East Cleveland City Council President calls for ‘immediate termination’ of officer who turned body camera off before shooting, killing suspect

East Cleveland Council President sends letter to Mayor calling for firing of officer

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Officials are calling for the immediate termination of the East Cleveland police officer who shot and killed a suspect last week.

But, the push doesn’t stem from the shooting itself. Investigator Hannah Catlett was first to tell you when we discovered that Sgt. Larry McDonald turned his body camera off right before pulling the trigger.

According to East Cleveland City Council President Korean Stevenson, the failure to record the shooting, whether it was justified or not, is a policy violation that is grounds for termination.

Stevenson sent a letter to the Mayor this week, urging him to fire Sgt. McDonald, saying in part:

Without footage to review, Belmonte’s family has hired attorney Ian Friedman to help determine whether their son was treated fairly. Friedman spoke exclusively with 19 News.

“They don’t trust the story that was given,” he said.

East Cleveland Police say Belmonte lead officers on a chase first in a stolen vehicle then on foot, before reaching for a gun and turning towards Sgt. McDonald. McDonald fired several shots, killing Belmonte.

“If you look at the facts in the case, you look at the history of the officer involved, it’s very clear that people should securitize this situation.”

19 Investigates told you when we confirmed he was under investigation by the FBI last fall.

Stevenson writes in his letter that this most recent body camera violation is one of four serious violations McDonald has committed in recent years. He lists the following others in his letter:

Whether the shooting was justified or not is still under investigation by independent state police and could be for some time.

In an email, police chief Scott Gardner tells 19 investigates that recommendation for reprimands will not come until after independent state investigators finish their investigation of the shooting itself.

That’s why the council president is calling on the Mayor to intervene. He ends his letter by saying,

Gardner says Officer McDonald remains on paid administrative leave right now.

It is of note, as we told you before, that McDonald was singled out in a council meeting just last month in a conversation about body cameras. The mayor promised at that time that McDonald had one and would record any incident involving the public.

As far as we know, police are still searching for two suspects who also bailed out of the stolen car with Belmonte last week. If you have any information give officers a call.

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