No Consequences For Tempe Cop Who Killed Teen Holding a Toy Gun


By Camaron Stevenson

January 31, 2020

The officer shot and killed the 14-year-old boy in a Tempe alleyway last January.

County officials announced Friday that no charges would be filed against the Tempe police officer who shot and killed a 14-year-old boy as he was running away.

antonio arce
Antonio Arce. Photo courtesy of the Arce Family.

The incident occurred on Jan. 16, 2019, when Officer Joseph Jaen responded to investigate a suspicious vehicle near 48th Street and Baseline in Tempe. According to Jaen, Antonio Arce appeared to have broken into the vehicle and attempted to flee the scene when approached by police.

Bodycam footage of the exchange shows Jaen chasing Arce down an alleyway, drawing his service weapon, and firing two shots at the 14-year-old. One of the bullets hit Arce in the back and killed him.

officer jaen200
Officer Joseph Jaen. Photo courtesy of the Tempe Police Department.

On Friday, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel declared that Jaen’s use of force was justified because he believed Arce was armed and dangerous. However, Arce had an airsoft gun with him.

“That day Officer Jaen did not see a 14-year-old boy with a replica. In that moment, he saw a suspect running through a neighborhood with a weapon,” Adel said when she announced her decision. “Officer Jaen believed he had no other choice but to fire his weapon to protect himself and the community.”

For local advocates, Friday’s announcement is another example of a bigger issue with local law enforcement.

“We are outraged,” police reform group Poder in Action said in a statement on Facebook. “This is what we can expect from a system designed to protect itself, from a county attorney who said they could be different, from a Tempe council that stayed silent, from a department that did not fire Jaen and continues to harass, shoot and kill young brown and black men.”

Daniel Ortega, attorney for Arce’s parents, told the Arizona Republic, “Clearly my clients were shocked by the decision of the county attorney,” “But they will pursue civil remedies.”

He added that official statements stating Arce was armed or had his finger on the trigger were nothing but “red herrings.”

The Arce family filed a lawsuit in early January against the city of Tempe for the killing of Antonio, alleging that Jaen shot at Arce even though the boy did not present any threat and did not point the replica gun at the officer.

Last May, Jaen resigned from the Tempe Police force, and the Tempe Police Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board awarded him early accidental disability retirement benefits earlier this month. The retired officer will receive a pension of roughly $29,000 annually.


  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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