Former Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old pleads guilty to third degree murder News
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Former Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old pleads guilty to third degree murder

Former Philadelphia Police Officer Edsaul Mendoza, accused of shooting an unarmed 12-year-old, pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree murder on Friday, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Office.

In March 2022, Mendoza shot Thomas “TJ” Siderio during a “tactically unsound” foot pursuit. The former officer had been charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and possession of an instrument of crime.

Prior to the pursuit, Siderio had “most likely shot a gun at an unmarked police vehicle, which caused three plainclothes officers to duck for cover.” Mendoza then pursued Siderio, during which he shot at Siderio three times. According to Krasner, “[a]t the time of the last two shots, Thomas Siderio was unarmed, having discarded the gun…approximately 40 feet away.”

Siderio was facedown on the ground when the fatal shot was fired–it is not clear if he dove or fell to the ground, and Krasner said there is evidence that Siderio may have been surrendering to Mendoza before being shot. While on the ground, Siderio was shot through the back and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Krasner described the situation as “very, very disturbing.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a press conference in 2022:

It’s clear that the use of force policy was violated…All use of force has to be proportionate to the resistance [officers] are trying to overcome…This incident does not reflect who we are as the Philadelphia Police Department. It is not aligned with our values of honor, integrity and service.

Following the guilty plea, Krasner said in a statement, “Justice must be even-handed. Everyone must be accountable under the law.” Mendoza’s attorney did not comment on the plea.

Mendoza’s guilty plea is a rarity as the Police Violence Report, an organization dedicated to mapping and tracking incidents of violent encounters with police, estimates that only 1 percent of fatal police incidents resulted in officers being charged in 2023. However, the last few years have seen an increase in police brutality prosecutions. In March, a fourth sheriff’s deputy was sentenced for the January 2023 beating and torture of two Black men in Mississippi as part of the self-titled “Goon Squad.” In November 2023, the US Supreme Court declined to take up the appeal of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murdering George Floyd after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. In October 2023, New Mexico Police Officer Brad Lunsford was charged with voluntary manslaughter for shooting and killing a Black nurse, Presley Eze. In September of 2023, a US federal grand jury indicted five Memphis Police Department officers involved in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols.

It is unclear what Mendoza’s sentence will be, and Kramer said they expect to receive information from the defense team and a pre-sentencing investigation.