BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WOIO) - An attorney for the Beachwood police officer who shot a shoplifting suspect in a mall parking lot last summer is defending the officer’s actions and says the shooting was justified.
“All of his senses said, ‘This person is putting myself and others in danger and my training tells me it’s my duty to respond to that,‘” said attorney Kimberly Kendall Corral.
On June 27, 2019, Corral’s client, Officer Blake Rogers, opened fire on a 19-year-old suspected of stealing a hat from Beachwood Place as the teenager fled the mall parking lot in a vehicle. After the shooting, police determined that the car the suspect was driving had been stolen.
Rogers said he shot the suspect, later identified as Jaquan Jones, because he felt “overwhelmingly terrified” that he was going to be run over and killed.
“[Jones] pulled forward without regard for Officer Rogers’ life,” said Corral. “This was someone who was willing to do anything to get away, even if it was just for a hat.”
Corral said the officer’s foot was run over by the front tire of the fleeing vehicle, but that the officer was not aware “that he had actually been hit by the car” until the police chief pointed out tire marks on the officer’s boots after the shooting.
According to Corral, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation determined the officer fired his weapon “at the moment the car strikes his foot.” 19 News has not been able to obtain a copy of BCI’s report regarding the shooting, which currently under review according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
“I think what the video shows is an important part of the investigation,” said Corral. “But it doesn’t show the entire investigation. It doesn’t show what Officer Rogers saw.”
Rogers body worn camera did not capture video of the shooting incident. The officer said his body camera malfunctioned that day and did not begin recording until he manually turned it on after the shooting.
Once activated, Rogers’ body camera recorded the officer as he told fellow officers what he saw and why he fired.
“He started driving at me... through this one aisleway where I was standing and that’s when I fired at him,” the officer said.
Four days later, when Rogers wrote his official report of what happened, he stated he saw the suspect reach towards the floorboard and thought he may potentially be armed, but never wrote that he actually saw a weapon.
In videos we obtained, Rogers never told anyone on scene that he believed the suspect may have been armed, including the officers he knew were engaged in a pursuit with the suspect following the shooting.
Records show a loaded firearm was later recovered during the search for Jones, who was not apprehended until nearly a month after the shooting.
We asked Rogers’ attorney why he did not tell the other officers that he believed the suspect may have been armed.
“I think what you’ll see from the BCI interview, he’s not inconsistent,” Corral said. “He’s just simply had time to process the information.”
Attorney Marcus Sidoti, who represents Jones, says the two rounds fired by the officer hit is client in the shoulder.
Following the shooting, 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.
Records show Jones was arrested on unrelated charges in Cleveland on July 27, 2019. He is currently in jail awaiting trial on three separate cases.
Sidoti says at the time of the shooting, the officer did not know the suspect’s identity or that he was driving a stolen vehicle.
“The officer knows there’s an alleged theft and that’s it,” he said.
Sidoti told us he had not seen video of the shooting until the day it was released to 19 News.
“I think from the video it shows that it’s not justified,” said Sidoti.
19 News sent video of the shooting to former San Jose law enforcement officer Dr. Ron Martinelli, who now works as an expert witness in officer involved shooting cases across the United States.
After watching the video, Martinelli told us the “apparent angle of gunfire preliminary suggests that the vehicle threat had passed the officer at the time he fired.”
However, Martinelli says it would take a lot more information that has not been released yet to determine whether the shooting was justified.
Rogers has been on paid administrative leave since the day of the shooting.
He has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the incident.
19 Investigates has confirmed the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section is currently reviewing the shooting for any potential charges.
On Thursday, Beachwood Mayor Martin Horwitz said the case will be presented to a grand jury “soon.”