Ashtabula police officers have shot, or shot at, five people in 20 years

ASHTABULA, OH (WOIO) - The family and attorneys for a man shot by Ashtabula police in his home Friday are speaking out, calling the shooting highly suspicious.

Brendan Hester's cousin, Alex Spangler, sat with Cleveland attorneys Jacqueline Greene and Terry Gilbert Thursday to speak on behalf of his family and his cousin. Hester, 23, was shot by an Ashtabula police officer June 2, after officers responded to a 911 call of a possible armed home invasion. Hester is in critical condition at Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland.

"All I know is that his vitals are unstable, he's having trouble breathing -- that's all I can say," said Spangler.

He said other family members had initially planned to be at Thursday's press conference, but due to Hester's condition they had been advised not to leave the hospital.

Spangler and his attorneys said they have a lot of questions about what exactly happened the morning Hester was shot.

Police said that they received a 911 call at approximately 5:15 a.m. June 2, that a man had broken into a home in the 400 block of West 38th Street and was possibly holding a woman at gunpoint. According to a statement, three officers responded to the home and said they found two men involved in a struggle in the home.

One of the men, who we have now identified as Hester, was holding a gun. Police said in their statement they asked Hester to drop the gun several times, he did not, and an officer fired his weapon and hit him.

Hester's family and attorneys have a much different story.

"No orders were given to drop the gun," said attorney Jacqueline Greene.

Greene said Hester was shot immediately upon entrance into the home and there was no scuffle.

"You never see a cop bust through the door and just start shooting, that doesn't make sense to me, that's not dismantling a situation, that's not calming a situation down that's escalating it. I don't understand why they would do that when my cousins were the people to call for help," said Spangler.

Cleveland 19 had previously spoken to a neighbor who said she heard officers yell "Drop it!" before the shots rang out. Cleveland 19 asked Hester's attorneys about the witness account.

"We think that they heard the comments of the police after the shooting, when other units arrived and told the people in the house to drop down and they were forced to crawl out of the house and they were detained for a number of hours," said Hester family attorney Terry Gilbert.

Green said Hester is yet another young African American man who has been shot by white police officers in northeast Ohio, specifically in Ashtabula, a city she says has a history of police violence.

Cleveland 19, through a public records request, obtained from the Ashtabula Police Department, statistics for each officer involved shooting since 1997.

According to Ashtabula Police Department records, there have been eight shootings involving Ashtabula officers in the past 20 years. Five times where officers shot, or shot at suspects, and three times when officers were shot.

In December 2007, an officer shot an "armed white male" during a domestic violence complaint.  In June, 2010 a "Hispanic male" was shot by an officer "during (a) struggle for his weapon."  In November 2015, an officer shot at, but didn't hit, a black suspect during a "suspicious person traffic stop."

In November 2016, an officer shot a "white male robbery suspect" during a traffic stop. Records state that the office shot the suspect after "dragging (the) officer with vehicle while fleeing."

And, on June 2, 2017, Hester's shooting was described as an, "armed black male shot by Officer responding to Aggravated Burglary complaint."

In November, 1997 an officer was shot and killed "while attempting to serve [a] warrant." In August, 2010 an officer was shot while investigating "suspicious persons," and in January 2011 and officer was shot in his cruiser during a traffic stop.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating the officer-involved shooting. They said they anticipate the investigation will last at least several weeks.

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