FORT WORTH — A 32-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Fort Worth police officer Monday night — after officials say he tried to elude arrest by driving off with the officer trapped in his SUV’s window — had been under surveillance for suspected narcotics trafficking, police officials said Tuesday.
Still, the death of Charal “RaRa” Thomas — three of his children were in the backseat of the SUV when the shooting occurred — sparked a protest Tuesday by dozens of Stop Six residents who called the shooting unjustified and said they’ll push for a federal investigation.
“Word has to get out concerning what’s happening in the black community,” said the Rev. Randolph Shaheed, who helped organize Tuesday’s protest. “We’re not trying to be radical as it relates to violence. We’re out here trying to be radical as it relates to change. Change has to come.”
Fresh details of the shooting were released late Tuesday afternoon by Fort Worth police.
According to a news release, undercover officers had been conducting surveillance Monday based on reports of drug activity in the Rosedale Park area and reports that Thomas may be involved in drug trafficking.
The releases states that the information was based on citizen complaints, officers’ observations and Thomas’ previous arrests that included possession of a controlled substances and unlawful possession of a weapon.
At the undercover officers’ request, patrol officer J. Romer conducted a traffic stop of Thomas’ black 2005 Ford Expedition in the 6000 block of East Rosedale Street and attempted to arrest the driver on outstanding arrest warrants out of Dalworthington Gardens.
Police said the officer observed that an adult male was in the front passenger seat and three children were in the SUV’s backseat.
“The driver stated that he was not going to jail and locked the door,” the release states. “The officer reached into the half-opened window and attempted to unlock the door to extract the driver. While reaching in the window, the driver rolled up the window trapping the officer’s arm, while simultaneously accelerating towards the freeway.”
The release states the officer, while attempting to gain his footing and free his arm, yelled at the driver to stop multiple times but Thomas continued to accelerate.
“The officer was able to place his feet on the driver’s side running board, unholster his service weapon and order the driver to stop,” the release states.
When Thomas still refused, the releases states, the officer shot the driver several times.
“The officer believed that, at the speed they were now traveling, he would have been run over and killed if he did not immediately stop the driver,” the release states.
The officer was able to jump from the slowing SUV, which came to a stop after hitting a curb. Thomas was taken to a Fort Worth hospital where he was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds a short time later, authorities said.
The officer was treated for injuries at a local hospital and released. The three children, who were uninjured, were interviewed by a third-party forensic expert, a routine procedure, and released to relatives.
Tarrant County records show that Thomas has two previous convictions for possession of a controlled substance, one for delivery/manufacturing of a controlled substance and one for possession of marijuana.
He was also on probation, stemming from a Missouri conviction of driving with a revoked license, records show.
‘This was wrong’
Earlier Tuesday, residents of the Stop Six community gathered at Eastover Park to protest the shooting, alleging excessive force was used against Thomas, who had only one leg due to a shotgun wound he reportedly received when he was 12. Some complained that police officers frequently and unfairly target black residents in the neighborhood.
“We’ve been getting drugged through our own community for years now,” said Kendrick Moore, a friend of Thomas’ who was among those gathering Tuesday at Eastover Park. “We’re grown. Now we’ve got some power behind us, whether the police department knows it or not, and we’re fixing to take action … This was wrong.”
Another protester, Terrance Montgomery, called the police “just another form of militia; they’re just an organized gang.”
“… This man was killed with three children in the car,” Montgomery said. “I ask people all over the world, if your father, your mother or your brother was killed with children in the car, how would you respond?”
Thomas’ 7-year-old daughter, who was inside the SUV when the shooting took place, visited the park briefly with her mother Tuesday but left in tears after a man asked the child to, “Tell them what they did, baby,” prompting the little girl to start crying for her “Mama.”
“They killed him on my baby’s birthday,” the woman sobbed as she walked away, declining to talk to media at the scene.