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Family of driver shot by law enforcement: "He was unarmed"

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SHELBY COUNTY (KYTX) - The Texas Rangers are investigating after a hunt for a stolen truck ended with a deadly shooting. The victim's father told CBS 19 his son was un-armed.

DPS confirmed one state trooper and one police officer from center fired on the driver after that truck hit another state trooper.

Kateria Clifton was playing outside with her daughter near the intersection of State Highway 87 and Farm to Market 139 Sunday night. It was around 6:30 when 39-year-old Jonathan Swindle drove by in what investigators identified as a stolen pickup.

"Probably not even two minutes later a police officer sped by," Clifton said. "So we ran out to the end of the road to see what was going on. That's whenever we started hearing what sounded like a tractor tearing stuff up a little bit."

Clifton heard the sound of the truck heading straight into a nearby pasture, then chaos as all the law enforcement behind him followed--including one Center police officer who wrecked his car in the confusion.

"I watched him hit because he came speeding in so fast and I don't know if he just couldn't hit his brakes quick enough or what it was," Clifton said. "But 'bam' he hit it."

At some point one trooper was hit when Swindle's stolen truck swerved. Investigators said Swindle swerved to miss the spike strip. Soon he was stopped.

"We started hearing the gun shots and they lasted, I want to say, a good five minutes," Clifton said. "You could just hear it. 'Pow, pow, pow, pow.' I started freaking out, getting my daughter in the house."

On Monday, Swindle family friend Shelia Cartwright said she believed the shooting was an example of unnecessary force on the part of law enforcement.

"It needs to be stopped right now because it makes no sense," she said.

Cartwright was the last person outside of law enforcement to see Swindle alive as he drove by her home.

"And the highway patrol was behind him," she said. "He wasn't doing but about 25 or 30. He was moving at a slow pace and he waved at me."

Cartwright and family members said Swindle may have had his problems, but he was a good guy. Now they want to know why he was shot.

"The laws didn't have to shoot him," she said. "They could have had the dogs or anything. He wasn't armed or nothing. It was just cold-blooded murder. That's what it is."

Swindle's body was sent to Beaumont for an autopsy. Family members said they hope that will bring the answers that they're hoping for.

Trooper Zach Mills was identified late Monday as the one who was hit by Swindle on the side of the road. He is recovering at a Longview hospital.
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