EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — In an extraordinary move, family members met and talked with the East Cleveland police officer that shot and killed their loved one following a foot chase in January 2021. The meeting between the family of Vincent Belmonte and Sergeant Larry McDonald was brokered by local community group, Black on Black Crime, as well as the East Cleveland Police Department.
To protect the privacy and sanctity of the conversation between Diamond Belmonte, Vincent’s sister, and Sgt. McDonald, journalists were not allowed in the room while the conversation took place. However, members of Black on Black Crime, the Belmonte family and East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner spoke with reporters after the conversation concluded.
“I have read all the paperwork and even after the attorney general got done [with the investigation], I watched all of the videos and everything I could. The only person I wasn’t allowed to talk to was [McDonald],” Diamond Belmonte said. “I’m not going to say that there aren’t hard feelings but we discussed that I’m human and a year later it’s still fresh. But I’m not willing to just shut down and say that I’m not going to forgive [McDonald] forever.”
On Jan. 5, 2021, McDonald attempted to stop the car Belmonte was driving for a loud muffler violation. Belmonte led police on a brief chase that ended when he collided with a fire hydrant. McDonald then pursued Belmonte on foot.
The foot chase was not captured on McDonald’s body camera. He told investigators that he thought he was turning the camera on when, in fact, he had turned it off.
According to the documents in the investigatory file released by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office after a grand jury declined to hand up an indictment, McDonald said Belmonte had pointed a gun at him during the foot chase. McDonald told investigators that he saw the gun, which had an extended magazine.
McDonald said Belmonte reportedly turned toward him and reached for the weapon before McDonald fired three times, striking with each shot.
Diamond Belmonte said both she and McDonald were visibly anxious and nervous heading into their conversation.
“Looking at him, do I feel as though he’s remorseful? Yeah. He was just as nervous in there as I was,” Belmonte said. “I do feel better because I’m not going to lie — I was feeling angry this past year, so angry. I feel like a lot better, a lot, a lot.”
Chief Gardner said Art McKoy and other representatives of Black on Black Crime Inc. approached him after a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict McDonald. Chief Gardner said there was no hesitation on his part.
“I’m hoping that this is the beginning of possibly bringing some resolution. I wanted to see if there was any possibility to give the family any closure,” Gardner said. “There’s nothing that he, we, or they can do to ever bring Vincent back… The idea was introduced to me and my thought was that if it gives the family any peace or consolation, then obviously I would like to see this happen.”