Father says fighting words led to son's shooting death - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Father says fighting words led to son's shooting death

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Left: James Whitehead / Right: Capt. Robert Arnold Left: James Whitehead / Right: Capt. Robert Arnold

A grieving father said an unfortunate choice of words used by his son may have caused his death.

28-year-old James Whitehead was pronounced dead at a hospital last night from a single gunshot wound to the chest, fired by off-duty Orange Police Capt. Robert Arnold outside the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store.

Vernon Whitehead said the last 24 hours have been hard, as news of his son's death came from a phone call.

"Have y'all heard - and we had no idea what she was talking about. Heard what?" said Whitehead.

He's trying to understand why his son James Whitehead was shot dead outside the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store Monday night.

"I didn't know if he was dead or alive" said Whitehead.

Whitehead said a witness told him his son was trying to return a starter at the auto store - and became upset after he was told he couldn't return it.

He said his son got into an argument with off-duty police Capt. Robert Arnold and called him a racial slur.

Whitehead said he was told both men went outside, and Arnold ended up drawing his gun, saying he, "stuck it to [Whitehead's] chest  - and point blank - shot him" said Whitehead.

Orange Police said the shooting has sparked two investigations.

"One as we would any death investigation from a law enforcement standpoint - and then internally. And we proceed with that with what we call a shooting review board" said Chief Sam Kittrell with the City of Orange Police Dept.

Whitehead said he can't believe his son, a father to a 3-year-old daughter, a decorated marine who served two tours in Afghanistan and signed up for a third, may have died over what he believes were fighting words.

"Derogatory remarks, or words, name calling - anything - if I shot anybody who called me a name - I'd have to kill 80 percent of the people I saw - they're just names" said Whitehead.

Whitehead said he's been left drained as his family mourns the loss of his youngest son.

Orange Police have not yet released the details of the shooting death.  Capt. Arnold has since been put on paid administrative leave, as part of normal protocol.

The Texas Rangers have taken over the investigation to ensure that it is handled appropriately as Capt. Arnold - though off-duty - was involved.


Police in Orange say a man who was shot by an off-duty police officer at an O'Reilly Auto Parts store in Orange has died.

Authorities say it started around 5 p.m. Monday when the officer and another man got into a argument inside the store located in the 29-hundred block of 16th Street in Orange. The confrontation then moved outside into the parking lot where police say the officer shot 28-year-old James Whitehead of West Orange.

Whitehead was rushed to Christus Hospital Saint Elizabeth where he died a short time later.

The officer involved was Orange Police Captain Robert Arnold. Orange Police are meeting this morning to determine if Officer Arnold should be placed on leave.

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