Euclid officer cleared in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Luke Stewart

Posted at 2:20 PM, Aug 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 08:29:43-04

The Euclid police officer who was involved in the deadly shooting of an unarmed driver in March will not be charged, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Luke Stewart, 23, was fatally shot by Euclid police officer Matthew Rhodes on March 13.

Rhodes was not wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting.

It all happened shortly after two officers responded to a report of a suspicious car parked on South Lakeshore near East 215th Street.

Upon arrival, Officer Rhodes positioned his vehicle in front of Stewart's because he believed he might be impaired.

Rhodes said in the Ohio Attorney General's summary report, "We normally have one vehicle behind and one in front in case they pull forward." 

With his vehicle positioned in front of Stewart's car, Rhodes began walking towards the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Louis Catalani was on the driver's side of the vehicle.

The report shows Catalani attempted to pull Stewart out of the car while Rhodes pushed him from the passenger side area.

During that time, Stewart went for the key and started his car, placing it in drive—hitting Rhodes' patrol vehicle.

"I couldn't get out of the vehicle because it was moving and I didn't want to get smashed between my vehicle and the passenger door, so I basically jumped into the vehicle. I pulled my legs into the vehicle with me to avoid being smashed between the two vehicles," Rhodes said during the investigation.

Rhodes told investigators, “I remembered we were up on the curb, we came down off the curb onto 222nd Street, we are driving down 222nd, I am looking at him and out of the corner of my eye I can see the telephone poles whipping past and I can’t get this car stopped.”

According to the report, Rhodes said he deployed his Taser six times to try to get Steward to stop the car, but it barely had an effect.  The officer said he then struck Stewart several times in the side of the face with the Taser, and when that didn’t work, he finally drew his sidearm.

The autopsy report shows Stewart was shot five times.

The report states, during the struggle, Rhodes and Steward fought back and to stop the car and place it into park.  Rhodes said that when he was finally able to place the car into neutral, Stewart reached over to the gear shift.

According to the report, based on Stewart’s actions it appeared he was attempting to flee from officers.

At the time of the incident, Stewart had three active warrants out for his arrest, according to the prosecutor's report. Stewart also had a digital scale inside his vehicle, along with a plastic bag containing suspected narcotics.

According to the toxicology report, Stewart had an ethanol level of 0.250 g/dL, which is over three times the legal limit to operate a vehicle in Ohio. He also tested positive for cocaine and Oxycodone in his system.

RELATED: Euclid police release body camera video following fatal shooting of 23-year-old unarmed man

The grand jury declined to file an indictment against Rhodes.

Police Chief Scott Meyer issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"The Euclid Police Department asks for peace as the difficult healing process beings for the family and loved ones of Luke Stewart, Officer Matthew Rhodes, and the City of Euclid. We extend our deepest sympathy to all those affected by this terrible event," Meyer said.