Bodycam footage shows Akron police shooting teen determined to be carrying fake gun

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By journalsofus.com


Body camera footage released by the city of Akron on Monday shows the April 1 shooting of teenager Tavion Koonce-Williams, who was shot in the hand after a 911 caller reported him to police for holding what was later determined to be a toy gun.

The video shows that the teen, whose name was not identified by police but was later identified by the family’s attorney, Koonce-Williams, 15, was shot in the hand by an Akron Police Department officer ( APD) after a 911 caller, who was walking his dog in the area, reported to police that Koonce-Williams was pointing a gun at people’s homes.

The video shows the officer arriving at the scene and asking the teen to put his hands behind his back before firing a single shot that struck the teen’s hand as he exited his vehicle. The teen can be seen with his hands up in the middle of the shooting, repeatedly yelling, “it’s fake, it’s fake, it’s fake,” regarding the gun, as the officer exits his vehicle.

Attorney Imokhai Okolo, who represents the teen and his family, issued a statement Monday saying the East High School student’s family is “heartbroken” and seeking justice.

“[He] “He is now dealing with the trauma of being profiled and having his life flash before his eyes after being shot,” Okolo said. “Tavion was shot on the inside of his wrist, clearly indicating that his hands were raised when he was shot.”

The officer was identified by the city of Akron on Monday as Ryan Westlake, a nine-year veteran of the department who has been placed on paid administrative leave amid the investigation.

The city also released Westlake’s personnel file, which shows he was initially fired from APD in July 2021 due to several policy violations, but was later rehired following an agreement with the police union.

“The officer’s record includes a number of disciplinary actions and use of force incidents, one of which has been deemed unreasonable. Additionally, the city anticipates having more information to release in the coming weeks,” according to the statement issued by the city ​​on Monday. .

The Akron Fraternal Order of Police (AFOP), the union that represents Westlake, told Akron ABC affiliate WEWS that this “is an extremely difficult situation for everyone involved. There is always a concern any time an officer faces the incredibly challenging and divided second decision to defend himself and others against an armed suspect.”

“We are confident that when all the facts are known, our officer’s actions will be deemed justified,” the statement added.

ABC News has contacted AFOP for further comment.

“The incident remains under investigation (BCI) and due to the independent investigation, we will not be engaging further,” a spokesperson for the Akron Police Department told ABC News on Tuesday.

Akron Mayor Shammas Malik said in a statement Monday that the city released the body camera footage and the officer’s personnel file in an “effort to be as transparent as possible.”

“We will continue to be transparent and communicative as the process unfolds,” he added.

What the video shows

The shooting took place around 7:04 p.m. on April 1 after a 911 call, which was also released by police on Monday, reporting that a man in the area of ​​Newton Street and Tonawanda Avenue was allegedly pointing a gun. to surrounding homes, according to police. .

“I was calling because I was walking my dog ​​and there was a guy walking down the street and he was pointing a gun at people’s houses. He pulled it out and acted like he was going to shoot up their houses,” the caller said. in the audio of the 911 call.

When asked if the man was “black or white,” the caller said, “Black man, shorter dreadlocks, he’s got a black hoodie on and he’s got like Adidas or something written on the back and the gun was kinda bigger than a gun.”

A responding officer approached the “subject matching the color description” at approximately 7:11 p.m. local time while he was walking on Britton Road, near the corner of Ottawa Avenue, according to police.

“The officer stopped his marked police car to investigate. As the officer began to exit his patrol car, he quickly issued a verbal command for the man to show his hands,” police said in a statement, accompanying the release of body camera images. . “Seconds later, the officer fired his firearm once striking the man in the hand after observing the subject with what appeared to be a gun in his hand.”

“Shots fired, get on the ground!” The officer said, yelling repeatedly that the gun is “fake,” Koonce-Williams fell to the ground, the footage shows.

The video shows the teen crying in pain throughout the incident as officers handcuff him while he is on the ground. He tells the police that he was returning home from his cousin’s funeral and says that his grandmother lives down the street.

“I can’t feel my hand,” he cries.

“I’m a good boy, I got A’s in school, I play soccer,” he tells the officers as they give him first aid.

Koonce-Williams was transported to an area hospital where he “received treatment for a non-life-threatening injury,” police said.

“Tavion now finds himself in the lineage of young black men profiled and shot by the Akron Police Department without any justification or respect for human life,” Okolo said.

Okolo said the city is considering filing charges against the teen following the incident. When asked if charges could be filed against the teen, a spokesperson for the city of Akron did not immediately respond to ABC News’ investigation.

According to APD, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) will investigate this case and once complete, the findings will be turned over to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for review.

A BCI spokesperson confirmed to ABC News on Monday that their “investigation is active and ongoing.”

The spokesperson added that “the findings will be forwarded to the county attorney for review” and said the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office requested that the case also be presented to a grand jury for evaluation.

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