten "that kind of energy from" the police.

The post concluded: "Not saying black lives don't matter, but don't forget about your own, or your experiences through growth/'waking up.'"