Beachwood police officer who was terminated after shooting a shoplifting suspect could be returning to the force

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 4:05 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:24 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Beachwood city officials confirm they have been informed of an arbitration ruling ordering the reinstatement of Officer Blake Rogers.

A city spokesperson says they are considering a possible appeal of the arbitrator’s decision.

Rogers was fired from the department last February following a lengthy internal investigation.

On June 27, 2019, the officer shot a 19-year-old who was accused of stealing a hat from Beachwood Place.

The shooting happened in the mall’s parking lot with families standing nearby.

Police dash cameras recorded Rogers firing his gun through the driver-side window of a vehicle driven by the suspect, Jaquan Jones, as he attempted to flee the parking lot.

“If he gets reinstated and he’s back at the department, they still have safety concerns for what he’s going to be doing,” said Marcus Sidoti, the lawyer for Jones.

Councilman Mike Burkons wrote a strongly worded letter to his council colleagues and Mayor Martin Horwitz after learning of the decision.

He shared the letter with 19 News.

“We should be embarrassed that the arbitrator concluded it wasn’t a justified use of deadly force, but should be reinstated because of mistakes made by the City,” Burkons wrote.

On Wednesday, the Fraternal Order of Police, which fought for reinstatement, released a statement on the ruling.

“We are pleased that Officer Rogers has finally been vindicated and are eager for him to return to duty,” said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #86 President Maxwell Zugay.

When reached by text, Beachwood Police Chief Kelly Stillman declined to comment; deferring to the mayor and his administration.

The officer was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting.

Records show Beachwood continued to pay Rogers his annual salary of more than $90,000 plus benefits while on leave as state investigators worked to determine if the shooting was justified.

Last October, after a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to charge the officer for the mall shooting, the city said Beachwood’s new police chief, Kelly Stillman, reviewed the case for departmental charges.

Beachwood charged Rogers with eight rule violations, including four sections of Beachwood Police Department’s use of force policy.

He was also charged with “committing unsafe acts or endangering self or others,” “dishonesty or untruthfulness,” and for violating the city’s ethics policy.

The city also determined Rogers’ use of deadly force against Jones with people, including children, nearby violated policies.

Both members of Beachwood City Council and Rogers’ attorney criticized the length of the shooting investigation.

“His career has been put on hold,” attorney Kimberly Kendall Corral told 19 News during an interview last August.

She said Rogers was anxious to get back to work but suffered an injury when Jones allegedly drove over his foot.

Rogers needs surgery to repair ligaments in his foot and ankle and also suffers PTSD as a result of the incident at Beachwood Place, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the officer and his wife, Jacalyn, in November 2020.

The lawsuit claims Rogers was “ready, willing, and able to perform light-duty work” but that the police department “wrongfully refused to accommodate and reinstate him.”

The Rogers’ lawsuit also accuses city leaders of disability discrimination and “reverse racial discrimination,” and says Beachwood failed to promote the officer as retaliation for going on leave when his wife gave birth.

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