CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County sheriff admitted that his agency was not properly prepared for Saturday’s protests in downtown Cleveland over the death of George Floyd.
“Unfortunately, I hate to say this, I think that initially we underplanned,” Sheriff David Schilling admitted.
According to the sheriff’s estimates, up to 4,000 people may have attended the protests in Cleveland. He was expecting between 200 and 300 protesters, based on intelligence provided to city and county officials.
“This thing was like a snowball rolling down a hill, and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger,” Schilling added.
The remarks came during a Cuyahoga County Council Public Safety and Justice Affairs Committee meeting on Wednesday.
Sheriff Schilling said the department did not schedule for additional deputies in advance. Instead, some were called and told to report to the Justice Center that morning.
Additionally, numerous staff members at the jail called off on Saturday, meaning several deputies had to ensure the facility was properly secured inside.
The sheriff said protesters started demonstrating peacefully, but escalated to first throwing produce, like broccoli and heads of lettuce, before escalating to water bottles, rocks, and paint cans.
“The intelligence that we didn’t have was the number of subversive groups that got involved," Sheriff Schilling said. "The individuals travel to different areas to participate in the protests and further inflame what starts out as a peaceful protest, and inflame people to going further.”
Numerous law enforcement vehicles and cars left parked downtown were set on fire, and many businesses were vandalized. The sheriff said the Justice Center sustained broken windows and vulgar graffiti all over the building.
“A lot of tear gas was deployed,” said Schilling about controlling the crowds.
Despite the challenges and intensity of the protests, Sheriff Schilling said they were able to keep the corrections center secure.
At least 99 people were arrested by the sheriff’s office during the protests.
Schilling said the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department is continuing to work with the Cleveland Division of Police and other local law enforcement agencies to prepare for any possible future protests.