Shooting Deemed Justified In Shooting Of 14-Year-Old Thief With Replica Handgun

Holly Matkin

Tempe Police Officer Joseph Jaen fatally shot 14-year-old Antonio Arce as he turned towards him with a gun in his hand.

Tempe, AZ – The Tempe police officer who fatally shot a teenage burglar as he turned towards police with a gun in his hand will not face criminal charges (video below).

During a press conference on Friday, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel announced that Tempe Police Officer Joseph Jaen's use of deadly force against 14-year-old Antonio Arce on Jan. 15, 2019, was justified.

Adel said that she reviewed bodycam footage, transcripts, photos, and an analysis from an outside investigator in order to arrive at her decision.

“We review the facts as an independent charging agency to ensure that the due process rights of a potential criminal defendant or a potential victim are protected,” she noted, adding that her office must never “rush to judgement.”

“Based on the evidence and the facts in this case, Officer Jaen believed that he was in imminent danger,” Adel told reporters. “Officer Jaen believed that those in the immediate area were in imminent danger.”

Officer Jaen “believed that he had no other choice but to fire his weapon to protect himself and the community,” the county attorney concluded.

Adel said that the outcome of the encounter was “heartbreaking,” but that Officer Jaen had no way of knowing that the suspect was armed with a replica weapon.

“In that moment, he saw a suspect running through a neighborhood with a weapon” while fleeing the scene of a crime, she said.

Officer Jaen also knew that the suspect was holding the gun “in a manner where the weapon could be easily discharged,” to include having his “finger on the trigger,” she added.

Two other witnesses also reported having seen the suspect’s finger on the trigger of the gun.

Adel explained that officers “can’t treat things as if maybe it’s a toy and maybe it’s not,” especially given the other circumstances of the encounter.

Arce was also about to round a corner, which would have taken him out of Officer Jaen’s field of view.

“Officer Jaen would have no way to protect the innocent residence in their homes that day” had Arce been allowed to escape under those circumstances, Adel said.

“This office will not be filing criminal charges in this matter,” she told reporters. “What he did was to protect himself and the community.”

“When I was appointed to this position last fall, I committed to the residents of Maricopa County to enhance and ensure transparency in this office,” Adel noted. “Understandably, this case is of great significance to the community, and this public announcement demonstrates my commitment to transparency in decision-making.”

The county attorney’s determination does not preclude Officer Jaen from potential civil liability.

The incident occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2019, when Officer Jaen responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle near the intersection of Baseline Road and 48th Street, KPNX reported.

As the officer approached the area, the suspect got out of a vehicle he had broken into and was carrying a handgun, police said.

The teen, later identified by his family as Arce, took off on foot, WLS reported.

During the foot chase that ensued, the teen refused to comply with the officers’ verbal commands, and ultimately began to turn towards them, KTLA reported.

Officer Jaen “perceived a threat and fired his service weapon striking the suspect,” police said at the time, according to KPNX.

Arce was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators recovered items the teen had stolen from the vehicle, including an airsoft replica 1911 handgun.

Officer Jaen, a 14-year veteran-of-the-force, resigned from the Tempe Police Department (TPD) in May of 2019 while the investigation into the case was still underway, KTAR reported.

After Adel's announcement, Danny Ortega, the Arce family's attorney, said he will be filing civil lawsuits against the City of Tempe and Officer Jaen, KTVK reported.

"Antonio posed no immediate threat to Officer Jaen or others," Ortega declared. "He was just simply running away."

"We believe we have a good opportunity to find justice here," he added.

Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir also held a press conference following Adel's announcement, KTVK reported.

Even though Officer Jaen perceived that Arce could have hurt or killed him or innocent citizens, "his actions deviated from our training," Chief Moir told reporters.

"He violated the Tempe Police Department code of conduct that says he failed to comply with the department's use of force policy," according to the chief.

He would have faced disciplinary action if he had not resigned, she said.

Chief Moir said that the department has implemented training to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring in the future, KTVK reported.

You can watch bodycam footage of Officer Jaen’s encounter with Arce in the video below:

Comments (36)
No. 1-22
Shepfershort
Shepfershort

It's a good thing they took this P.O.S. out of the gene pool, before he killed someone.

IseeWhereThisIsGoing
IseeWhereThisIsGoing

I guess the Chief wants his officers to wait until after they have been shot to stop the threat. otherwise, it's a failure "to comply with the department's use of force policy" and the officer will face disciplinary action (assuming he isn't murdered by the bad guy).

