Man who witnessed police shooting outside Beachwood mall says officer put his family in danger

Updated: Aug. 7, 2020 at 11:05 PM EDT
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BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WOIO) - A local father who witnessed an officer-involved shooting at Beachwood Place is speaking out after seeing video of the incident for the first time.

Austin Hagler reached out to 19 News after we first aired footage of the June 2019 police shooting last week.

Hagler says he and his family were just steps away from Officer Blake Rogers when he shot a shoplifting suspect in the mall parking lot.

“He looked around and looked at us, and then he just started shooting when he could have just backed up,” said Hagler.

Hagler, who can be seen in police video wearing a white shirt, said he was putting his young daughter into his car just as the suspect ran out into the parking lot.

He said he saw the officer catch up to the suspect, later identified as 19-year-old Jaquan Jones, as he was jumping a vehicle.

“He reaches for the door handle as the vehicle is moving,” said Hagler. “He’s basically walking with the vehicle as it is reversing.”

Police footage shows the suspect backing the vehicle out of a parking space.

Hagler said the suspect then pulled forward and that’s when he saw the officer fire his weapon into the driver’s side window.

After the shooting, Rogers can be heard on body camera footage telling supervisors several times that the suspect drove toward him.

Footage from BPD dash camera captured the moment a police officer opened fire on a suspected shoplifter in a mall parking lot.

“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 Kimberly Kendall Corral, an attorney representing the officer.

The officer said the vehicle ran over his foot, but that he did not realize it until after the incident.

In the days after the shooting, Rogers reported seeing the suspect reach for the floorboard and potentially for a gun, but did not indicate that he actually saw a weapon.

“I think any officer when they see someone who is not responding to commands and reaching for the floorboard... what is kept under the floorboard? A weapon,” said Corral.

“There is no allegation of a weapon in the body cams we’ve seen,” said attorney Marcus Sidoti, who represents Jones.

“Body cams before, during and after don’t indicate anything about a firearm,” Sidoti said, noting that Rogers did not tell fellow officers who were pursuing the suspect that he may have been armed.

Records show a resident found loaded firearm while officers were searching a residential neighborhood for Jones, who was not apprehended until nearly a month after the shooting.

“What [Rogers] did know was that this person had a disregard for the life and safety of the people in that parking lot,” Corral said.

We asked Hagler if he felt his life was in danger because of the suspect and he said no.

Instead, he tells us it was the shots fired by the officer that he felt put his family in danger, and says he made that clear in his statement to police that day.

“I just think that the officer didn’t care,” said Hagler. “I just feel like he did not care about anyone else that was around.”

The officer said he “hesitated” to fire his gun at first because he saw a family nearby.

Rogers wrote in his report that once the suspect moved his vehicle forward, he had a “clear shot” and that is when he fired two rounds into the driver’s side window.

“It was scary for me and my family,” said Hagler. “I checked myself, I checked my wife, I checked my child. I looked at the lady and made sure she was ok,” he said, referring to another witness who told police she 10 feet away with her small child at the time of the shooting.

Hagler’s wife, who also witnessed the shooting, gave police a written statement that day.

“He didn’t care if any of those bullet [sic] hit myself, my husband, this young lady or our kids. The officer seen it was kids, that it was an unsafe area & still fired,” she wrote.

“In my personal opinion, I don’t think he should have [fired] because all he had to do was step back if they were going to chase him anyways,” Hagler said.

Corral declined to comment on Hagler’s statements.

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.”

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.

Court records show Jones was arrested on unrelated charges in Cleveland on July 27, 2019. He is currently in jail awaiting trial.

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