EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some East Cleveland leaders and city community activists are calling for a full investigation and greater discipline to be imposed on a city police supervisor who shot an 18-year-old man during a chase on Jan. 6.
Police bodycam video and multiple sources confirmed Sgt. Larry McDonald shot and killed Vincent Belmonte, after investigators said Belmonte turned toward police and reached for a gun as he ran from a stolen car.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation is looking into whether the case was handled properly by police.
But East Cleveland City Council Vice President Juanita Gowdy and Black on Black Crime Inc. President Al Porter want to know why Sgt. McDonald's police body camera powered down just moments before the shooting.
They also pointed to citizens complaints filed against McDonald for alleged misconduct and use of force, and said the Mayor and Police Chief should have taken greater disciplinary measures against Sgt. McDonald.
“I’m disappointed in the Chief of Police in East Cleveland, I am definitely disappointed in the mayor’s office," Porter said. The residents of East Cleveland have been complaining for years.”
He added, “ripping up a citation for a woman, pending that she would go on a date with him.” He has had constant, numerous complaints down through the years." When you have questions of the body cam being turned off, now you have a real problem with the same officer.”
“They need to have that officer suspended immediately pending investigation," Porter said.
East Cleveland Council Vice President Juanita Gowdy will host a press conference on Jan. 8 at 2 PM in front of city hall, calling for the suspension of Sgt. McDonald and a change in the city police chase policy.
“The Mayor assured me that Larry McDonald would have that body camera on all the time," Gowdy said. “I want him to be disciplined, and I definitely want him to know that he should have a body camera on.”
“We must stop police chases without arrest warrants, even our own police officers from coming into the city and chasing, it’s jeopardizing a lot of lives.”
East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner told News 5 Sgt. McDonald was on a command probation at one time for a 2019 incident where he allegedly offered to let a woman out of jail if she would go on date with him, Gardner confirmed the woman filed a citizen complaint after the incident.
Gardner confirmed Sgt. McDonald's body camera powered down during the chase moments before the officer-involved shooting, but speculated the bodycam may have been accidentally turned-off while being activated.
Gardner said Sgt. McDonald was verbally reprimanded for an inappropriate comment caught on video in which McDonald allegedly joked he stole marijuana evidence from the police property room in 2020, that an internal investigation cleared McDonald, but Gardner said the case is being investigated by the FBI.
News 5 tried to reach East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King for this story, but we're still waiting for a response.