The video doesn't show exactly what happened when the shot was fired, however, if Arce was running away, and turned around gun in hand, than that's a lethal threat. I'm sure the attorney will try to get a ghetto lottery ticket from the city, and judging from the police chief's comments, he'll get a big one, despite the DA saying the shooting was justified.

JBoH
JBoH

"...department has implemented training to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring in the future..."

Not sure how you do that. During the commission of a crime, the suspect ignores commands,and turns toward the arresting officer with gun in hand, finger on the trigger...not sure how the department can train officers not to let that happen other than not respond to calls that may be dangerous.

LEO 2000
LEO 2000

Soon the defense attorney will say "My client had his finger on the trigger but did not fire." Is this the new future??? LEO's can only fire if the suspect fires first? Good luck reducing violent crime. SAD.

Julsydan
Julsydan

I am so sick of departments not standing behind their police officers! What other option did that officer have? Taze the kid? I’m sure he was too far away to do that! What else? Oh I know! Wait until HE is shot before he fires!! Pretty soon there will be NO police officers left because they know if something happens, NO ONE has their back!!

flybynight
flybynight

My client forgot that the gun was fake. Or maybe the police should have ask him if the gun was real or fake? What says you Booger's?

LEO0301
LEO0301

I would love to see the Tempe PD use of force policy. If the shooting was justified under the law, how could you have a policy that doesn't agree? I'm sure the officer was traumatized over shooting a 14 year old and will likely suffer from PTSD. You would think his chief would be there for him but alas that's not the way we operate anymore.

Just-My-Thoughts
Just-My-Thoughts

Yet another display of proper parenting. I think those who have kids who commit crimes should be charged also. After all, it was their influence on their little darlings that brought them to that point.

shooter
shooter

This took a frikkin' year?

shooter
shooter

"Antonio posed no immediate threat to Officer Jaen or others," Ortega declared. "He was just simply running away."

Oh, so cops are just supposed to let people who have guns in their hands run away?

Get real, Mr. Lawyer.

FDproleo
FDproleo

As tragic as the whole scenario is, when the vultures land and the lawsuits hit, fcuk everybody. This officers career was ended, family traumatized as well as him living with killing a kid. But if the family have the gaul to sue him, he should countersue their asses off for everything they own for trying to make him suffer more. Your son was a POS. He died. It sucks. Move on.

Wasiechu1
Wasiechu1

Has anybody been able to explain why people carry fake guns? Air Soft, pellet, replica, and toys with the orange end removed? They have to know there’s a risk of death.

Raymelson
Raymelson

Toy guns at 20 foot look like a real gun so the family should be going after the company's that sell them they never should have been made an put in the hands of kid's I never allowed my kids to get one so I feel his parents are to blame for what happened

NFPD103
NFPD103

Per His Chief "He violated the Tempe Police Department code of conduct that says he failed to comply with the department's use of force policy," chief. That conduct was what? don't chase armed suspect, don't shoot unless first shot at. Observe and report only, come on that's a load of shit. This criminal caused his own death by his poor actions and decisions that day.

BAH330
BAH330

That chief is a piece of 💩

Stanracer
Stanracer

Thus tragedy could definitely been avoided. Poor parenting the cause.

vwiles34
vwiles34

I think the officer should sue this little POS family for all the hell he'll be going through the rest of his life because they chose to raise a son who felt it was ok to commit crimes and carry guns real or fake.

Hawk3699
Hawk3699

Yep, don't back up your officers after they have an OIS where the gun appears real. The chief is a moron. No wonder people don't want to apply for LE jobs anymore. They don't get back up from their superiors.

Diwatson
Diwatson

God help that Chief if he was ever faced with the same situation. Kids that age have been known to carry guns and kill others so his age is irrelevant. It’s ridiculous to think the officer should have gone through the steps in a use of force policy when he is faced with a gun pointed at him. He was smart to resign and get out of a department where his Chief is unwilling to back his officers when they had little choice.

jackmcculler
jackmcculler

There is no basis for a civil suit..you're not getting any money Mr. Ortega.

RetCanMilSpouse
RetCanMilSpouse

So, even though he was found justified in shooting the suspect, his chief publicly threw him under the bus so the family can sue him. So sorry that this is not over yet for him.

Woobie46
Woobie46

The chief is from Sacramento, CA...surprised????? The family has filed a $5 million dollar lawsuit...by mr. ortega, the upstanding lawyer. She has to be another 'diversity' hire...the WORST!


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