More than 1,000 mourners attended a funeral on Saturday for Christian Taylor, an unarmed 19-year-old African American fatally shot by a white officer in Texas in an incident that raised fresh attention of police treatment of racial minorities.
Teammates from Angelo State University where Taylor played football and friends remembered him at a church in the Dallas-area city of Arlington as a person full of energy who had much to offer.
Former Arlington police officer Brad Miller, a 49-year-old trainee, was fired this week for what the department said was his poor judgment in events surrounding the shooting last week of Taylor, who had broken into an auto dealership and was vandalizing cars.
A lawyer for Miller said the officer was in the right and his actions saved lives.
Ronnie Goines, senior pastor of the Koinonia Christian Church where the ceremony was held, said Taylor was a passionate man who devoted his life to Christianity.
“He was on fire for the Lord,” Goines said at the funeral.
Goines also had a jab at the former officer, saying he was quick to draw his gun and fire at the unarmed teenager.
Taylor’s shooting came two days before the first anniversary of the death of African American Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The unarmed 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white officer and was one in a series of police killings of unarmed black men in U.S. cities including New York, Baltimore, North Charleston, South Carolina and Cincinnati that renewed the debate on race and justice and led to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
On Tuesday, Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said Miller made a series of bad decisions in communicating with fellow officers and initially approaching Taylor on his own without a plan for arrest.
Miller, who was undergoing training with the department, fired four rounds at Taylor, who died from gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen.
There were five other officers on scene, including the training officer for Miller, Corporal Dale Wiggins, who tried to use a Taser to subdue the suspect, he said.
Police are preparing a criminal case against Miller.
Adrian Taylor, the victim’s brother, fought back tears as he said Christian was “a competitor and a fighter who did not want to be left behind.”
Christian told him that he wanted to change the world and be the next Martin Luther King, his brother said.