Number Of Police Shootings Concerns Residents

CLEVELAND - Cleveland's safety director said that he wants to know why so many people have been shot by city police officers lately, Action News' Tom Meyer reported.

Family and friends gathered on Cleveland's west side throughout Wednesday to remember Ricardo Mason -- a 16-year-old who was supposed to start school on Thursday, but instead was the victim of a police shooting on Tuesday morning.

As the grieving process continued, investigators said that they were taking a hard look at the Police Department's use of deadly force.

Emotions were running high after the police shooting, which killed Mason and critically wounded his friend, Malcolm Hoyle.

It was the sixth fatal shooting involving a Cleveland officer this year. If you don't think that's a lot, consider that there were only eight shootings in the previous five years.

"I am very concerned about the number of police shootings," Cleveland Safety Director James Draper said. "I'm taking a hard look at all of them. But at this point, I'm not quite prepared to say we have a trigger-happy force."

Tuesday's shooting prompted Draper to launch a formal review of all the current guidelines involving the use of deadly force.

Witnesses said that police overreacted when they opened fire on the two teen-agers, including Mason. Police officials, however, said that the officers had no choice but to shoot because their lives were in danger.

"The actions of these two men put our officers in a position where they had to use deadly force to defend themselves," Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Union President Robert Beck said.

Police officials said that the teen-agers were eluding the officers in a stolen car. When the chase ended and police approached the vehicle, the officers said that the driver failed to show his hands and obey orders.

"They chose to put the car in reverse and pin the officer between the suspects car and another vehicle and force our officers to use their weapons in self-defense," Beck said.

Officers Matthew Baeppler and Robert Taylor are on paid leave pending the outcome of a police investigation. The safety director said that he should have a final report in his hands by Friday.