PHOENIX — Prosecutors in metro Phoenix will not file criminal charges in the fatal police shooting of a 14-year-old boy who was holding a replica gun and fleeing the officer during a vehicle burglary call.
Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel says prosecutors wouldn't have likely won a conviction against Officer Joseph Jaen in January 2019 shooting of Antonio Arce in an alley in Tempe.
Adel said Jaen didn't know when he fired his gun that Arce was 14 and that the suspect was about to run out of the officer's view while appearing to be armed. Police officials have said Jaen fired because he thought the gun was real and perceived a threat.
“In those few split seconds, Officer Jaen believed that someone was fleeing the scene of a crime, that they were in possession of a handgun and holding it in a manner where the weapon could be easily discharged,” Adel said.
Body-camera footage showed Jaen drawing his handgun and taking cover behind a large trash bin as Arce can be seen moving around a pickup truck parked in the alley.
Jaen told Arce to show his hands as the teen runs away from the officer. The officer stopped and fired two shots at Arce, who didn’t appear to turn around or point a weapon at the officer.
Jaen eventually located Arce on a sidewalk just outside the alley.
While waiting for other officers to arrive, Jaen described the suspect as being in his 40s.
Minutes later, he seemed upset and in disbelief when learning the person he shot was a teen. “It’s just a (expletive) kid,” Jaen said. “It’s a (expletive) toy gun, man.”
Jaen, who resigned as an officer about four months after the shooting, was granted an early disability retirement. In all, he worked for 17 years as an officer, 14 in Tempe and three in Bullhead City.
It’s rare for prosecutors in metro Phoenix to charge police officers in on-duty shootings.