After fatally shooting a teen in a sting gone wrong, authorities in Ohio have charged another teen with murder in the young man’s death.
The Columbus Division of Police on Thursday arrested a 16-year-old girl in connection to the death of Julius Ervin Tate Jr., 16, who was shot during a robbery sting on Friday, Dec. 7, local station NBC4i reported. Tate’s alleged accomplice, Masonique Saunders, is now charged with aggravated robbery and murder.
The deadly encounter unfolded after SWAT team officers used social media to bait Tate and his girlfriend Saunders into selling them stolen goods as part of a crackdown on armed robberies in the area. At some point during their arranged meeting, police said Tate pulled a gun on an undercover officer, who was posing as a buyer. Another officer then opened fire, injuring Tate.
The teen was transported to a local hospital where he later died.
Saunders is now facing jail time for Tate’s death and her role in the robberies, thanks to an Ohio murder provision known as “felony murder.”
“Under what historically has been called ‘felony murder,’ … you are still responsible for a murder if you cause the death of another as a proximate result of committing certain kinds of serious offenses,” explained law professor Douglas Berman to radio station WOSU.
Berman, who teaches at Ohio State University, said the provision can apply to Tate’s death because it stemmed from a sting operation where the teen was killed while trying to rob an undercover officer at gunpoint.
“In a situation where say there are two people involved in a robbery, they go in to rob and then police shoot somebody, and police are actually the ones who did the direct killing, we still say the felons were approximately causing that death and should be held responsible under this felony murder doctrine,” the professor added.
Saunders’ mother, Danielle Williams, told WBNS-10 that police, who only arrested her daughter six days after the botched sting, is being charged with murder because she planned to testify that Tate did not have a gun on the night he was killed. “She said he didn’t [have a gun],” Williams told the TV station.
The case has drawn mixed reaction from social media critics. Some users argued Saunders shouldn’t be charged and accused officers of “entrapment,” while others said she should face the consequences for her role in the robberies.
“What’s the problem? A death occurred during the commission of a felony,” one woman wrote on Twitter. “OH doesn’t require mens rea (intent) so the girl’s screwed. She should’ve been playing softball or volleyball like normal 16 yr olds, not committing armed robberies.”
“The problem is she didn’t kill the guy (cops did) and they are charging her with that …,” another user replied. “Not saying these kids were saints, but why does she get charged for the murder that a police officer committed?
Columbus Police spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis said authorities are considering charging Saunders as an adult, WOSU News reported.
Tate’s family is also mulling legal action against the police department for the wrongful death of their son.
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