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Former cop going to trial in shooting death

A former police officer charged with the shooting death of 12-year-old South Philly resident Thomas “TJ” Siderio will go to trial on all charges, a judge ruled this week.

Edsaul Mendoza will face first-degree murder charges among others in connection to Siderio, who was allegedly shot in the back and killed on March 1 near Barry Playground in South Philly’s Marconi Plaza neighborhood. 

District Attorney Larry Krasner addressed the media on Oct. 5 announcing that Mendoza will go to trial for charges of first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime.

“TJ was unarmed and on the ground when a bullet entered his body through his back from behind,” Krasner said.

According to police reports, four plainclothes officers of the South Task Force including Mendoza were operating an unmarked vehicle in the area of 18th and Johnston streets near Barry Playground at about 7:24 p.m. on March 1. Officers observed two males — Siderio and a 17-year-old — standing on the northwest corner of 18th and Barbara streets. According to Krasner, the team was targeting a different individual on a weapons offense and believed the 17-year-old was known by police to have been an associate of the target. The officers drove their vehicle toward the two males and activated the emergency lights on the unmarked car, police said.

According to police, they next heard gunfire and glass shattering from the rear passenger window and one of the officers was struck by broken glass in his face and eyes as a result of a bullet that was allegedly fired by Siderio and struck the headrest in the back seat of the car that was operated by police. 

Siderio was chased, and police fired at the 12-year-old. Siderio dropped his weapon during the chase and Krasner said the distance between where Siderio discarded his gun and where he was fatally shot was 73 feet. Krasner said evidence shows that Mendoza also verbally confirmed that he knew Siderio had dropped his weapon before he shot him in the back.

Police said Siderio was carrying a 9MM semi-automatic handgun, equipped with a laser. The gun was listed as stolen and was loaded with one round in the chamber and five rounds in the magazine, police said.

“According to our investigation, TJ did have a gun at one point and he threw it before stopping, going to the ground and then being shot while he was on the ground,” Krasner said. 

Siderio was transported by police to Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:29 p.m., police said.

Krasner referred to the proceedings as a “historic moment” for the city.

“The message here is that this office is no longer a coverup organization for criminal acts committed by anyone,” Krasner said. “And ‘anyone’ includes a Philadelphia police officer. This is a historic moment in the history of the city of Philadelphia because a case is headed for trial where a uniformed police officer on duty is facing a charge of first-degree murder. It is nothing that should be done lightly. It should only be done when the evidence supports it. (On Oct. 4) a very experienced judge confirmed that evidence supports a trial on this charge.”

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