CLEVELAND - An officer-involved shooting followed a fight between two young men Saturday night, later spilling outside the Corner Alley in University Circle, according to witnesses.
The Cleveland Division of Police’s Use of Deadly Force team continues to investigate Saturday night’s fatal police action shooting that involved an off-duty police sergeant outside the popular Uptown hot spot.
The incident happened around 11 p.m. Saturday near the restaurant’s front entrance.
A police union source has identified the officer as Sgt. Dean Graziolli. The veteran officer joined the department in 1992, the source said. The name of the 21-year-old man shot by Sgt. Graziolli has not been released yet.
Witnesses told News 5 two young men began fighting inside the business and glasses were thrown. At that point, Sgt. Graziolli escorted the two men out of the business. A short time later, one of the men returned and got involved in a confrontation with Sgt. Graziolli and began assaulting him, according to a police statement. It is unclear how many times Sgt. Graziolli fired his service weapon, but witnesses reported hearing two to three shots.
Roemele Duke was with more than two dozen friends and family members at Corner Alley celebrating a friend’s birthday that night. Duke didn’t see the final moments before the shooting, but said the incident that played out outside the business shifted everyone’s attention.
“At first, we just thought it was a fight. We’re in a bowling alley. You can’t really hear a gun shot with the bowling balls hitting the ground,” Duke said. “Most people thought it was a fight at first and the kid got knocked out and was laying there. I heard a loud commotion. There were a lot of people running toward the window. There were people running in from outside. After they ran in, there was a guy laying on the ground and the officer was outside.”
Sgt. Graziolli was standing near the man and looked woozy, witnesses said. They also said the veteran sergeant was bleeding from his face.
While many people were running away from the incident, Duke said his sister Rochelle, a CNA, ran toward the young man and tried to stop the bleeding.
“I was proud of her. She was real serious,” Duke said. “She ran out out there. I was definitely real proud of her that night.”In the days that followed the incident, Duke said he has had difficulty getting his mind off of what happened.“It’s definitely going to be on my mind for a long time."
While Duke did not see the fatal encounter between Sgt. Graziolli and the man who died, Duke believes it could have ended differently.
“As a civilian you have a right to defend yourself if your life is in danger. As someone whose job it is to protect citizens, deadly force is not something you should openly use in that situation,” Duke said. “I’m in the Army, so we deal with stuff like that in our training. We only use deadly force when its necessary. I just don’t think deadly force was necessary in that situation.”
Sgt. Graziolli will be on paid administrative leave for three days. Then he will be placed on light duty, pending the outcome of the use of force investigation.
The company which manages Corner Alley released the following statement about the shooting to News 5:
“The Corner Alley Uptown in University Circle is saddened by the very unfortunate incident that occurred last night. We remain committed to working with our partners at Cleveland Police, University Circle Police and CWRU police to create a safe and fun environment for all our patrons. We have no further comment at this time.”
The business was closed Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.