Police Chief Chad Soffe of Woods Cross, Utah said during a news conference that he believes the unidentified officer responsible for pointing his gun at a 10-year-old black boy, acted in accordance with the department’s “protocol” and “training.”
DJ Hrubes was playing in his grandmother’s front lawn last week when a white police officer approached him with his weapon drawn and ordered the boy to get on the ground. DJ’s mother, Jerri Hrubes (who is white) alleged at a press conference following the incident that the officer got in his car and left as soon as she came outside to confront him.
According to Hrubes, DJ is developmentally disabled and visually impaired and was not holding any objects in his hands when the officer approached him. She claimed the incident was racially motivated, adding that the officer acted with “clear prejudice.”
Officials said the officer was a part of a group who had been searching the area at the time for armed suspects described as Black, Hispanic or Polynesian males. Chief Soffe said in a statement, “Our officer saw a black male running toward the street. Our officer draws his gun and gives the commands for the young man to get on the ground, thinking that is one of the suspects we were looking for. The young man complies with the request. Once the suspect is faced down on the ground, my officer approaches. … As he gets closer, he realizes that this is not the suspect. He immediately holsters his weapon. At that time, this young man’s mother comes out and is yelling that this is [her] 10-year-old son.
Soffe said he would like to “sincerely apologize” to DJ and Jerri and announced plans for the police department to collaborate with Davis County Attorney’s Office to conduct an independent “review” of the incident. “It’s a review. We’re not investigating the actions. We’re reviewing them to see if there are any changes that we might be able to make in our policies.”
However, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings pushed back on Soffe’s statement, noting that his office does not conduct “reviews” and that the city of Woods Cross had not yet formally submitted the case. Rawlings told Huff Post if the case is submitted, “we will treat it as other cases submitted to our office for a prosecutorial determination (either file criminal charges or decline as the evidence allows). “When a case is presented, we are not bound by what the requesting law enforcement agency has done (or not done),” he continued. “We will investigate as we determine necessary to make an appropriate criminal screening decision.”
Soffe also acknowledged that the officer did not activate his body camera during the incident, although the department’s policy requires officers to turn body cams on whenever they get out of their vehicle to confront a suspect. “In this case, it happened so quickly. I do not blame him one bit for not thinking about, ‘I gotta have my camera before I get out and, you know, confront this suspect who may have a gun,’” he said.
Karra Porter, Hrubes family attorney, said she feels the police chief’s comments seem to suggest it’s OK for his officers to pull a gun on any black person if a suspect is described as black. “Suppose they had said the shooter was white,” Porter said. “Do you think they would have pulled a gun on every white person they saw?”
“The family, frankly, is really struggling with the response here,” Porter told the publication. “We’re getting this bizarre behavior by the city that’s causing the family a whole lot of upset. … I’m starting to become suspicious.” After the incident, Jerri Hrubes called the police to file a complaint, and soon after, the officer in question came back to Jerri’s house and apologized for pointing his gun at DJ.
Porter said Hrubes is not necessarily asking for the officer to be fired, but she does want a third-party agency, like the Utah Attorney General’s Office, to conduct an independent investigation. However, Community members say that’s not enough, and the officer needs to go.
“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,” Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter in Utah, told CBS News. “And that’s not OK to do.”