Philadelphia Ex-Cop Pleads Guilty to Third-Degree Murder of 12-Year-Old Boy

Edsaul Mendoza now faces a prison sentence of up to 40 years

<p>Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File</p> The scene of the shooting in Philadelphia on March 1, 2022

Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File

The scene of the shooting in Philadelphia on March 1, 2022

Former Philadelphia cop Edsaul Mendoza has pleaded guilty to murder in the death of 12-year-old Thomas "TJ" Siderio.

Mendoza pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime as part of a plea deal with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, according to WPVI-TV, NBC10 Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“[We] agreed that if he pled to third-degree murder and possessing an instrument of crime, we would move to dismiss the remaining charges,” Chief Prosecutor Clarke Beljean told NBC10 Philadelphia.

Mendoza’s attorney Charles Gibbs did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, though he told NBC 10 Philadelphia that he was “not in a position to give a statement at this time."

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Mendoza was initially charged with first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in Siderio’s shooting, which occurred in March 2022.

According to authorities, the boy fired a shot with a gun toward an unmarked police car before running away, per WPVI-TV and NBC 10 Philadelphia. Prosecutors said Mendoza chased down Siderio, and the preteen tossed the gun he was carrying and got on the ground.

Prosecutors say Siderio had been on the ground unarmed when Mendoza shot him in the back at “relatively close range,” per the outlets.

Beljean noted that when they wrote up their plea deal, they gathered input from Siderio’s family on the charges. “We absolutely called in T.J.’s parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and invited whoever wanted to come in to speak with us. We took their input very seriously,” the prosecutor said during a press conference, per NBC 10 Philadelphia.

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However, some of the family members disagreed with the third-degree murder charge in the plea deal. Siderio’s aunt Joanne Payne told WPVI-TV: "It's heartbreaking, it's earth-shattering, it's devastating. They got it wrong. He should be held to a higher standard than you and I. We cannot stand over a child on a city street and shoot them. TJ was on the ground, face down, unarmed. The threat was eliminated."

Following Mendoza’s guilty plea, the Citizens Police Oversight Commission said in a statement that it hopes this “will signal the close of a painful chapter his family and the community has experienced.”

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“This case demonstrates the essential need for rigorous oversight and reform in law enforcement,” the statement continued. “We commend the efforts of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and all parties involved in bringing this case to a just resolution.”

Mendoza could spend anywhere from 7½ to 40 years in prison, according to NBC10 Philadelphia. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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