Mesquite Police release body cam video of fatal shooting of teenager, sparking calls for justice

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An officer shot and killed a 19-year-old on Thursday afternoon, according to body camera footage made public by Mesquite police. Payton Lawrence's family has been calling for more transparency from the department since his death last week.

"We are still at the very early stages of this investigation," said Sgt. Curtis Phillip, the public information officer for the department, in the video. "We also do not draw any conclusions about whether the officer acted consistent with our policies and the law until all the facts are known, and the investigation is complete."

The nearly 14-minute video shows a series of events leading up to the fatal shooting around 3 a.m. on December 14th.

"A caller contacted Mesquite Police Department dispatch and advised their silver Hyundai sedan was just stolen from their residence," Sgt. Phillip said.

Before the two cars leave the scene together, the driver of the stolen car is seen on camera conversing with the driver of a Chrysler sedan. They both stop at a gas station after that.

The driver of the stolen car gets out and talks to the people in the Chrysler. Lawrence is in the driver's seat of that car.

"The front passenger of the Chrysler sedan exits the vehicle and enters the business with the driver of the stolen Hyundai," said Phillip.

While they're inside, an officer arrives and approaches the stolen Hyundai. The department isn't releasing that officer's identity at this time, since it's an ongoing investigation.

According to police, the officer had seen the two cars drive to the 7-Eleven together.

"The officer then walks to the Chrysler sedan to contact the occupants," Phillip said.

While he's doing that, the two people who went inside the 7-Eleven walk out. The officer gives commands to them.

"Get on the ground now, all of you. Get on the ground," you can hear him say in the video.

One begins to run away, and the other follows.

At this point in the video, you can see Lawrence has both of his hands up in the driver's seat.

"Do not move, or I will f___ing kill you," the officer tells him. "Do you understand me?"

As the officer then gives descriptions of the suspects who ran away to dispatch, he repeatedly tells the driver of the car not to move.

"Stay right there," he says. "Shut the car off. Shut the car off now. Shut the car off now. Shut the car off now. Shut the car off now."

The car reverses slowly, goes forward a bit, and reverses again, with the officer appearing to have one hand on the front hood the entire time and the other pointing his gun toward the car.

At this point in the video, it's difficult to tell exactly where Lawrence's hands are.

When the car starts moving forward a second time, the officer fires three shots into the driver's seat.

"Do not move," he says right before he shoots. "Do not f____ing move."

"The attorney for the family, Lee Merritt, watched the video with Lawrence's parents. He says it shows the officer had legitimate reasons to investigate, but not to shoot. 'Officers are not allowed under the law to use deadly force to stop a vehicle from leaving a situation they don't want to stop in,' Merritt said. "Everything that Mr. Lawrence could do to show he was surrendering—he was not a threat—he attempted to do before this office moved forward with the use of deadly force."

The family now plans to move forward with a federal civil rights lawsuit.

"Right now, we're going through a tough time," said Stephen Lawrence, Payton's father. "There was no cause or reason for the officer to use deadly force."

According to Mesquite PD, Lawrence had an outstanding warrant for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon at the time of the shooting. After the incident, officers found multiple guns in the car.

"In the driver's seat floorboard, officers recovered a 45-caliber Llama handgun with two rounds," Phillip said.

Since the weapons don't appear to have been drawn or displayed during the interaction, Merritt says that still doesn't justify why the officer used deadly force.

"This is a case like too many cases in Dallas-Fort Worth where officers are using deadly force to respond to situations that the facts and circumstances simply don't allow," he said. "There was plenty of opportunity in this case for de-escalation to be used."

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