A former Philadelphia police officer was charged with murder Monday in the death of a 12-year-old boy who a prosecutor says was shot in the back after he apparently obeyed orders to throw a gun and stand put on the ground.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told a press conference that former undercover cop Edsaul Mendoza had been indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder, third-degree murder, intentional homicide and possession of an instrument of crime.
The charges stem from the shooting death of Thomas “TJ” Siderio Jr. in South Philadelphia on March 1.
Siderio was shot after Mendoza and three other undercover officers in an unmarked car tried to arrest him and a 17-year-old boy who were riding their bicycles in the wrong direction on a street, authorities said. Krasner said Siderio was initially armed with a handgun and fired a shot through a rear window of the unmarked police car, sparking the deadly pursuit on foot.
Krasner said video of the shooting played before the grand jury appeared to show Mendoza ordering Siderio to put the gun down and get to the ground seconds before he was shot.
The district attorney described Mendoza’s pursuit on foot as “tactically unsound” and that the former officer shot Siderio three times, two of which missed.
At the time of the last two shots fired by Mendoza, Siderio was unarmed, having thrown a 9mm cannon 40 feet from where he was shot, Krasner said.
“It is certain that Thomas Siderio, at the time he was shot, had stopped running and was possibly surrendering,” Krasner said. “It’s certain that Thomas Siderio, at the time he was shot, was basically face down on the sidewalk, in a position that looked like some sort of pump…perhaps turning to look the officer who was pursuing him when he was shot in the back.”
The prosecutor alleged that Mendoza knew Siderio was unarmed and posed no threat when he shot the boy.
Krasner said Mendoza was standing near Siderio when he shot the boy.
He said that before firing the fatal shot, Mendoza allegedly approached Siderio in a way that was “completely inconsistent with Mendoza thinking Siderio was armed”.
“He (Mendoza) was less than half a car from Thomas Siderio and therefore would have had the opportunity to see Thomas Siderio clearly at the time he fired,” Krasner said.
Krasner said that immediately after shooting Siderio, Mendoza told another officer that Siderio “threw the gun”, and even gave the location of the gun, found in the street at the curb.
“So when Officer Mendoza fired the third fatal shot, he knew that 12-year-old, 5-foot-tall, 111-pound Thomas Siderio had no gun left and couldn’t hurt him, but he fired a shot through his back that killed him,” Krasner said.
Krasner also said it was unclear whether Siderio realized that Mendoza and the other officers who pulled up to him and his friend in an unmarked car were police officers. He said the officers were all wearing street clothes and vests with no markings on the front indicating they were police officers.
“It’s the kind of encounter that could lead someone on the street to believe that the people who stop are not police at all, to believe that people who stop in a climate obviously plagued by gun violence shoot ready to harm them and are not law enforcement at all,” Krasner said. “It’s very concerning.”
A bail hearing for Mendoza was held on Monday morning, and a judge ordered his committal without bail.
It was not immediately clear if Mendoza had hired a lawyer.
About a week after the shooting, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw announced she was suspending Mendoza, a five-year veteran of the police force, for 30 days, after which she intended to fire him for violating the department’s “use of force directive.” .” Mendoza has since been fired.
“It’s tragic that we have trigger pullers as young as 12,” Outlaw said at the time. “And it’s tragic that we had one of our own, yet again, go against everything we say we are. There are no winners here.”