Council president calls Beachwood Place police shooting ‘horrible,’ while community questions why it took 13 months to release video
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - One day after 19 Investigates aired never-before-seen video of a police shooting in Beachwood, community members are reacting to the footage and say it is not the only shocking part of this story.
“How did this happen and they kept it quiet for 13 months?” asked activist Mallory McMaster.
McMaster says she didn’t know there was still an ongoing investigation into the police shooting that happened outside Beachwood Place in June 2019 until our investigative team uncovered and aired the footage.
A Beachwood Police dash camera recorded Officer Blake Rogers shooting a teenager who was suspected of stealing a $59 hat from the mall.
Records show he fired two shots into the driver’s side window as 19-year-old Jaquan Jones drove away, hitting the teen twice.
The officer has been on paid administrative leave since the day of the shooting.
“I was appalled when I saw the video,” said McMaster. “Obviously it’s a little alarming when there is a car driving at you, but I would just back up. I would never feel the need to shoot into someone’s car in that situation.”
In his written report, Rogers said when the shoplifting suspect tried to drive away he felt “overwhelmingly terrified that I was about to be run over by the suspect and killed.”
Rogers says, “When the suspect moved forward he still appeared to be driving towards me and in a path to run me over.” He says that is when he fired his weapon twice.
Police footage shows the officer was standing on the side of the vehicle as it began to drive away.
Moments later, the video appears to show the officer standing alongside the rear of the car as he fired the two shots into the driver’s window.
McMaster says it’s disturbing that city officials kept that video hidden from the public for more than a year.
“That isn’t a wise strategy for a number of reasons, mostly the public trust,” said Mike Burkons, a member of Beachwood City Council.
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.
Weeks ago, when Burkons learned about our fight for the unredacted shooting video, he proposed an ordinance making it mandatory to release video of any police shooting or use-of-force incident where someone is injured or killed within seven days.
“Anytime there is a police shooting we should say, ’Hey, I want to see this,” said Burkons. “[It’s] not OK not to release it.”
After going more than a decade without a police shooting in Beachwood, this was one of two that happened last year.
After our story aired Wednesday, Beachwood City Council President James Pasch reached out to us via email with a statement calling the video “horrible.”
Pasch told us was unavailable for a quick virtual interview today.
But, in his statement, he wrote, "Nothing is more serious than use of deadly force."
We wanted to ask him why then had he, as council president, not been following up on those deadly use of force investigations and demanding those videos be released?
“As soon as I learned about it I asked, ‘I want to see the footage,‘” said Burkons.
McMaster responded to the statement she saw the council president post on social media.
“I looked at it and I thought this does not match the moment that we’re in. This is not strong enough,” she said. “This is covering for an obvious attempt to evade transparency with the media and the press and not advocating on behalf of citizens who deserve leadership. "
McMaster commented on the statement the council president posted on Facebook, saying, ”How can you expect us to believe the outrage in this post is authentic? It took you over a year to express it and only after the media had to force the city to release the footage?”
“This is not the time for passive leadership and that was an incredibly passive statement on behalf of the council president,” said McMaster.
“For 13 months, that video sat on someone’s desk,” said McMaster. “Someone knew that that police officer, who was on the payroll for 13 months, behaved in that way, which is unacceptable.”
As we first reported yesterday, Beachwood Mayor Martin Horwitz says the city is working with city council to create a policy regarding the prompt release video following police use of force incidents.
The city council president says there will be a special committee meeting next week to discuss police reforms, including the creation of a Civilian Police Review Board.
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