EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — An East Cleveland police officer will not face charges in the death of nineteen-year-old Vincent Belmonte, who was shot multiple times following a pursuit that stemmed from a traffic stop for a broken muffler, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Friday.
A Cuyahoga grand jury declined to indict Sgt. Larry McDonald, who fired off three rounds at Belmonte, killing him near a fence to Apex Academy.
“He performed his duty, protecting the lives of other, innocent people,” Yost said. “The loss of any life is a tragedy. Vincent Belmonte should have lived longer than 19 years and it’s my fervent wish that no Ohio citizen should ever die because of a law enforcement course of action. I believe that is probably not going to happen, but that’s what I wish. That’s what I would like to happen."
The shooting death of Belmonte happened on Jan. 5, 2021, when he was stopped for a broken muffler.
McDonald was training another officer on duties related to the role of a traffic officer when the car driven by Belmonte passed them. Belmonte briefly stopped before fleeing and that’s when a pursuit was initiated.
The car driven by Belmonte was reported stolen in October 2020.
Senior Assistant Attorney general Anthony Pierson presented the results of the months-long investigation into the shooting death of Belmonte.
Watch the entire presentation in the media player below:
According to the investigation, after the car driven by Belmonte crashed, three other passengers jumped out of the car on Allandale Avenue and ran off.
Belmonte had a 9mm with a magazine that held about 22 rounds, according to the investigation. Pierson said the weapon found on Belmonte was reported stolen the day after his death on Jan. 6 by one of the passengers in the back seat of the car that was pursued by East Cleveland police.
The foot chase ended at a fence in the backyard of a residence. Belmonte jumped the fence, but McDonald was unable to.
“As Belmonte is reaching into his hoodie, he attempted to pull out his handgun and it was at that time Sgt. McDonald discharged three rounds from his police-issued firearm," Pierson said.
The three rounds caused four injuries.
Pierson said the medical examiner was unable to determine which round killed Belmonte first. One of the shots went through his arm, the second into his right chest area (front to back). He was struck in the back of the head and the lower right back area.
In the report, the pathologist said it was either the head or chest wound that was likely fatal.
Vincent Belmonte's parents, Dominic Belmonte and ShaeRon Daniels said they have been left shattered by the ruling and are calling for a new investigation.
“To say we’re disappointed, puts it lightly," Dominic Belmonte said. “The sheer magnitude of the situation is devastating.”
“You took my baby away from me, and you did it on purpose, that’s how I feel," ShaeRon Daniels said “Hearing the results this morning felt just as bad as being at that hospital on Jan. 5 when my baby passed away.”
East Cleveland Councilwoman Juanita Gowdy said East Cleveland City Council will launch it's own investigation, and she also wants federal investigators to get involved.
“I’m calling for the FBI and the District Attorney to investigate this case immediately," Gowdy said. “There are a lot of things that are missing out of the case and it looks like to me they don’t have the full case...Sgt. McDonald should have been gone when he turned off his body camera, that right there should have been termination.”
Video clips released by police show that McDonald’s body camera was activated while running after Belmonte but turned back off during the chase and it did not capture the moments before the shooting. In the weeks after Belmonte's death, activists and the community demanded accountability and action after bodycam didn't capture the shooting.
Yost said Friday that he wants every police officer in the state to wear a bodycam.
"Video tends to back up what actually happened. I think bodycams 20 years from now will not only be common but I think they will prove to be law enforcement’s greatest friend," he said.
To see the files, images and video relating to the investigation, click here.
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