Grand jury to decide if Farmers Branch officer will face murder charges

The grand jury will decide if a Farmers Branch police officer who shot and killed a man driving a stolen truck will face a murder charge.

Juan Johnny Moreno, 35, was shot as he attempted to leave a strip center in the 11400 block of North Stemmons Freeway on June 12. It happened in Dallas, but Farmers Branch officers had been watching the stolen truck.

The officer has not been arrested but is on administrative leave.

The family demanded a meeting with the Farmer Branch police chief on Monday, but it didn’t happen because the family says the father is ill. In a statement, the family says it believes the officer should be arrested and immediately fired.

Video from June 12 appears to show Moreno driving around and not toward the Farmers Branch officer who shot and killed him. It likely played a big part in the Dallas Police Department’s investigation and them referring a charge of murder against the officer to a Dallas County grand jury. The officer hasn’t been named because of threats.

Attorney Russell Wilson is a former prosecutor who is not connected to the case.

“The threshold for using deadly force is the officer has to be in fear of deadly force being used on him himself, and that doesn’t appear to be the case,” Wilson said. “In fact at the point in time where it appears that he begins shooting, it appears the vehicle has cleared him to some degree. And so given that situation, it would be difficult to understand his fear of death or serious bodily injury at that point.”

Wilson headed up the unit that looked at officer-involved shootings in the Craig Watkins administration.

“We tried to be able to best understand the evidence form the officer’s view at the time of the shooting, so we really wanted as much as we could regarding what information had been relayed to the officer,” he explained. “And then we sometimes looked into the past history of the officer, what type of training they had received. It’s kind of the totality of circumstances situation.

The incident is like an increasing number being captured on surveillance and cell phone cameras and bringing different perspectives into focus.

“Law enforcement, and we as a society, rely not only on the cameras that are supposed to there but the cameras that everybody’s taking around with them,” Wilson said. “And those tend to tell stories oftentimes that other cameras don’t.”

The Farmers Branch Police Department said in a statement: “We look forward to the grand jury hearing the facts of the case and will respect and act accordingly to the decision rendered.” They also thanked the Dallas Police Department for the thorough investigation into what they call "this tragic incident."

 A grand jury will now decide if the officer will face murder charges or something else.