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Investigation into off-duty officer-involved shooting continues; body camera video likely not available

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Posted at 6:12 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 18:49:07-04

CLEVELAND — The investigation into Monday night’s officer-involved shooting on Cleveland’s west side continues as the 21-year-old suspect remains confined at the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Cleveland police said the officer that shot the suspect was working an authorized off-duty security job and that body camera video is most likely not available. According to department policy, the division of police recommends officers wear body cameras while working off duty but stops short of making it a requirement.

Around 8 o’clock Monday night, a veteran Cleveland police officer working at the Giant Eagle supermarket on West 117th Street was alerted to a confrontation between two men inside the store. One of the men reportedly told the officer that the other man involved in the confrontation had a pistol in his pocket. Police said the off-duty officer then confronted the suspect outside the supermarket.

“The male, at which time, took off running on him and produced a gun,” said Jeff Follmer, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association. “The officer felt his life was threatened. He fired a couple rounds, striking the male.”

The suspect, whose identity has not been released yet, remains in the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police said a firearm was recovered at the scene. It is unclear how many shots the officer fired.

RELATED: Man injured in officer-involved shooting at grocery store on Cleveland's West Side

It is at least the second off-duty Cleveland police officer working security to be involved in a shooting since 2018.

On Jan. 18, 2018, Cleveland police Sgt. Dean Graziolli shot and killed 21-year-old Thomas Yatsko outside a now-closed bowling alley in University Circle. The fatal shooting happened after Yatsko got into a fight with a friend inside the bowling alley. Sgt. Graziolli ordered Yatsko to leave the business. Witness accounts differed in regards to who started the fight, but Yatsko reportedly punched Graziolli several times. A grand jury declined to indict Graziolli.

According to the most recent general police order regarding the use of body-worn cameras, officers working authorized secondary employment are recommended to wear body cameras but are not required to do so. As part of the division’s ongoing consent decree with the Justice Department, the division spent nearly $2.5 million on body-worn camera systems six years ago. Although body cameras are not required under the consent decree, it does require that the division has established training and policies regarding body cameras, video storage and retention.

In 2016, the federal monitor overseeing the division’s implementation of body camera policy outlined in a court filing that the division’s policy on body cameras “foster transparency, increase accountability and build public trust.”

Officers who work security at a litany of different venues and events often wear their uniforms and department-issued equipment and have to abide by division policy. The monitor noted in court filings that the general public likely cannot discern the difference between an on-duty officer and off-duty officer. In the spring of 2017, the city responded to the monitor’s concerns, outlining the financial and administrative challenges associated with a potential change in policy.

Administratively, city officials noted in court filings the issue of downloading video captured by body cameras at the end of an off-duty shift. Additionally, the camera would need to be charged as well. Financially, city officials said additional storage space, which would require additional public investment, would also be needed.

Although the division had intentions of starting a pilot program to examine body camera usage during secondary employment, city officials noted in an April 2017 filing that no offers volunteered to participate.