CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 News has just obtained never-before-seen video of a police officer shooting at a suspect who was accused of stealing a hat.
The shooting took place on June 27, 2019 at Beachwood Place mall in Beachwood.
Our investigative team has learned that the officer who shot the suspect, Ptl. Blake Rogers, is still on paid leave more than a year after the shooting.
Rogers was responding to the mall that day after it was reported that a suspect, later identified as 19-year-old Jaquan Jones, stole a hat worth $59 from Dillard’s.
In July 2019, the Beachwood Police Department released some footage of the incident, which was edited to remove audio of the shots being fired. Video showing the actual shooting was not released at that time.
Beachwood previously refused to release raw footage of the shooting to 19 News until our investigative team raised concerns that the city was improperly withholding public records.
Rogers dash camera footage shows the suspect running from Beachwood Place mall and into the parking lot.
“You better stop or I’m going to f*****g tase you!” the officer can be heard yelling as he pulls up to the suspect.
Rogers then gets out of his vehicle and can be seen pointing his weapon at the suspect who police say had jumped into a stolen vehicle.
Video footage recorded by another responding officer’s dash camera shows Rogers as he fires two shots through the driver side window as the vehicle attempts to flee the parking lot.
An attorney for Jones confirmed he was hit twice by gunfire.
Footage from Rogers’ dash camera shows two bullet holes in the driver’s side window as the car pulls away.
“Anytime there is a police shooting we should say, ‘Hey, I want to see this, ” said Mike Burkons, a member of Beachwood City Council, who says he made several requests to see the raw footage without success.
Burkons is now calling for more transparency when it comes to police use of force.
After learning of our request for the the unedited police footage, Burkons wrote an open letter on July 12 proposing the city make it mandatory to release video of any police shooting or use-of-force incident where someone is injured or killed within seven days.
He is also asking why, more than year after the mall shooting, Officer Rogers is still off the job and getting paid.
“Everybody should question why it’s been a year on fully paid administrative leave,” he said.
Records show in 2019, Rogers collected more than $96,000 while spending half of the year on leave as investigators worked to determine if the shooting was justified.
“An internal investigation and the Chief’s report can’t be rushed, it must be fair and provide the officer with all the rights and due process such as having representation and the ability to explain and defend his actions,” Burkons said. “During this time, paid administrative leave is completely appropriate. I wouldn’t think this should take more than a month or two and we are now at 13 months and I think it is important to understand why.”
19 Investigates dug deeper into Officer Rogers' background and uncovered a history of use of force incidents and questionable pursuits.
In 2017, a supervisor wrote that he “noted a pattern of policy violations and unsafe behavior” with the officer and said, “This behavior may be a careless disregard for policy or Ptl. Rogers could be experiencing “tunnel vision” while engaged in stressful/emergency type calls.”
The supervisor also wrote, “By his own admission, Ptl. Rogers takes it personally when the “bad guy” gets away.”
Records show Rogers was reprimanded in March 2017 for what the department called a “particularly dangerous” pursuit of someone for a license plate violation.
Two months later, a supervisor called Rogers’ driving to the scene of a hit-skip “unacceptable” and “not safe,” stating the officer reached speeds of 93 miles per hour without using his lights or sirens.
In the mall shooting, police video shows Rogers lights and sirens also were not activated as he responded.
When the overhead lights are turned on, that automatically activates the officers’ body cameras.
But there is no footage of the mall shooting from Rogers’ body camera.
He says his body camera “malfunctioned” and did not activate until he turned it on himself after firing his gun.
In his written report, Rogers said when the suspect tried to get away, he said he “felt overwhelmingly terrified that I was about to be run over by the suspect and killed.”
The officer says he "hesitated" to fire his gun at first because there was a family nearby.
Dash camera footage shows a baby stroller just steps away from the suspect’s vehicle as he is being confronted by the officer.
Rogers wrote that once the suspect moved his vehicle, he had a “clear shot” and fired two rounds into the driver’s side window.
After the shooting, the officer said his left foot and toes began to hurt.
“There were tire tracks on my boot and my foot was deeply bruised,” the officer wrote. “The injuries were consistent with my foot being run over by the suspects vehicle. I did not feel my foot being run over at the time of the incident.”
Jones was charged with felonious assault on a peace officer, failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer, obstructing official business, receiving stolen property and petty theft.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and is currently in jail.
Court records show the teen has entered into plea negotiations.
19 Investigates has confirmed the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is still investigating the shooting, which has been referred to the state Attorney General's Special Prosecutions Section.
BCI won't tell us how close they are to completing their investigation.
Burkons says he was just able to review the shooting video for the first time on Tuesday after it was released to city council.
“I was really hoping it would show that when he fired his weapon, he could have a reasonable belief that his life, or the lives of other were in danger,” Burkons said. “In looking at the footage, I think it is going to be a really tough argument to make. He was firing from the side into the car as it was driving away.”
“I want to point out that I am not an expert on this stuff and am very open to someone pointing out things that I am missing or don’t understand that would change my mind,” the councilman continued. “I hope that happens but if it doesn’t, I don’t see how a good argument can be made that when he shot, he could have had a reasonable belief his life or others were in danger.”
Burkons believes the city shouldn’t wait for the state to finish its investigation before making a decision about whether to keep Rogers on the force.
“While it might be the other agency’s purview whether anything else happens, that’s completely separate from our responsibility to determine his employment status,” he said. “If we’re going to take this seriously, we can’t defer that for a year to other people when it’s the city’s job to make that determination internally, at least when it comes to employment status.”
19 News attempted to reach the officer for comment but we were not successful.
In a written statement to 19 News on Wednesday, Beachwood Mayor Martin Horwitz said the city will waif for the Attorney General’s Office to complete its investigation “before taking any further action that may be deemed appropriate.”
The mayor also said, “The administration is working with City Council to form a policy regarding the prompt release of videos after a use-of-force incident.”