A Utah officer who pulled his gun on a 10-year-old boy during a pursuit of armed suspects will continue to work amid an independent review of the incident, police said Monday. The unidentified officer is still employed with the agency and authorities are not looking to terminate him, Woods Cross Police Chief Chad Soffe said.
“Our policy does not require an investigation when an officer draws but does not discharge his firearm. But we want to learn from this,” Soffe said in a statement sent to CBS News. “To be totally transparent and to alleviate some of the concerns that have been brought up, we are going to ask the Davis County Attorney’s office to provide an independent review.”
Soffe defended the officer’s actions and said he mistook the boy for a potential suspect, but used good judgment overall. Responding officers received mixed reports of the suspects’ race and ethnicity including that they were black, Hispanic or Polynesian, he said.
The officer’s actions drew criticism after Jerri Hrubes said the white Woods Cross police officer pulled his gun on her son, DJ, who is black, while he was playing on his grandmother’s front lawn Thursday, according to CBS Utah affiliate KUTV. The station said police had been searching for a suspect who fled following a police pursuit and reports of a shooting.
She has said her son didn’t have any toys or objects in his hands. The officer told DJ to put his hands in the air and get on the ground and told him not to ask questions. After Jerri Hrubes confronted the officer, he got in his car and left, she said.
An attorney working with the Hrubes family said the mother was upset and still had unanswered questions. Jerri Hrubes has said the officer returned and apologized later that day, but the confrontation left her feeling unsafe in the West Bountiful home. Soffe also offered an apology.
“If it’s true that the justification to point a gun at this child is because they were told the suspects might be black, Hispanic or Polynesian, are they saying this officer was entitled to stop and point his gun at every male fitting that description?” said Kara Porter.
Hrubes doesn’t necessarily want the officer fired, but would be satisfied with an outside review, Porter said.
Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter in Utah, said her organization is demanding that the officer be fired and that they plan to protest outside the police agency’s offices. She said the group is in the process of filing a complaint with the FBI’s civil rights division.
“The fact that this police officer still has a job, and they’ve defended his actions, sends a message that any officer can go out, aim a gun at a 10-year-old kid, and that’s OK,” Scott said. “And that’s not OK to do.”
African Americans account for just 1.4% of the population in Utah, according to U.S. Census figures.
Centerville Police Chief Paul Child, whose agency was also part of the chase, said authorities care very much about the community’s minority population and acknowledge the area is predominantly white.
“We want them to feel safe and know that we value them in our community,” Child said.