Witness In Tempe Police's Shooting Of Teen Now Unsure On Details

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 8:50am
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 9:44am

A man who disputed suburban Tempe police's assertion that a teenage boy they shot and killed had stolen an airsoft gun from his truck now says he is unsure, prompting authorities to reiterate Tuesday plans to re-interview witnesses and victims.

Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir has said 14-year-old Antonio Arce was seen carrying what looked like a replica handgun he stole from the truck when he was shot as he ran away from a police officer in an alley. She also said two independent witnesses reported seeing him with a firearm in his hand.

The truck's owner told KNXV-TV late Monday that he couldn't say with certainty how many airsoft guns were in his truck. He asked not to be named but was openly identified as Lou Silvas in an interview with The Arizona Republic earlier in the day.

"There could have been a third or a fourth (airsoft gun)," he told the TV station. "I don't know. We had so much stuff in there."

Silvas told the newspaper that he was moving items from his truck and then heard two gunshots in the alley nearby minutes later. He said he then checked and saw his two airsoft guns were accounted for but a black cellphone was missing.

"If they're announcing on the airwaves that (the airsoft gun) was taken from my vehicle, that's not true," Silvas said in the newspaper interview. "Because I had my two still there, and that's all I'm saying."

Attempts to reach Silvas were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Authorities say Silvas' recollection directly contradicts body camera footage, evidence and witness statements. Police said the newspaper's article leaves open the question about how a replica handgun was found beneath Arce, as shown in body camera videos, which have no gaps in footage.

"To remedy discrepancies reported to media surrounding this incident, we anticipate that we will re-interview witnesses and victims to ensure that the most accurate information is included in the investigation," police spokesman Ronald Elcock wrote in a news release.

The officer who shot Arce has been identified only by last name, Jaen, and authorities say the officer has been in law enforcement for 17 years but is now on administrative leave.

Arce was shot in the rear shoulder blade and later died at a hospital. His family members have called for police to fully explain what happened.

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