RTA releases new video related to Sunday's protest

TEAM COVERAGE: Crowd pepper sprayed after teen escorted off RTA bus
(Source: WOIO)
(Source: WOIO)
(Source: WOIO)
(Source: WOIO)

RTA released new video Tuesday related to a pepper-spraying incident Sunday.

A large group of demonstrators gathered at the East 24th Street and Euclid Avenue stop Sunday afternoon after attending a Black Lives Matter conference.

According to RTA officials, the crowd became unruly after an incident on board an RTA bus that resulted in an intoxicated teenager being taken into custody by transit officers.

The video from inside the Healthline shows officers escorting the teen off the bus. RTA says the 14-year-old was passed out on the bus, drooling on himself with a bottle of alcohol between his legs.

While escorting the teen, officers say they placed him in handcuffs for his safety, which led to questions from the crowd.

Several members of the crowd began recording video of the incident on their phones.

Officers say they took the teen from the bus to the bus shelter and from there into the police cruiser, for the teen's safety.

RTA has cameras up and down Euclid. One view shows the crowd surrounded by the cruiser, not letting the officers leave.

Protesters told 19 Action News, they wanted to know why that 14-year-old boy was being taken into custody.

"It's not hard for police to communicate with folks if folks are just asking a question, 'what's going on?' Because this is a kid, so folks want to know, what's going on," said Edward Little from Black Lives Matter.

RTA officials later explained that the teen was intoxicated to the point where he could not care for himself and that transit officers followed normal procedure.

The teen was eventually released to his mother, who came to the scene.

RTA says officers on the scene were explaining to the crowd that they were releasing the 14-year-old to his guardians, but Little insists officers on the scene didn't start talking to people until things were already out of control.

Little says he does not believe RTA's claim that there was a tip from Cleveland Police that there were four armed men heading to the scene.

We asked him how he would have handled the situation.

"To speak calmly and directly to people and let them know exactly what is going on in terms of this is a young man, we have called his mother and are waiting for his mother - if that's what they did," said Little.

One Cleveland State University student saw it all unfold.

"They were aggressively chanting and kind of loud."

Once the teen was in cuffs, the confusion began in the crowd.

"We were concerned for the young man's  safety and concerned over what he was arrested for," said Little.

For Cleveland councilman Zack Reed, that is a problem. Police were already concerned for the teen and Reed says the crowd was not helping.

"And when you watch that video it clearly shows this mob was not allowing police to do their job or EMS to do their job," said Reed.

Some in the crowd tried to calm the situation, but Reed says that is hard to do when outsiders come into the city.

"We have to be mindful there are professional agitators who come to Cleveland and do what they do and go to their home city and we have to fix the problem," added Reed.

RTA released a statement about the incident:

At 4:40 p.m. on July 26, Transit Police officers on patrol peacefully removed an intoxicated 14-year old male from a bus. Police said the juvenile was intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.

Police escorted the youth from the bus to a bus shelter on Euclid Avenue at East 24th Street.

Transit Police followed normal procedure, which is -- after pertinent information is collected, to release the juvenile to a parent or legal guardian.

Within minutes, a large crowd had gathered surrounding the bus shelter. For the safety of the juvenile, Transit Police moved him from the open shelter area to a police cruiser. The crowd then surrounded the car, with some individuals pounding on the car in an attempt to remove the juvenile from the car. By this time, several other law enforcement agencies had also responded.

Cleveland Police reported to Transit Police that it received a tip that 4 armed individuals were en route to the scene in a white Oldsmobile.

The crowd that surrounded the police cruiser kept it from leaving the area. When it was obvious that the car could not move forward -- due to approximately 50-100 individuals blocking the way and sitting in front of the car -- police attempted to back the car up, where fewer persons had gathered.

When members of Transit Police explained that their goal was to release the youth to his mother, several in the crowd asked the boy be released to them, and that they, in turn, would give him to his mother. Transit Police explained that they could not release the boy to anyone to a parent or legal guardian.

As police tried to move back the crowd behind the vehicle to try to leave the scene, but individuals were not cooperating. Then, a Transit Police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to clear the way. This was ineffective, as additional persons filled in behind the car.

After EMS arrived on the scene, the crowd cooperated with the officers and moved aside, so the juvenile could be escorted from the police cruiser to a waiting EMS unit to be examined.

After he was cleared by EMS at 5:47 p.m., he was released to the custody of his mother, who had arrived at the scene.

There were no arrests. The incident is under investigation.

RTA will update this statement as more facts become available, and is in the process of collecting pertinent video from multiple sources.

The RTA officer who used the pepper spray was Sgt. Robert Schwab, a 25-year veteran of the force.  Some sources have incorrectly reported that the officer involved was Sean O'Neil, which was not the case.

Sgt. Schwab has been placed on administrative duties until the investigation is complete.

RTA will continue to update this statement as more facts become available, and will release pertinent video.

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