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Beachwood officer fired after 2019 shooting but some question why it took so long

"Everything about it was not handled right."
Officer Blake Rogers Beachwood Place shooting
Posted at 8:52 AM, Feb 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-27 08:52:49-05

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — In Beachwood Place’s parking lot, nearly two years ago, Beachwood Police Department's Officer Blake Rogers fired his gun into the car of a shoplifting suspect that he said ran over his foot leaving the mall.

“From the moment the shots were fired until just the other day, everything about it was not handled right,” said Beachwood Councilman Mike Burkons.

The Beachwood Police Department placed Rogers on paid leave after the shooting. City officials waited to rule on his employment status until after the completion of an independent review. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation completed its investigation in November of 2019, but it took nearly a year for the city to get that investigation in front of a Cuyahoga County grand jury.
Burkons said that process should’ve been faster.

“At most, it should have taken three weeks to get it to the process, to begin to review it for felonies and present to a grand jury,” he said.

In October of 2020, the grand jury found "no bill," meaning that Rogers should not be charged criminally.

“The determination of his employment status and whether he violated a department policy is separate from whether he committed a crime,” said Burkons.

But it took four months after the grand jury decision for the city of Beachwood to terminate Rogers. In a letter from Beachwood Mayor Martin Horwitz to Rogers, it cited several reasons for termination including violation of the use of force police, Rogers not being honest about the incident and using deadly force with children nearby.

To read the full termination letter, click here.

“I completely think that any policeman should be on fully paid leave until there's been an internal investigation and a review of the situation to see what his employment status should be, but that should not take 20 months,” said Burkons. “This delay, this was unfair to the officer. This was unfair to taxpayers. This was unfair to the guy who was shot. This was unfair to everyone involved.”

Marc Wilson, a Beachwood resident, agreed with Burkons and said the entire process took too long. He also felt like city officials weren’t transparent.

“It is super frustrating, and not so much even as a taxpayer, but just as a Black man and just as a human,” said Wilson. “You can never make sense out of it being two years to keep somebody on salary after they've done something so detrimental.”

He wants to see change.

“If you're going to terminate this guy now, what's different? What's going to be different when it happens again?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Rogers and the Fraternal Order of Police are appealing the city’s decision.

The FOP/Ohio Labor Council (OLC), who represents Officer Rogers, Executive Director, Gwen Callender states “we find this firing and the process, or lack of such, to be outrageous. Officer Rogers’ actions were investigated thoroughly by BCI and on Oct. 9, 2020 a no bill was the result. Nonetheless Officer Rogers was needlessly kept on paid leave for four more months.”

“We will vigorously fight this wrongful termination,” they said in a statement.

Rogers is also suing the city of Beachwood, partly for the lengthy review, but also asking to be reinstated. Kevin Gross, an attorney with Zipkin Whiting Co. is representing Rogers. Gross said Rogers feared for his life when he fired his gun.

“They didn't provide any facts to support the reason for his termination. They just couched it with conclusions,” he said. “After he was run over, he shot it because he had suffered a serious injury. He was in fear for his life and he was also in fear for the lives of the people around him.” he said.

Gross said Rogers wants to go back to work.

“This isn't all about money. His reputation has been tarnished, it might be tarnished forever, and we're seeking to correct that with this lawsuit.”

News 5 requested Rogers’ personnel filed and how much he was paid on leave, but have yet to hear back. The shoplifting suspect Rogers shot is in prison until 2030 on additional charges in other cases.

RELATED: Beachwood police officer fired for shooting at shoplifting suspect at Beachwood Place in 2019